Huge showdown in Michigan should live up to the hype
Who: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Michigan
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Michigan Stadium, Michigan
Spread: Michigan -7.5
Matchup to watch: Jourdan Lewis vs. Connor Cook
There’s not a cornerback in America playing at the level Lewis is playing at. The pick-sixes are nice, but it’s what he does in man coverage that makes him so effective. Despite being undersized, he’s physical with bigger receivers without warranting a flag. Jump balls against Lewis don’t work. Cook surely knows that heading into Saturday. The nation’s winningest quarterback has developed trust in Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings. Burbridge figures to draw the matchup against Lewis, which means Cook’s first read could be elsewhere. He might choose to attack the ball-hawking Jeremy Clark or get R.J. Shelton some intermediate looks in space.
Thing I’m excited to see: Michigan deservingly back on the big stage
You could argue that Michigan was on the big stage to open the season at Utah, but that had nothing to do with the product we saw on the field. That was 100 percent Jim Harbaugh. All offseason, Michigan naysayers were sick of hearing about Harbaugh and a 5-7 team getting all the attention. On Saturday, Michigan is hosting College GameDay because it might be the hottest team in college football. The more optimistic Michigan fans could’ve predicted this team would be 5-1 heading into this headliner, but there’s no way they thought the Wolverines would own the nation’s top defense. Kirk Herbstreit said it best. The place to be in college football on Saturday is Ann Arbor.
Number to Remember: 189
That’s how many minutes of football the Wolverines have played without allowing a point. Not only is that a credit to Lewis, Joe Bolden and Jabrill Peppers, but it’s also a credit to Jake Rudock. The Michigan quarterback isn’t making the costly mistakes that either result in a pix-six, or a short field for the opposing offense. The blocking has been better for De’Veon Smith, and Rudock hasn’t been put in third-and-longs. Having said that, the ball-control style that’s worked so well for Michigan will face its toughest test against the Spartans. Assuming Madre London can’t go for this one, it should be the L.J. Scott show. The Wolverines haven’t faced a back with his skill set since they battled Utah’s Devontae Booker in the season opener. The freshman has breakaway speed that can easily take the wind out out the Wolverines’ sail with a big play early. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see how the Michigan defense responds to its first bit of adversity in the last month.
Prediction: Michigan 28, Michigan State 24
I understand the historic stats. Michigan has lost six of its last seven against Michigan State. No first-year Michigan coach has beaten Michigan State since 1948. Cook is 18-1 against the B1G as a starter and is the nation’s winningest quarterback. If the Spartans were at full strength heading into this one, I could easily see them going into Ann Arbor and halting the Harbaugh express. But there’s a chance that Michigan State’s three best offensive linemen — Jack Allen, Jack Conklin and Kodi Kieler — will all be banged up for this one. Mark Dantonio knows this battle will come down to winning in the trenches. Right now, his squad just doesn’t have the ammo that Michigan does. Fire up the College Football Playoff talk after this one.