By Phillip Lutz, Sports Editor
One of the greatest rivalries in all of college football is once again renewed on October 7 at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. Since 1898 these teams have met on the field 109 times with the record being 69-35-5 and the Wolverines are in the lead. This will be the first time the teams will play under the lights at the Big House.
This year’s game is shrouded by mystery because it puts the No. 1 defense of the Michigan Wolverines against the struggling Spartans. The Spartans come into this week with the No. 5 defense in the country.
The Wolverines are coming off their bye week following their win against Purdue in week four and are ready for the challenge that Michigan State always brings. The team said it was a week of work and improvement following their 28-10 win at Purdue.
“You take this week to get in the mindset to improve ourselves and focus on ourselves for one week,” said Jon Runyan. “Improvement is out there to be had, from a personal perspective I see stuff and ‘shoot’, I can do this or do that better and just little stuff, little adjustments that can make me better” said Chase Winovich.
Very few times in this rivalry has the score been lopsided by either team. This game is one of the hardest hitting and the one of the very best games that the teams will play all year long.
The Michigan Wolverines are 4-0 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play. The Michigan State Spartans are 3-1 and 1-0 in Big Ten play.
The Spartans found redemption during week five while hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes and winning 17-10 after losing 38-18 against Notre Dame in week four. The Spartans defense came up big against the Hawkeyes this game with a fumble recovery and an interception.
The Wolverines have a conundrum at quarterback with the injury to Wilton Speight. Speight has been serviceable so far, but not great for the Wolverines in three games this season. The Purdue game saw the emergence of John O’Korn. Coach Jim Harbaugh said in his Monday press conference that Speight will be out of the lineup for an unknown amount of weeks with an undisclosed injury. John O’Korn has been officially named the starter. The backup for the game this week will be Brandon Peters.
During the Purdue game, O’Korn had a career day as a Wolverine with 270 yards through the air completing 18 passes on 26 attempts. He also had a touchdown and scrambled out of the pocket five times for no yards.
The leading rusher for the Wolverines is Ty Isaac who has carried the ball 57 times for 356 yards and has a touchdown. The leading receiver for the team is Grant Perry who has hauled in 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.
As for the Spartans, Quarterback Brian Lewerke poses a problem for the Wolverine defense because he is the team’s leading rusher so far this season. He has rushed 38 times for 248 yards and has two touchdowns. He is also an accurate passer completing 84 passes on 133 attempts and has two interceptions. He has thrown for 963 yards and eight touchdowns so far this season.
The Spartans are in flux at running back behind Lewerke because their starter L.J. Scott has recently had a fumbling issue and was replaced by Gerald Holmes. Scott has 58 rushes for 214 yards and a touchdown. Holmes has 27 rushes for 105 yards. Their leading receiver is Felton Davis who has 256 yards and 4 touchdowns.
This game will be a contest between two good defenses against two subpar offenses. Both defenses are great against the run and have better than average secondary’s. Coach Don Brown of the Wolverines said “we’re tackling well, moving fast, and cleaning up on the field.”
“You need to have the mindset that you have to get better every week and there are some things we have to fix” said Michigan’s Patrick Kugler.
J. White, a lifetime Spartan fan said this week “we (Spartans) will lose because of our inability to run the ball, but we stick around because we’re able to get pressure on the quarterback and the inconsistent play by the U of M quarterbacks.” White went on to say “Michigan’s linebackers are too good and will wreak havoc on Saturday.”
Timothy Houtkooper, a lifelong Michigan fan said this week “Zach Gentry will be a difference maker going into this game along with Donovan Peoples-Jones.” He went on to say “the pendulum will swing to whoever’s side that makes less mistakes in this game.”
The Michigan Wolverines will be the favorite to win this year’s game but will the Spartan’s find a way to win? According to ESPN the Wolverines are favored to win by 12.5.
This game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday October 7. Everyone has their idea of who will be the winner of this game and we will see who will prevail in this historic rivalry.