Michigan scouting report vs. Michigan State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jehu Chesson

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News provides a Michigan scouting report for Saturday's game against Michigan State (3:30 p.m., ESPN, WJR 760, WWJ 950, WTKA 1050).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jake Rudock, QB: Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, has played in rivalry games before, so he doesn't feel the least bit intimidated going into the Michigan-Michigan State game. There is plenty on the line, though, with the 12th-ranked Wolverines hoping to remain unbeaten in Big Ten play and the seventh-ranked Spartans looking to remain unbeaten. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has spent a great deal of time the last few weeks discussing how unflappable Rudock is and complimenting Rudock on his command of the offense. Rudock has rebounded from a three-interception performance in the season opener at Utah and has had three interceptions in the last five games; he has looked sharper. He has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,135 yards and has five touchdowns. He also has been taking the option to run at times and has 84 yards and three touchdowns.

Jourdan Lewis, CB: The 5-foot-10 cornerback all season has brushed off any attempts to point out that he often is substantially shorter than the receivers he covers, and he has made that more clear by becoming a force in the secondary. He has interceptions in each of the last two games and returned one for a touchdown last week against Northwestern. He also has eight pass breakups. He more than likely will cover MSU's Aaron Burbridge, a competition that goes back to their high school days. Lewis also is tied for sixth on the team in tackles with 17.

De'Veon Smith, RB: The winner of this game almost always has rushed for the most yards, which means Smith's productivity will be needed. Smith sat out the Big Ten opener at Maryland two weeks ago to rest his sprained right ankle, and he returned last week. He got a chance to rest during the blowout against Northwestern, which probably was a calculated move to have him more refreshed heading into the MSU game. Smith has been a bruising back this season after his vision was criticized after the opener – he missed several holes – and now leads Michigan's backs with 390 yards and four touchdowns. Michigan is averaging 201.3 yards rushing, and he's accounting for an average of 65.

INTANGIBLES

Welcome home: Michigan played the last two Michigan-Michigan State games at East Lansing because of a Big Ten scheduling quirk after Maryland and Rutgers were added. The Wolverines have lost six of the last seven, that lone victory coming in 2012 – the last time the teams met in Michigan Stadium.

Big-game roll: Often, teams can maintain focus when they have big game after big game. The Wolverines are about to face Michigan State, their third ranked opponent in the last four games. They won the other two, against BYU and Northwestern, both at Michigan Stadium

Ball security: Michigan continues to gain ground on its turnover margin, which now stands at minus-1. It should be noted that in the Wolverines' wins over ranked opponents, BYU and Northwestern, they did not turn over the ball.

Scoring first and fast: Look what Jehu Chesson's return of the opening kickoff for a touchdown last week against Northwestern did, not only for the team but for the Michigan Stadium fans. They erupted and the energy from the stands never dissipated. The Wolverines led 21-0 after the first quarter. A similar start could go a long way on Saturday.

Peppy Peppers: Michigan State and Ohio State are the type of games in which difference-makers become game-changers. Safety Jabrill Peppers has come close to breaking a punt return and has said he's due to break one. Will this be the game?

FACTS AND FIGURES

* ESPN GameDay will be in Ann Arbor for the 12th time, and Michigan has lost only once in that span – a 14-3 setback to Ohio State in 2007. Overall, Michigan is 15-8 in games from which GameDay originates. This is the first time GameDay has been in Ann Arbor since Sept. 7, 2013, when Michigan played Notre Dame.

* This is the 108th meeting between Michigan and Michigan State but only the 63rd time the Paul Bunyan Trophy is on the line. Michigan is 35-25-2 in games in which the trophy has been on the line.

* Everyone knows that the team that rushes for more yards wins this game, right? OK, that's not always the case, but it's been pretty close to being the most telling stat in the rivalry. From 1969 to 1994, 26 straight games, the winning team gained the most rushing yards. But MSU snapped that streak in 1995 by winning while Michigan outgained the Spartans, 218-73. Michigan in 2007 lost the rushing edge but won, 28-24.

* Michigan and Michigan State last played in Michigan Stadium in 2012, the only time in the last seven games the Wolverines have won. Michigan has won 11 of the last 14 games against MSU at Michigan Stadium

* This is the 50th time Michigan is ranked in the AP poll entering the game against the Spartans. The Wolverines are 30-18-1 in those games but are 6-9-1 when both teams are ranked, as they are this season.