RUSH OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE RUSH DEFENSE
Michigan is #28 in rushing offense (217 yards/game) and #20 in yards per carry (5.35). Leading rusher Karan Higdon (687 yards, 5.73 yards/carry, 6 TD) has missed some time due to injury, but he has carried the ball almost 25 times a game over the last three contests. Backup Chris Evans returned last week but only ran the ball 5 times (for 18 yards), perhaps because the coaching staff didn’t want to run him too much in the return from his hamstring injury. He and Tru Wilson (6 carries, 26 yards last week) both have 35 attempts on the year. Quarterback Shea Patterson busted out a couple runs on zone reads last week, one for an 81-yarder and another for a 7-yard touchdown. The offensive line had its best game last week against Wisconsin, and left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. was named the team’s top lineman. The offensive line as a whole is #52 in Line Yards, but they have improved throughout the season and should continue to ascend. Michigan State is #1 in rush defense (62 yards allowed/game) and #1 in yards allowed per carry (2.34). Junior linebacker Joe Bachie (6’2″, 238 lbs.) leads the team with 43 tackles, followed by junior safety Justin Layne (6’2″, 185) with 42, and senior Star linebacker Andrew Dowell (6’1″, 220) with 41. Junior defensive end Kenny Willekes (6’4″, 260) leads the team with 9 tackles for loss, while junior defensive tackle Raequan Williams (6’4″, 300) has 6. The Spartans run a 4-3 defense with Dowell serving as a hybrid player. Even though Michigan has been improving, the #1 rush defense is probably going to present some problems for the Wolverines.
Advantage: Michigan State
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PASS OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE PASS DEFENSE
Michigan is tied for #94 in passing offense (207 yards/game) and #26 in passer rating. Junior quarterback Shea Patterson has completed 69% of his throws for 1,311 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Last week Wisconsin gave him trouble by rushing just four guys and dropping seven into coverage, and they probably did that because Patterson has done very well against the blitz. Michigan is #47 in Sack Rate but that drops to #67 on passing downs. Michigan has four receivers between 13 and 21 catches, including tight end Zach Gentry (21 catches, 311 yards, 1 TD) and wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones (21/247/5). Michigan State is #118 in passing defense (286 yards allowed/game), they’re #55 in passer rating defense, and they’re tied for #46 in yards per attempt against them (6.8). They’re #62 in sacks (14), led by Willekes with 5. Senior safety Khari Willis (6’0″, 215) leads the team with 5 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. Penn State managed to run for 200+ yards against MSU last week, and they were the first team to top 63 yards this year, but most teams have resorted to attempting to throw the ball (42 attempts/game).
RUSH DEFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE RUSH OFFENSE
Michigan is #15 in rushing yards allowed (109 yards/game) and #13 in yards given up per carry (3.07). Middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. leads the team with 45 tackles, but he has been a little quieter in recent weeks. After averaging 8 tackles/game for the first four games, he has averaged just 4.3 over the last three games. Safety Tyree Kinnel and defensive end Chase Winovich are tied for #2 on the team with 39 stops each. Strongside defensive end Rashan Gary did not play last week due to a shoulder injury, and we might have to wait until game time to see if he plays against MSU. Winovich averages 1.5 tackles for loss per game and is tied for #16 nationally in that category. On the flip side, Michigan State is #115 in rushing yards (123 per game) and tied for #116 in yards per carry (3.42). Senior L.J. Scott has not played in the past four games, and sophomore Connor Heyward (6’0″, 229) leads the team in both attempts (50) and yards (191). The three top runners are all averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry (by comparison, Michigan’s top three backs are all over 5.4). Michigan State’s line is #88 in Line Yards and #115 in Power Success Rate. They have had injuries up front, and they do not have a lot of well-developed talent there in the first place. Talent-wise, this is a good matchup for Michigan, but the Spartans always seem to play their best against the Wolverines.
PASS DEFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE PASS OFFENSE
Michigan has the #1 passing defense (129 yards allowed/game), and they’re #5 in passer rating defense. They’re #3 in yards allowed per attempt (5.1) and have made 7 interceptions (#15), compared to just 5 touchdowns. The Wolverines are tied for #14 overall with 20 sacks, led by Bush (3.5), Winovich (3.0), and rush linebacker Josh Uche (3.0). Michigan’s top two cornerbacks have been David Long and Brandon Watson, and teams have been targeting Lavert Hill (1 INT for a TD, 5 pass breakups). Meanwhile, the safety play has improved this season, and safety Josh Metellus leads the team with 3 interceptions. Michigan State has managed to come in at #34 in passing offense (272 yards/game), but they’re #92 in passer rating with just 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Their 7.1 yards/attempt puts them at #82 nationally. Quarterback Brian Lewerke (6’3″, 220) tossed 20 touchdowns and 7 picks during the entire 2017 season, so he has already thrown as many interceptions this year with 12 fewer touchdowns so far. The star wide receiver is senior Felton Davis III (6’4″, 200), who has 31 catches for 474 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fellow wideout Cody White (20/300/2) is not expected to play due to injury. Tight ends Matt Sokol and Matt Dotson have combined for 9 catches for 97 yards and 1 touchdown. Michigan State is #80 in allowing sacks (15) and they’re #57 in sack rate, which drops to #79 in obvious passing downs. I expect Felton Davis to make some plays against some smaller defensive backs, and he will probably draw two or three pass interference penalties. But overall, this should work out in Michigan’s favor.
- Michigan State players recruited by Michigan include: WR Cam Chambers, TE Matt Dotson, CB Kalon Gervin, TE Trenton Gillison, LB Noah Harvey, OG Kevin Jarvis, DT Naquan Jones, CB Justin Layne, QB Brian Lewerke, OT Jordan Reid, LB Jon Reschke, LB Antjuan Simmons, LB Tyriq Thompson, DT Raequan Williams
- Michigan State LB Tyriq Thompson is the son of former Michigan safety Clarence Thompson
- Michigan State LB Edward Warinner is the son of Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED . . .
- On October 7, 2017, Michigan State beat Michigan by a score of 14-10
- John O’Korn was 16/35 for 198 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions
- Lewerke was 11/22 for 94 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions
- The leading rushers for both teams were Karan Higdon (65 yards) and Lewerke (61 yards)
- Michigan 23, Michigan State 20
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