Preview: Michigan vs. Michigan State

Preview: Michigan vs. Michigan State

October 30, 2020
Rocky Lombardi (image via Detroit News)

Last week against Minnesota, Michigan averaged 8.26 yards per carry, which is currently #1 in the country. It’s only one game, but anytime you average over 8 yards/carry, things look pretty good. Michigan’s revamped offensive line looked good and did not allow much penetration. The mammoth offensive guards were moving people. Michigan’s top two backs, Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins, averaged 17.5 and 13.7 yards/carry, respectively. Michigan State is #20 in rush defense after a loss to Rutgers, in which the Spartans allowed 106 yards on 41 carries. (Oddly, they allowed 4 rushing touchdowns.) Leading tackler Antjuan Simmons (6’0″, 225 lbs.) made 11 tackles and Noah Harvey (6’4″, 240) made 9. Defensive end Drew Beesley (6’2″, 260) made 3.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack. The Spartans have some large defensive tackles, namely Naquan Jones (6’4″, 340), but Jones tends to be somewhat upright and shouldn’t get a ton of penetration.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for more.

Starting quarterback Joe Milton registered a very nice passer efficiency rating of 169.09 during his first career start, going 15/22 for 225 yards and 1 touchdown. He ran himself into a sack and threw a couple deep and intermediate passes that were off the mark, but it was a good night overall. Pass protection was good overall, and Michigan’s receivers were getting open. I was impressed with the crispness of Milton’s short throws on bubble screens. If I were Michigan State, I might try to play a little tighter on the edges and force Milton to complete downfield passes. I don’t think that would be a winning recipe, but it might be worth a shot. The Spartans allowed Rutgers to complete 63% of their passes for 170 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Those are mediocre numbers, but the Scarlet Knights are a mediocre team. Michigan State starting corners Kalon Gervin and Shakur Brown are both 5’11” and 190 lbs. They have reasonably good athleticism, but they are not as physical as past MSU corners. Michigan’s speed at wide receiver should give the Wolverines a leg up.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan gave up 140 yards on 26 carries to Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim, but I believe that was largely a structural issue based on Michigan adjusting to receiver Rashod Bateman. The linebackers and defensive backs took some bad angles, but I think they will be able to play Michigan State more traditionally, which will eliminate some of those cutbacks. Weakside linebacker Joshua Ross led Michigan’s team with 9 tackles. I believe Michigan can take advantage of the left side of MSU’s offensive line, where 6’7″, 300 lb. left tackle A.J. Arcuri and 6’4″, 310 lb. left guard J.D. Duplain reside. That’s usually where Kwity Paye lines up, so I think this is a plus matchup. I like the burst that freshman running back Jordon Simmons (5’11”, 195) brings, but that only netted him 43 yards on 14 carries. I think the Spartans should try to get on the edge with bubbles and tosses, forcing Michigan’s depleted secondary to come up and tackle.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan’s passing efficiency defense ranks #19 in the country after allowing the RPO-heavy Golden Gophers just 197 yards passing in the opener. The secondary is a little iffy, but the pass rush got home against Minnesota and should against Michigan State, too. New head coach Mel Tucker is more spread-oriented, and I think that will hurt their ability to provide solid protection like they have in recent years with play action, tight ends, and fullbacks. I like MSU receivers Jayden Reed (6’0″, 185) and Jalen Nailor (6’0″, 185), but Reed fumbled twice and they don’t seem to be on the same page as quarterback Rocky Lombardi. Most importantly, I don’t think Lombardi knows the chapter. He completed 31/43 passes for 319 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions last week against Rutgers, but he often looked confused. And Michigan’s no Rutgers.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Michigan State players offered by Michigan: CB Julian Barnett, OT Devontae Dobbs, TE Matt Dotson, OG Dallas Fincher, DE Michael Fletcher, CB Kalon Gervin, TE Trenton Gillison, LB Cal Halady, DT Naquan Jones, OT Jordan Reid, LB Antjuan Simmons, S Darius Snow, WR Ian Stewart
  • S Ty Hallock is the son of former Detroit Lions FB/LB Ty Hallock
  • S Darius Snow is the son of former Michigan State point guard Eric Snow and the nephew of former Michigan State linebacker Percy Snow


  • On November 16, 2019, Michigan beat Michigan State by a score of 44-10
  • Shea Patterson completed 24/33 passes for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns
  • Ronnie Bell caught 9 passes for 150 yards
  • Carlo Kemp made 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks
  • Michigan State quarterback completed 17/30 passes for 166 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions


  • Michigan State rushes for fewer than 75 yards
  • Drew Beesley gives Ryan Hayes a tough time
  • Giles Jackson leads the team in receiving
  • Michigan 45, Michigan State 17


  1. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Oct 30, 2020 at 7:48 AM

    From your keyboard to God’s ears.

  2. Comments: 49
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Blue in NC
    Oct 30, 2020 at 9:36 AM

    Dang. Eric’s Snow’s kid in college? I remember watching Percy Snow. I guess that makes it official on the “I am old” meter.

  3. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Oct 30, 2020 at 10:59 AM

    It’s nice that even with the rejiggered early season schedule we still get these early season cupcakes in to warm up.

    Hot take alert – Giles Jackson is a playmaker and they need to get him the ball but he does not look like a natural receiver to me. He could and should have caught that deep ball near the end zone. Visions of Devin Gardner here. When you play other positions instead of WR it’s hard to develop the timing and instincts needed to catch balls in traffic. I think Bell, Wilson, and Sainristil will be more successful downfield.

    I feel 20% confident in the above since it’s based on 1 game. Will be happy to toss this take into the garbage bin by tomorrow night.

  4. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Oct 30, 2020 at 11:18 AM

    It’s weird that one of MSU’s best players is a kid from AA.

  5. Comments: 313
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    Oct 30, 2020 at 12:43 PM

    That Rocky Lombardi photo is beautiful.

    I see you’re taking a few over on the spread (last I checked, +25). I think the margin of victory is going to be anywhere between +8 to +38. If we make a few mistakes offensively, I could see a 21-13 kind of game. If we are really jiving, I could see a 45-7 kind of game. I don’t think Don Brown is going to let up more than 20 points. He’s had a week to see how this new defense is performing, and he will shore up the weak spots.

    Going to say 41-17, one under the spread. Try a couple field goals solely because of last week’s performance.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 30, 2020 at 8:17 PM

      I pay zero attention to betting lines, but good for you if you do. If I’m ever predicting near the betting line, it’s pure coincidence.

      The only thing I gamble with is whether I can make it through a yellow light or not.

  6. Comments: 6
    Joined: 10/26/2020
    joseph dreamed dreams
    Oct 31, 2020 at 5:00 PM

    “Never make predictions, especially about the future.”
    -Yogi Berra

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