Michigan Wolverines Football Staff Picks: Michigan vs. Michigan State Predictions
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Staff Predictions: Michigan Football vs. Michigan State

Michigan State drew the Big Ten’s short straw when it came to scheduling, having to follow up one rivalry game with a second straight to open the season.

The Spartans didn’t fare well in the first, losing to upstart (in this case, meaning trending toward sixth in the Big Ten East Division) Rutgers under new head coach Greg Schiano. First-year Spartans coach Mel Tucker and his squad looked outmanned in the trenches, slow on both sides of the ball and like a young Austin Fox at his first Westphalia Fair greased pig contest in turning the ball over seven times.

The reaction from the Michigan State fan base was mixed on the grief scale. Most of them skipped the first stage (denial) and went directly to anger. Many others started at No. 4 (depression), while former coach Mark “It will never be over” Dantonio went immediately to No. 5 and acceptance … as in, “I’ll accept your $4 million golden parachute and leave you with this tire fire in appreciation.”

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Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker left beautiful Colorado for this.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker left beautiful Colorado for this. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

He then had the gall to watch from the stands while Tucker and the new staff made one poor in-game decision after another.

At one point, a few in attendance thought they heard Dantonio lean over to buddy Tom Izzo and say, “well … it’s all yours - again” and “at least my legacy is secure,” standing up after one particularly terrible sequence and screaming like Tom Hanks to Wilson after he created his own inferno:

Many on the MSU message boards directed their anger at him. Some, though, were still stuck in denial, trying to convince folks “this season doesn’t matter anyway!”

But the cliché goes that teams make their biggest improvements from week one to week two, and this is still a rivalry game. We suspect the Spartans won’t turn the ball over seven times, and there are still a number of MSU players who have experienced the rivalry and still burn with the hatred their former coach injected into them (among other things, in the case of Joe Bachie, etc.).

“We have a pretty big chip on our shoulders, and we can use that to our advantage,” senior end Drew Beesley said. “I’m going to be honest —I think this might be the most intense week of Michigan prep that I’ve had since I’ve been here, and I’ve had some pretty intense Michigan weeks over five years here.

“So … take what you like from that. I think we’re more than ready.”

We’ll find out soon enough.

Congratulations to last week’s loser, Austin Fox. Doug Karsch’s pick was actually worse, but it’s actually rare when he’s off.

This week’s winner receives a pat on the back for a job well done. You’re supposed to win this week.

The picks:

CHRIS BALAS: It’s never as good as it looks in week one, and/or it’s never as bad. That’s the hope if you’re a Michigan State fan, of course. While the Spartans don’t have a ton of talent, quarterback Rocky Lombardi actually looked better than we thought he would, and MSU’s got some talent at receiver.

MSU won’t turn it over seven times and will keep it closer than many expect. Michigan 38, MSU 10

JOHN BORTON: Rivalry week with Michigan State has been quieter than Jim Tressel at an NCAA rules infraction review. The Spartans might sense what’s coming, after they failed to hold off perennial powerhouse Rutgers on opening day in East Lansing. Credit where credit is due, though, if the Spartans don’t pull a Wisconsin and actually show up at Michigan Stadium tomorrow. Bonus points for each turnover fewer than seven. Michigan 42, MSU 10

AUSTIN FOX: The 2018 pregame stunt that Mark Dantonio and his team pulled seemed to be a wakeup call for Jim Harbaugh in this rivalry, with his team finally matching MSU’s hatred and intensity (and then some) each of the last two years. There’s no love lost here, and that was evident at the end of last season’s game when Shea Patterson tossed one final touchdown pass with just under three minutes left to seal the 44-10 win.

Harbaugh has finally restored order to the rivalry, and it feels once again like it did from 1969-2007 when Michigan went 30-9 in the series, thanks to having three competent coaches in place in Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. The primary question surrounding Saturday’s game isn’t who will win, but instead how long Harbaugh will choose to keep his foot on the gas in the second half. Michigan 41, Michigan State 10

CLAYTON SAYFIE: Where'd all the Spartans go? There hasn't been a peep from the Green and White this week, as they're set to take on their biggest rival.

Michigan has won three of four and two straight in the series, but the Wolverines won't be complacent while going up against Coach Mel Tucker's first team. Mark Dantonio, who unceremoniously stepped down in February, left Tucker picking up the pieces of a program on the decline — in many ways. There's not enough talent on the roster to keep it close unless the Wolverines self-implode. Michigan 52, Michigan State 6

DREW HALLETT: Since 1948, only one first-year coach has won in the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry. It was Michigan State's Nick Saban in 1995, and it was only because Michigan had a first-year coach in Lloyd Carr on the sidelines, too.

Michigan State first-year coach Mel Tucker will not buck that trend. Not after the Spartans lost by double digits at home to Rutgers. Not when Michigan is currently favored to win by 24.5 points.

That is no disrespect. That is just the truth. Michigan 45, MSU 13

DOUG KARSCH: It's tough to win a game when you are outmanned on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I've seen up-close-and-personal the Wolverines get pushed around up front in this rivalry.

The shoe is now on the other foot. Michigan has plenty of inexperience at the skill positions which makes them prone to to turnovers -- if they don't do that, they win comfortably. Michigan 42, MSU 13

DOUG SKENE: New Michigan Agricultural College Coach Mel Tucker has not called for a “moment of silence” for Michigan football like his predecessor did after losing his opener in 2007. Of course, losing to Rutgers is no time to call out the Wolverines.

Green and White blood is in the water, which is a perfect reason to take this game seriously. Michigan 42, MAC 16


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