No. 5 Michigan State is on a collision course with Ohio State for the Big Ten title and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff, but the Spartans first have to deal with a bitter rival when struggling Michigan pays a visit Saturday. The Spartans have won five straight overall and five of the last six in the series, but they are not about to overlook the Wolverines. "This is still the most important game for me, personally, and for our program," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told reporters.
Michigan ended a three-game skid with an 18-13 home win over Penn State on Oct. 11 and had a bye week to prepare for the powerhouse Spartans, who held the Wolverines to minus-48 yards rushing in last season's 29-6 drubbing. While beleaguered coach Brady Hoke said his team used the extra time to establish a ground game, his players are not ready to accept a role as spoilers. "We're not thinking about ruining their season," Michigan QB Devin Gardner told reporters. "This is about us. I want to win this game as bad as I've wanted to win any game."
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Michigan State --17
ABOUT MICHIGAN (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten): The Wolverines, who absorbed three losses in September for the first time in the school's 135-yard history, received next to nothing from their stagnant running game in the victory over Penn State, managing only 64 yards on 31 attempts. Gardner (six TDs, eight INTs) accounted for the only touchdown with a 43-yard scoring strike to Devin Funchess, but now he has to find a way to solve a Michigan State defense that sacked him seven times last season and has limited Michigan to six field goals over the past two seasons. With running back Derrick Green out for the season with a broken clavicle, Funchess is the top weapon on offense with 36 receptions for 461 yards and four touchdowns.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (6-1, 3-0): The team with the most rushing yards has won 41 of the past 44 meetings in the series and that tilts the odds heavily in favor of the Spartans, who rank 16th nationally with 260 yards per game. Running back Jeremy Langford has ripped off four consecutive 100-yard games and 11 straight overall against Big Ten competition after going for 109 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 56-17 drubbing at Indiana. Quarterback Connor Cook, who has never lost to a conference opponent (12-0) and is coming off his second 300-yard game of the season, has an elite target in wide receiver Tony Lippett, a senior who has hauled in eight scoring passes and has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the past three contests.
1. Michigan State has won 12 straight Big Ten regular-season games and 13 in a row against league foes, including a victory in 2013 conference title game.
2. Funchess has at least one reception in 20 consecutive games dating to the 2012 season.
3. The Spartans have rolled up 329 points, the highest total through seven games in school history.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 30, Michigan 17