This intense rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State is notorious for the drama it creates, with the Paul Bunyan Trophy being at the center of attention. From fights to pre-game antics and constant scuffles, these two teams truly despise each other. After last year’s messy postgame situation and the off-field distractions both programs have faced, this year’s game feels like a potential tipping point for the rivalry. While a clean game is the ideal outcome, it’s realistic to expect some dirty plays between these rivals.
Michigan is clearly the stronger team this season and has high hopes for a resounding victory. So, what exactly do the Wolverines need to do to consider Saturday’s game a success? Here are a few key strategies:
1. Lock in
There’s a lot happening behind the scenes for both teams right now. Michigan is dealing with an investigation into sign stealing, while Michigan State is embroiled in a legal battle with their former head coach. Let’s not forget that last year’s game ended with felony assault charges. Despite all this chaos, the Wolverines can’t let it affect their approach. They have the advantage in talent, athletes, and coaching. While a blowout win is well-deserved, rivalry games tend to be close. Michigan’s best strategy is to focus solely on their game plan and treat this like any other week.
2. Hit the QB
Michigan boasts one of the best defensive lines in the country, while MSU’s offensive line is not on the same level. This Saturday, Michigan should exploit that weakness. Katin Houser, MSU’s quarterback, is only starting his second game, so he’s likely to make mistakes under pressure. If Michigan can consistently hit him in the first half, he’ll likely rush his throws in the second half, leading to underthrown passes and potential interceptions. Winning the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will be crucial. Last year, the Wolverines only managed two sacks, but this year, it’s reasonable to expect at least four, thanks to constant pressure.
3. No bad penalties
Michigan must stay disciplined and avoid giving MSU free first downs through pass interference or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. They should also steer clear of self-inflicted setbacks like holding or false starts. It’s essential to prioritize maturity in this game, considering the magnitude and aggression of past matchups. Players may naturally play aggressively, but they must avoid getting involved in unnecessary altercations. It’s time for this rivalry to simmer down, so making it through this game without any fights would be a victory in and of itself.
4. Control the clock
Last year, Blake Corum was the game’s MVP, thanks to his ground game that allowed Michigan to possess the ball and prevent MSU from finding an offensive rhythm. Although Donovan Edwards has had a slow start this year, being a Michigan native should ignite a special fire within him when facing MSU. Hopefully, this game is where Edwards shines, gaining 100 yards from scrimmage. He has played a crucial role in Michigan’s offense this season. Additionally, having Mullings back in the lineup is significant. As the biggest running back on the roster, Mullings outweighs MSU star linebacker Cal Haladay by four pounds. If he can gain momentum, expect some favorable collisions for the Wolverines.
5. Don’t stop, no matter what
Let’s not hold back and run up the score. It would be satisfying to put up 50 points against MSU this season, especially with former head coach Mark Dantonio back on the staff. With numerous recruits in attendance who have both Michigan and MSU on their radar, humiliating the host team would be great for the Wolverines’ momentum in recruiting battles. One notable recruit in attendance is Kaden Strayhorn, an offensive lineman from the class of 2025. He has offers from powerhouse programs like Georgia, Alabama, and Texas. Michigan is among the top choices for Strayhorn, and beating his father’s alma mater would significantly boost their chances. While Michigan will always have a greater disdain for Ohio State, encounters with MSU fans are more common. Let’s give Wolverines fans bragging rights for an entire year.
Original story appeared on Wolverines Wire.
Alex Martin is your guide to the global phenomenon of football. With a focus on international leagues and tournaments, he provides match commentary, player interviews, and behind-the-scenes stories from the world of football.