It's rivalry week. MSU vs. UM. Trot out all the cliches: backyard brawl; civil war; brother against brother. Blah blah blah.
The Spartans roll into Michigan Stadium favored by 5.5 after both teams were completely blown off the field last Saturday. MSU is still in Big Ten title contention, though they have to get lucky to share the title this year. MSU needs one more win in the next five games to guarantee a bowl trip. A win Saturday keeps their hopes alive for a New Year's Day bowl.
UM, for the first time in my lifetime, is playing just to get to .500. If they win the rest of their games -- which isn't going to happen -- they can go 7-5. The Wolverines are not used to be in that position. With a conference title completely out of the question and a bowl berth not very likely, UM can play spoiler to the Spartans. A win Saturday earns them a bit of respectability...at least temporarily.
As bad as Michigan is this year, I think they could shock the Spartans. MSU hasn't beaten UM since 2001 and hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1990. I don't put much stock in history. Different coaches. Different players. Different circumstances. Mentally, though, the Spartans have to forget that the last time an MSU team beat UM on the road, most of these Spartans were in diapers.
State should and probably will win this game. The Spartans want this one badly. Mark Dantonio hates UM and emphasizes this game as maybe the most important single game on the schedule. The kids should be ready to play. The Wolverines are a lousy team this year -- I say that not as a put down or insult but as a statement of fact. This is MSU's opportunity to beat a team that has been better than them almost every year in the last 40 years (with some notable but few exceptions.)
My pick: MSU 31, UM 24.
Go Green! Go White! Beat the Wolverines!