|Michigan St.-Michigan Preview|
For a change, Jim Harbaugh isn't the coach feeling the most heat heading into one of Michigan's rivalry games.
Harbaugh hasn't recorded a win over Ohio State since taking over the Wolverines program in 2015. He's 2-2 against in-state rival Michigan State, but the Wolverines lost both meetings in Ann Arbor. Michigan hasn't defeated the Spartans at the Big House since 2012, but it will try again Saturday.
No. 15 Michigan (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) defeated its past two opponents, Notre Dame and Maryland, by a combined score of 83-21 before getting a bye week.
Michigan State (4-5, 2-4) carries a four-game losing streak into the annual matchup.
Coach Mark Dantonio has been criticized for being too loyal to his assistants and not adapting his offensive scheme to keep up with his peers. Several players also transferred during the season, cutting into the team's depth.
The Spartans' offensive woes were apparent in the first three games of the slide, as they managed just 17 total points. This past Saturday, their offense racked up 526 yards but they blew a 25-point lead at home and fell 37-34 to Illinois.
"It's one that I'll carry with me for probably the rest of my life, but that's coaching," Dantonio said of the collapse.
With Dantonio under fire, Harbaugh expects the Spartans to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at his team.
"On high alert for everything," Harbaugh said. "Specifically, we understand that Coach Dantonio is a master motivator. There could be trick plays. Special teams, the punt fakes, field goal fakes. Everything needs to be alerted and prepared and readied for."
Defenses have ruled the past two meetings.
Michigan State pulled out a 14-10 win on a rainy night in Ann Arbor two years ago. Last season, the Wolverines left East Lansing with a 21-7 victory. Michigan hasn't recorded back-to-back victories over the Spartans since winning six straight from 2002-07.
"It's one of my favorite games to play in every year," Wolverines offensive lineman Ben Bredeson said.
"I love the rivalry games, the big games. That's what you play college football for. We've had some good games here in the last three years, some memorable ones for sure, and I'm looking forward to another one this Saturday. Owning the state of Michigan is always a big thing for the two programs."
Dantonio expects emotions to run high on both sides.
"If you don't like confrontation, this probably isn't a good game to go to, because it's just the way it is," he said.
"It's just natural. You've got guys that have played against each other in high school. You've got guys that have played already in this football game. So it's a competitive environment, and the biggest thing that we need to do is have total focus on what we need to do at the right time and not make mistakes and just play hard. Play harder than hard."
Both teams have dynamic freshman running backs.
The Spartans will try to grind out a win behind running back Elijah Collins, who rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns against the Illini. He has 715 rushing yards this season. Michigan's Zach Charbonnet has scored 11 touchdowns, including two in each of the team's past three games.
Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke has thrown 12 touchdown passes this season but only two during the losing streak while getting picked off six times. Michigan's Shea Patterson has tossed 12 touchdown passes this season, compared to four interceptions.
--Field Level Media