Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Michigan Rivals Have Gone in Opposite Directions Since Playing Notre Dame

At the same time Notre Dame will be playing Navy, two of it's early season Big Ten rivals will play against each other in a game that is a rivalry in it's own right. That is Michigan and Michigan State. They will hold their traditional battle for state bragging rights.

These two teams annually play Notre Dame just before opening the Big Ten season. Traditionally, a victory over Notre Dame by either team was a big momentum boost heading into conference play while a defeat generally has derailed them for the rest of the season.

That is generally the pattern but this year has had a surprisingly reverse effect for both teams. Michigan had a great game against the Fighting Irish and looked to be the class of the Legends Division. But a week later they barely survived against Akron and then had a very sloppy win at Connecticut. Those are two teams that Michigan should have dominated. Then in conference play, they beat Minnesota convincingly and appeared to have righted the ship only to go down in triple overtime to a Penn State team with a freshman quarterback and loads of sanctions. Most recently they needed record setting performances by Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon to beat Indiana. While Michigan is 6-1, they have really struggled since that great game against Notre Dame. Most concerning has been Gardner's turnovers and a very suspect defense.

Michigan State on the other hand has looked very impressive since their loss in South Bend. Their defense is the best in the Big Ten and possibly in the nation. They have the most defensive touchdowns in the nation with 5. They give up an average of only 12 points per game. Max Bullough and Shilique Calhoun have been the defensive standouts. The offense led by Connor Cook has gotten better each week to. Most recently they hung 42 on Illinois. The Spartans are also 6-1 but it looks to have more momentum.

When they play this weekend, the winner will be in prime position to contend for the Legends division. Both teams will also have to play Nebraska shortly after. This game does have significance for Notre Dame because the loser will fall behind them in the polls provided the Fighting Irish take care of business against Navy.

I wish this game was not on at the same time as Notre Dame because it will be a good one to watch. A dominant defense against a dangerous offense. As is often the case, how the other units perform will likely be a huge impact on the result.

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