The battle for the state of Michigan takes place this week in East Lansing. The Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Legends Division with a 4-0 record and a 7-1 record overall as they prepare for the Michigan Wolverines and their 2-1 conference record with their loss to Penn State. Michigan State is a game ahead of both Michigan and Nebraska in the race to go to the Big Ten Championship that currently projects them to play against Ohio State.
If Michigan can win this game, they have the opportunity to win the Legends division, but they would have to beat the Buckeyes to ensure they can go. Michigan State has the huge advantage of not only being a game up but not having Ohio State on their schedule this year. The rest of their schedule is not easy but it is manageable, so if they can win, they can potentially go undefeated in the conference leading up to the title game.
This game features the firepower of the Wolverines offense behind quarterback Devin Gardner, star wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint against another strong defense from Mike Dantonio led by players such as linebacker Max Bullough and corner Darqueze Dennard. The times when the Wolverine offense is facing off against the Spartan defense is when the two teams have their strongest units out on the field.
The question for this game is will the Spartans offense led by Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford can muster up enough offense against the Wolverine defense. Since making the move to Cook, the Spartans have been more effective, but they have still had some clunky performances such as in their loss to the Fighting Irish and their win against Purdue.
Meanwhile, the Wolverine defense has been an absolute sieve the past two weeks. In their loss to Penn State and a win that was in doubt until late in the game against Indiana, the Wolverines have given up a combined 90 points. It is extremely unlikely that the Spartans are going to put up those types of numbers but only one team has given up more than 17 points once; in their win against the Hoosiers. If the Spartans hold to form on defense, the Wolverine defense has little room for error.
The battle for Michigan in the Big Ten is always a big game, but this has big implications for the Legends division. Nebraska is the other team that has a good shot to win the division and takes on these teams back to back after their game against Northwestern, so Nebraska is likely hoping that the Wolverines can get the win and put all three teams in the Legends division with one loss and Nebraska having the ability to control their own destiny. For all of the talk about how weak the Big Ten is perceived to be, fairly or not, this game is a big one within the conference and there will be a few more big games before this season comes to an end on that side of the bracket.