Posted by Adam Jacobi
MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: Bad Denard doesn't show up very often. Denard Robinson is almost literally the entire Michigan offense, routinely throwing for 300 yards and rushing for 100 more on any given week. He's also prone to bad throws, as his three interceptions against Northwestern -- all in Wildcat territory, sometimes inside the 10-yard line -- will attest. Bad Denard was also there for the first three quarters of the Notre Dame game, and Michigan found itself in a major hole until Good Denard led that incredible comeback. So if Good Denard is under center for Michigan, the Wolverines will likely move the ball at will, and when that happens, touchdowns and victories are sure to follow.
MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: The rushing game regains its resolve. One of the most shocking games in the Big Ten this year continues to be Michigan State's 31-13 loss to Notre Dame, in which the Spartans were so ineffective rushing the ball that they abandoned the ground game and left the offense to Kirk Cousins. Not a bad guy to depend on, as quarterbacks go, but the end result was still 13 points and a big fat L. Michigan's defense has bowed up this season, in sharp contrast to the sieve it resembled over the last three years, but if Michigan State wants vaunted tailbacks Edwin Baker and LeVeon Bell to be respected, it will have to impose its will on the Wolverines' front seven. That's a tough task, but it's not impossible.
X-FACTOR: This is a rivalry that used to basically belong to the Wolverines, much to the chagrin of the Spartan faithful in East Lansing. That balance of power has shifted over the past few years, as Michigan State has won three straight against Michigan -- including two games at the Big House. If the Spartans can make it four straight, there'll be a very happy class of seniors this year in East Lansing, and some very embarrassed graduates in Ann Arbor. Rivalries are intense, and mental aspects like that are extremely important to them. It'll be interesting to see whose pride shines through more this weekend.