Michigan run offense vs. Michigan State run defense

Michigan State has had one of the best rushing defenses in the nation the last three seasons, and this year has been no different. The Spartans are No. 8 in rushing defense in the nation, allowing 100.3 yards. They, however, have been susceptible to the big play. Last season, Michigan State held Michigan to a program-record minus-48 yards.

With RB Derrick Green out with a broken clavicle, the Michigan running game has taken a two-back approach with De'Veon Smith and Justice Hayes. Michigan is eighth in the Big Ten in rushing (164.1 yards) and have 10 TDs. QB Devin Gardner, who has used his legs more the last two games, will have to run against Michigan State.

Edge: Michigan State

Michigan pass offense vs. Michigan State pass defense

While the Wolverines have had their share of issues at quarterback, the Spartans have consistently improved their pass defense each week since conference began. Last week against Indiana, the Hoosiers were limited to 11 yards passing, albeit with a true freshman quarterback. Michigan State also has been effective getting pressure on the quarterback, leading the Big Ten with 26 sacks (tied for fourth in the nation). The Spartans, however, have given up a handful of big plays.

Michigan QB Devin Gardner's favorite target is WR Devin Funchess, and for good reason. Funchess is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and makes a difficult matchup for any defense. Funchess leads the team averaging 76.8 yards and has four TDs.

Gardner was missing second-leading receiver Jehu Chesson two weeks ago because of a leg injury. It is unclear whether Chesson will play Saturday, but Amara Darboh got a chance and had 66 yards on four catches. This might be the game TE Jake Butt (nine catches, 12-yard average) gets more touches. But how effective Michigan is in the pass game, as well as in the running game, will depend on the offensive line. That's the bottom line.

Edge: Michigan State

Michigan State run game vs. Michigan run defense

The Spartans are fourth in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation, averaging 260 yards, and have run for more than 300 yards three times. Senior RB Jeremy Langford has run for at least 100 yards the last four games and in 11 straight against Big Ten opponents. But he hasn't been the only weapon — fifth-year senior Nick Hill had his first career 100-yard game last week (178) and sophomore Delton Williams has five TDs. The Spartans also get junior C Jack Allen back this week.

Michigan is ranked second in the Big Ten, allowing 93.6 yards, just ahead of Michigan State (100.3). The Wolverines are also holding opponents to 2.73 yards a carry, fifth nationally, and have allowed three rushing TDs, fewest in the conference. LBs Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden are the keys — Ryan leads the team with 56 tackles, nine for loss; and Bolden has 51 tackles.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan State pass game vs. Michigan pass defense

Connor Cook threw for his second 300-yard game this season against Indiana, adding three TDs. He is second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency and TDs (16). While he has shown the tendency to take some chances, he has five INTs. He does, however, have the benefit of throwing to Tony Lippett, the leader in the Big Ten at 112.3 yards, a number good for 11th in the nation. WRs Aaron Burbridge, Macgarrett Kings and R.J. Shelton as well as TE Josiah Price also provide Cook with options.

Michigan is fifth in pass defense, but that statistic doesn't tell the story of the secondary, which has struggled in several games. There was the 31-0 shutout at Notre Dame when Everett Golson threw for 226 yards and three TDs, and the game at Rutgers in which Michigan was torched by Gary Nova (402 yards, three TDs). Michigan has allowed 11 passing TDs, third most in the Big Ten. CB Jourdan Lewis, however, has been a recent bright spot and has two INTs to lead the team.

Edge: Michigan State

Special teams

MSU senior punter Mike Sadler continues to be effective pinning teams deep, landing 11 of 31 kicks inside the 20-yard line and four inside the 10. Where the Spartans have struggled is kicking as sophomore Michael Geiger has missed 4-of-11 field goals, including one in each of the last three games after missing once in his freshman season. The return game has been average while the Spartans gave up a punt return for a TD to Nebraska.

Michigan punter Will Hagerup is third in the conference in average (44.9 yards) but has struggled at times with not getting enough hang time. Of his 30 punts, nine have dropped inside the 20-yard line. Matt Wile is coming off his best performance, making three field goals against Penn State. He is 8-for-12 this season. With freshman DB Jabrill Peppers sidelined with injury, Dennis Norfleet has taken on punt and kickoff returns. He is second in the Big Ten in kick return average (24.0 yards) and has a long of 42.

Edge: Even


Mark Dantonio coached in his 100th game at Michigan State last week, earning his 70th victory, which ties him for second in school history. He is one of six active FBS coaches with a .700 winning percentage in at least 100 games at the same school. Dantonio is 5-2 against Michigan, including 3-1 at Spartan Stadium, and his .714 winning percentage is the highest of any coach against the Wolverines.

Brady Hoke is 23-17 at Michigan in his fourth season. It hasn't been the coziest of situations after he went 11-2 his first season in 2011 and won the Sugar Bowl. Michigan has slipped each year since and is in the midst of a 3-4 run. The biggest knock on Hoke is his inability to win a rivalry game on the road. He is 0-5 in games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State, and has the unenviable position of playing at Michigan State a second straight year because of a blip in the Big Ten scheduling after expanding to 14 teams.

Edge: Michigan State