Michigan State has won three games in a row over hated-Michigan, but the current streak was preceded by the Wolverines taking six in a row over the Spartans from 2002-07. There have been many dramatic Paul Bunyan Trophy games — from Gary Moeller going for two in 1990, to the MSU clock operator in 2001 to the triple-overtime thriller in 2004 — and the 2011 version sets up as a potential classic. Michigan seems to be back on college football’s national radar under new coach Brady Hoke, who has the Wolverines flying high at 6-0. Mark Dantonio’s club has the top-rated defense in the nation, and the Spartans will have major momentum in the Big Ten’s Legends Division race with a victory. Hoke will try to become the first Michigan coach since 1948 (Bennie Oosterbaan) to beat Michigan State in his debut season. The Spartans and Wolverines will kick it off at noon Eastern Time on Saturday.
Who Wins: Michigan or Michigan State?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I like Michigan State to win Saturday’s matchup. The Spartans have been rock solid on defense this year, allowing only 10.2 points a game and ranking first nationally in total defense. Those numbers will be put to the test by Michigan’s offense, particularly quarterback Denard Robinson. The junior is having a great year running the ball (674 yards and eight touchdowns), but has had his struggles through the air (9 INTs, 55.8 completion percentage). Although Robinson has been finding ways to win games, I’m not sure the Spartans’ defense is going to allow him many opportunities to launch a comeback if the Wolverines fall behind. Michigan State’s offense needs to play better, particularly on the offensive line and with the rushing attack. The Spartans have won the last three matchups in this series and with this game in East Lansing, I like Michigan State to pull out a close game in the fourth quarter.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
This game is a tough one to pick, but I’m going with Michigan by a field goal. Michigan State does have the top-rated defense in the country, but four of the five Spartans opponents are ranked at 88th or worse in offense. Notre Dame is the one solid offense MSU has faced, and the Irish won 31-13. The Spartans ran all over Michigan’s porous defense a year ago, and they intercepted Denard Robinson three times. I don’t see either one of those things happening this season. The Wolverines defense has improved greatly under Greg Mattison, and the MSU offensive line has struggled early this season. This game will go to the team that wins the running battle, and I think UM’s Robinson will make that happen.
Hail to the Victors. Denard X. Robinson will lead the undefeated Wolverines past the Spartans in front of a hostile crowd in East Lansing. This year, Shoelace has been phenomenal once again, throwing for 1,130 yards, 10 TDs and nine INTs, while running for 720 yards and eight TDs. But this week, in particular, is a redemption game for the X-man, who threw a career-worst three INTs and was held to his fourth-lowest rushing total of the season during a 34–17 embarrassment at the Big House last year. With the Legends Division on the line, expect Robinson to make enough plays with the game on the line against a stingy Spartans defense that ranks first in the nation in yards allowed (173.4 ypg) and third in points allowed (10.2 ppg). The Paul Bunyan Trophy will be reclaimed by the Maize and Blue, thanks to their tall-tale quarterback.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I will take Kirk Cousins to complete a big fourth-quarter third-down conversion and Le'Veon Bell to rush for two one-yard touchdowns giving the Spartans their fourth consecutive win over the Wolverines. Cousins, if he plays well, will be the difference in the game as his ability to push the ball down the field against the Michigan secondary will play a key role. While Denard Robinson has been electric, he has also been wild and turnover-prone. Look for Jerel Worthy and the nation's No. 1 defense to make life hard on the Maize and Blue offense all game long. Spartans by 3.