Michigan football: Wolverines and Spartans pack a lot of big-play power
Michigan’s 33-7 win over Northwestern on Saturday has set the table for an undefeated rivalry week with Michigan State.
For the first time since 2010, the Spartans and Wolverines are both unblemished for their meeting, one of the most important games of the Big Ten season.
The Spartans rested this past weekend, having a bye, and the Wolverines quickly turned their focus on their in-state rival minutes after downing the Wildcats.
Saturday’s showdown in East Lansing will feature playmakers on both sides of the ball. Someone will make a big play and change the trajectory of their team’s season.
Michigan State is loaded with exciting athletes.
Take your pick.
There is QB Payton Thorne, RB Kenneth Walker III and a pair of dynamic WRs in Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor. Three weeks ago, Reed returned 2 punts for touchdowns against Nebraska. Walker III had a 94-yard rushing TD against Rutgers and Nailor scored 3 TDs in the first half against the Scarlet Knights.
Offensively, the Spartans have all the weaponry needed to push them over the top this weekend at coach Mel Tucker’s “Woodshed.”
However, there are also a couple of players on the MSU defense who could make their mark as well.
Two weeks ago, LB/DB Cal Haladay had a 30-yard pick-6 vs. Indiana. Safety Darius Snow also had an interception during that game.
Someone, somewhere, will make things happen for Michigan State, which has lost 3 of the past 5 meetings with Michigan.
This past weekend, the Wolverines had two RBs eclipse the 100-yard mark. Blake Corum, who shot out of the gate this season vs. Washington, led the charge against Northwestern with 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fellow RB Hassan Haskins also scored twice, finishing with 110 rushing yards.
Corum and Haskins are quite possibly the best tandem in the nation. They accounted for all 4 of the Wolverines’ touchdowns vs. the Wildcats and have been a focal point of UM’s offense since the beginning of the season. Corum can dash for a big-yardage run with the best of them and Haskins has a knack for scoring inside the 5-yard line — but make no mistake, he can also bust out a big carry.
This past weekend, the Wolverines saw their special teams shine via Cornelius Johnson’s blocked punt. On defense, DJ Turner snagged a highlight-reel interception during the 4th quarter against Northwestern. Both of those plays helped seal a win for the Wolverines, who have eight consecutive wins over Northwestern.
Of course, the Wolverines also have DE Aidan Hutchinson, arguably the best all-around player in college football. He’ll certainly have a say in the outcome Saturday in East Lansing.
With Walker, the Spartans have the No. 2 rusher in the nation. He has 997 rushing yards through 6 games and will break the 1,000-yard threshold Saturday against Michigan.
Corum, ranked No. 20 overall, has 729 yards and averages 6.3 yards per carry. Walker averages 6.6 yards per touch.
Both of them should be front and center on the opposing defense’s to-do list. Stopping Corum and Haskins will be key for the Spartans, and shutting down Walker will be key for the Wolverines. Pretty simple, right?
It has been more than a decade since both have entered rivalry week with perfect records. Back in 2015, MSU won on the final play of the game. All Michigan had to do was punt the ball away, but Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up the mishandled punt for the game-winning touchdown as the clock expired at The Big House.
Expect the unexpected Saturday. There will be all kinds of analysis and data crunching in hopes of finding reliable predictors — but once they take the field, the Wolverines and Spartans can throw all of that in the trash can. Stats mean nothing in this match-up of Big Ten powers.
Something “rivalry-ish” will happen this weekend. It might not be like 2015’s finish, but it’ll certainly be an exciting play. Reed might take one to the house, or Corum might break off with one of his patented drive-pushing runs. Michigan WR Daylen Baldwin could connect on a long pass, or Turner could end up with a pick-6.
There are so many options from which to choose.
Pick your poison, UM and MSU.
There might not be a game this year, in any conference, with so much big-play potential as Saturday’s annual grudge match between MSU and UM, who are both 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the B1G.
A pair of top-20 rushers in Walker and Corum. All-purpose yard freaks like Corum and Reed. Thorne, MSU’s QB, could end up with a career-type game, just like former QB Rocky Lombardi had in 2020 when he threw for 323 yards and shocked the Wolverines during an upset victory.
Saturdays were made for these type of games. Regardless of your fandom and allegiances, make sure you tune into Michigan at Michigan State. You won’t be disappointed.