Michigan State took care of business Saturday against in-state rival Michigan in a game that says a lot more about the No. 8 Spartans right now than it does Michigan. The Wolverines are reeling and likely aren’t a bowl team. But the way the Spartans were able to maintain focus and dominate all over the board showed that Michigan State is locked in, which is certainly a good thing leading into its showdown with Ohio State in a couple weeks.
Here are three thoughts from the Spartans’ 35-3 win over the Wolverines.
1. Michigan State dominated statistically
Rivalry games are weird, and weird things always happen in them. This was one of those games. Michigan had 37 yards (and minus-five rushing yards) in the first half but trailed just 14-3. The Spartans had 256 yards, but a missed field goal after a long drive and a fumble recovered by Michigan (the Wolverines’ first recovered fumble and just their fourth takeaway this season) kept the margin closer than it otherwise would have been.
The Spartans’ second-half performance got closer to what Mark Dantonio likely wanted. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner threw a pick-six to RJ Williamson to put Michigan State up 21-3, and Michigan’s offense continued to run headfirst into a brick wall at every opportunity until a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Spartans finished with a 446-186 advantage in yards and held the Wolverines to 3.9 yards per passing attempt and 2.3 yards per rush.
2. Don’t forget about Jeremy Langford
There are plenty of good running backs in the Big Ten, so much so that some guys don’t get the sort of attention that they would if they were playing in another league. With Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon dominating the conversation, it’s good to highlight what Langford has done with Michigan State this year. He’s a calming influence and seems to do it week in and week out, especially now that he’s getting spelled by Nick Hill.
Langford picked up 177 yards and three scores against Michigan, his fifth straight game with over 100 yards.
3. The Ohio State game looms larger
The Big Ten West could very well surprise everyone and win the Big Ten championship game, but all signs point to the champ coming out of the East. And that champ will be Ohio State or Michigan State unless something goes terribly off the rails.
The Spartans’ Nov. 8 game against the Buckeyes is going to be just as epic as last year’s matchup, perhaps more so as the Spartans could be playing for a berth in the College Football Playoff. Michigan State still has a shot at controlling its own destiny and playing its way into the top four, but it has to beat Ohio State -- and every other remaining opponent, too.