Matt Charboneau, Angelique S. Chengelis, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News offer their predictions for Saturday’s Michigan State at Michigan game (7:30 p.m., ABC, WJR 760, WWJ 950).
Matt Charboneau: Michigan enters as a heavy favorite at home, but don’t expect this one to be a blowout. While the Wolverines have been dominant on defense, the Spartans have been pretty good, too. Add that to the fact neither offense is exactly lighting it up and that means this one should be low-scoring and close. Michigan gets a slight advantage on defense and special teams, so the Wolverines should win their second straight in the rivalry. Michigan 20-14
Angelique S. Chengelis: This will be John O’Korn’s first start of the season at quarterback for Michigan, which had the benefit of a bye last week, so the Wolverines have had two weeks to prepare for the Spartans. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown had immense praise for the Spartans’ offensive line, its running backs and quarterback Brian Lewerke, who has also drawn praise from Jim Harbaugh and his defensive players. The defenses will be the key in this one. Michigan is No. 1 in the country in total defense and No. 1 against the run, allowing an average 69.3 rushing yards a game, but this will be a significant test facing L.J. Scott. Michigan State doesn’t have loads of film on O’Korn, but what they’ll face is a quarterback that has some mobility and confidence he didn’t show in limited playing time last year, including one start. Will the Spartans face an improved Michigan offensive line? The Wolverines are ranked among the nation’s worst in tackles for loss and sacks allowed, and it’s hard to imagine they’ve cured all their ills during the bye. Defensive end Demetrius Cooper will give UM problems, but Michigan’s defense, which hasn’t allowed a fourth-quarter point – the Wolverines have outscored teams 80-14 in the second half – will be the difference. This game will be close. Michigan 17-10
John Niyo: The Spartans, under Mark Dantonio, usually outperform expectations in this rivalry game. But Michigan State's young offensive line is going to have a hard time holding up its end of the bargain. And if it can't, there won't be enough pressure on John O'Korn and Michigan's pedestrian offense to take too many chances. Michigan 27-14
Bob Wojnowski: It’s doubtful either offense will have a lot of success, and if it comes down to defense, Michigan has a significant advantage. It’ll be up to Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke and his outside receivers to use Michigan’s aggressiveness against itself and bust big plays. If that happens, it’ll be tight to the end. But with Maurice Hurst, Devin Bush and the rest of the swift defense, the Wolverines will pop a couple turnovers and take care of business. Michigan 20-9