MSU quarterback Connor Cook should be good enough against a Michigan defense that is talented but inexperienced. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
Keep running: In 40 of the last 43 meetings, the team that rushes for more yards wins. Michigan State holds a slight edge over Michigan, and will need another strong outing from a healthy offensive line and junior RB Jeremy Langford, who has surpassed 100 yards in each of the last three games.
Be physical: Most games are won in the trenches, and that certainly holds true in this rivalry. Michigan State has come out on top in this category most weeks, but will have plenty on its hands with Michigan. Defensively, the Wolverines allow 99.9 yards rushing, while their offense is one of the more prolific in the Big Ten. Control the line of scrimmage and the Spartans likely will control the game.
Donít step back: That goes specifically for QB Connor Cook. Few expect him to be as good as he was last week against Illinois, when he threw one incomplete pass and had a completion percentage of 93.8. But he also canít play like he did two weeks ago when he struggled to hit open receivers against Purdue. Find a happy medium, and Cook should be good enough against a Michigan defense that is talented but inexperienced.
Contain Gardner: Michigan State has had success against mobile quarterbacks, but Michiganís Devin Gardner is among the best. Not only is he an elusive runner, he is physical and keeps his eyes downfield while scrambling. He is averaging 328.4 yards offense, 254.1 passing.
Win the field position battle: Avoiding big plays on defense will be big, too, but relying on all-Big Ten P Mike Sadler will be key if, and when, the offense bogs down. A few three-and-outs will be unavoidable for the Spartans offense, but with Sadler on his game, it will at least keep the Wolverines from taking advantage of a short field.