No.12 Michigan has lost to No.7 Michigan State in six of the last seven years, but the Wolverines have a good chance to reverse the trend in 2015. The Spartans won’t have an easy time scoring against Jim Harbaugh’s squad when they meet in Ann Arbor on Saturday, as the two rivals face off in an important Big Ten contest.
Coming off a 38-0 win against then-No.13 Northwestern, Michigan has already matched their win total from last season. The Wolverines have lost to the Spartans by at least 23 points in each of the last two years, and a Michigan victory over Michigan State would have been tough to predict at the beginning of the year. But after the start that both teams have had, oddsmakers expect Michigan to win by a comfortable margin.
Las Vegas sportsbooks have made the Wolverines a eight-point favorite, shifting the betting line from three points just a few days ago, according to vegasinsider.com. Michigan is 4-2 against the spread this year, and all of their wins have come by at least three scores.
The game’s over/under is only 40 points because Michigan sports the best defense in college football. The Wolverines are coming off their third consecutive shutout, having held Northwestern, Maryland and BYU scoreless.
After losing the season opener to Utah, 24-17, Michigan has allowed just 14 total points in their last five games. They rank first in the nation in points allowed per game (6.3) and third-down defense (18.8 percent), and second in yards allowed per game (181) and opponents’ passer rating (76.6). Only two teams allow fewer rushing yards per contest (65.8) than the Wolverines.
"We come in time in and time out with a great game plan, it's up to us to execute,” defensive back Jabrill Peppers said, via The Detroit Free Press. “We have a lot of talented guys who take pride in what they do. When you have a group of 11 guys that are all doing their job and are hungry to do our job, the sky's the limit for us.”
It won’t be easy for Michigan to defeat Michigan State, who ranks five spots higher in the AP Top 25 Poll and remains undefeated. But the Spartans have not lived up to expectations in the early part of the season, having difficulty with opponents they were expected to defeat with ease.
Michigan State has been unable to beat Oregon, Purdue and Rutgers by more than one score, even though the three teams have combined to lose 11 games this year. In their latest victory, a 31-24 win over the Scarlet Knights, the Spartans needed a touchdown in the final minute to come away with the win. Michigan State is one of two teams that is 0-6 against the spread this season.
The Spartans haven’t been particularly impressive on either side of the ball, ranking 55th in scoring (31.3ppg) and 43rd in points allowed (21.3 ppg). In the previous four seasons, Mark Dantonio’s squad never ranked worse than 12th in scoring defense.
The recent play of both teams points to Michigan getting the win at home, but the game could come down to the wire. Quarterback Connor Cook won’t allow the Spartans to get shut out, and for all their issues, the Spartans still haven’t lost. Look for the game to be decided within a field goal with Michigan’s defense making enough plays to pull out the victory.
Michigan over Michigan State, 20-17