Michigan's season opener against Minnesota on the road had all the makings of a letdown for the Wolverines, but head coach Jim Harbaugh and his team responded dutifully against a ranked opponent. U-M shook off an early blocked punt and came back with an energized offense, one that picked up big chunks of yardage both on the ground and through the air.
From there, Michigan kept its foot on the gas pedal and entered halftime with a 35-17 lead and a boatload of momentum en route to an eventual 25-point victory over the Gophers.
For as positive as Michigan's debut was, Michigan State's performance against Rutgers on Saturday was just as unimpressive. In the first half, MSU committed five turnovers and finished the game with seven giveaways overall, which is a big warning sign against an at times porous Scarlet Knights defense.
Michigan State faced a 28-13 deficit at halftime and their offense was a bit more productive in the second half, but the Spartans never sniffed the lead and incurred a 38-27 loss in the process. This victory was Rutgers' first win in the Big Ten since 2017, so it helps put Michigan State's ineptitude in a different light.
While MSU's Week 1 loss was just the first game with Mel Tucker at head coach, it shows that all the turnover in East Lansing during the offseason is still impacting the Spartans. Michigan, on the other hand, had a similar amount of turnover from its starters, but all signs would point to the Wolverines replacing those players with quality athletes. That much was clear in U-M's 49-24 win against Minnesota from Saturday.
So now that Michigan State is on the clock and will be heading to Ann Arbor in less than one week's time, it is unclear what the Spartans will be able to do to challenge U-M on the field. Michigan's offense looked potent yet controlled against Minnesota, and the defensive line created a lot of pressure all game long. Kwity Paye registered three tackles for loss and two sacks, and Aidan Hutchinson fought through double teams and holds to do his part in flushing Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan out of the pocket.
All told, that spells a long night for Michigan State on Saturday. Even the areas in which were question marks for Michigan entering Week 1, such as four new starters on the offensive line or Vincent Gray covering Rashod Bateman, ended up working out okay for the Wolverines. Though Bateman did log nine catches for 101 yards, he was not able to have the game changing type of impact that many expected entering the contest. Michigan actually used Dax Hill to cover Bateman on occasion in the first half, but he suffered an injury and was replaced most of the time by Gray.
Now, injuries may be a concern for the Wolverines entering Saturday's game against the Spartans. In the post game press conference last night, Harbaugh mentioned that Hill left the game to receive medical attention and did not provide any further update on his status. Harbaugh also noted that Quinn Nordin is battling an injury that was aggravated this past week during practice, but it does not sound serious, intimating that Nordin could be back as early as this week, which is notable since Jake Moody went 0-for-3 on field goal attempts against Minnesota.
Anything is possible in a rivalry game, but after Week 1 it takes a creative imagination to figure out how Michigan State would have an upper hand playing on the road six days from now.
What do you expect to happen when Michigan plays Michigan State on Saturday? Will the Wolverines steamroll the Spartans as expected? Let us know!