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Know The Enemy: Archrival Michigan stands between Spartans and 8-0

Michigan State looks to remain unbeaten as they play host to archrival Michigan at Spartan Stadium

No. 8 Michigan State is a 4-point home underdog to archrival No. 6 Michigan in this Saturday's showdown in East Lansing. However, no one has made a habit of upsetting the Wolverines as often as the Spartans. To get a better look at the team down the road, Brandon Brown of WolverineDigest offers his insight on Michigan heading into this colossal collision.

Team Strength

Seven games into the season and Michigan’s strength is still its rushing attack. Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins make up the best one-two running back punch in the Big Ten and have the Wolverines at No. 5 nationally with 253.3 yards per game. Both of them have scored 10 rushing touchdowns on the season and both have the propensity for the big play. The offensive line is a little bit dinged up heading into the matchup with Michigan State, but there are eight or nine guys who have played up front and they should be able to hold their own against a stout Spartan defensive line.

Team Weakness

I’m not sure it can quite be considered a weakness, but Michigan’s passing game just hasn’t been very productive. On the flip side, it hasn’t been very needed because of the above mentioned running game. Quarterback Cade McNamara only has five touchdown passes through seven games and is only recording 159.3 yards per game. On the flip side, he’s only been sacked once and has only thrown one interception, which means the passing game isn’t necessarily hurting the offense either. The aerial attack in general is somewhat efficient in terms of putting points on the board, but it’s just not very explosive or established. It hasn’t cost the Wolverines yet this year, but there are some concerns that it might this weekend in East Lansing.

Three Players To Know

DE/LB Aidan Hutchinson, No. 97

At 6-6, 269 pounds, Hutchinson is big, strong, long and very athletic. During his first three years at Michigan, he was a traditional anchor defensive end tasked with setting the edge and eating up perimeter blockers. Now, he’s a stand-up, hybrid pass rusher and is truly thriving in his new role. He leads Michigan with six sacks through seven games and is literally the highest-graded edge rusher in the country per Pro Football Focus. He has hurried opposing quarterbacks at least 20 times this season and consistently seems to be in the right place at the right time. He has a knack for making big plays and because of his motor and conditioning, rarely comes off the field. He’s doing it all for Michigan as a senior captain.

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RB Blake Corum, No. 2

Corum is just a sophomore, but he has established himself as Michigan’s best back. He has carried the ball 116 times for 729 yards and 10 touchdowns through seven games and also scored a touchdown through the air. He’s also a dynamic weapon as a kick returner. He hasn’t reached the end zone on a kickoff yet, but he does have an 80-yard return under his belt. He’s only 5-8, 200 pounds, but he’s rocked up, extremely quick and fast and has great vision. Week after week, he’s good for an explosive play. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and has earned praise from Jim Harbaugh and his teammates all season long for his approach and success.

NB/S Daxton Hill, No. 30

Hill is doing a ton in defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s new system. He’s primarily playing the nickel position but he’s also in the box a lot and does drop back into a deep safety position as well. He’s logged as many snaps as anyone on the defense and consistently shows up in the box scores with several tackles, pass breakups and even a sack here and there. Macdonald loves sending the speedy Hill on blitzes from the third level and he seems to have a knack for putting hits on the quarterback. Hill also leads the team with two interceptions including a crazy self-tip drill pick against Nebraska. Hill was tasked with covering Jayden Reed all game long last year — expect to see that again on Saturday.

Game Overview/Prediction:

I have gone back and forth in my mind about this game so many times. Neither Michigan nor Michigan State has beaten a really good team. In fact, the Spartans literally haven’t played a team with a .500 or better record. Additionally, both squads definitely have some question marks. For Michigan, it’s the passing game and the cornerbacks. For Michigan State, it’s the secondary and offensive line against Michigan’s dynamic defensive front. The Wolverines haven’t won on the road against a top-15 team in almost 20 years, but Jim Harbaugh is undefeated as a player and a coach in East Lansing. The Spartans don’t seem as talented as Michigan on paper, but they’re punching above their weight and winning in impressive fashion. Obviously it’s a huge rivalry, and the Spartans are confident after last year’s win in Ann Arbor. Throw in the fact that this year’s contest is in East Lansing and the confidence goes up even higher. Both teams can run the ball with absolute stud running backs and there’s a lot of speed and talent in the wide receiver rooms. When I look at everything top to bottom, I give Michigan State the edge at quarterback, in the passing game and as the home team.

Michigan 20, Michigan State 24