No. 6 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State are separated by roughly an hour's drive on Interstate 96 and Highway 23 and are quite familiar with each other. The Wolverines and Spartans first met on a football field in 1898 and have played 112 more times since.
It's also a series Michigan has dominated, for the most part. The Wolverines hold a 71-37-5 advantage all-time, but it hasn't been as lopsided in recent decades. Michigan State joined the Big Ten -- much to Michigan's chagrin -- in 1953, and with their introduction came the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a 4-foot tall wooden carving of the mythical lumberjack. The winner of the game has taken Paul home with them each season with Michigan earning possession more often, holding a 38-28-2 edge in the series as Big Ten conference mates.
But Michigan State has Paul Bunyan now, and it doesn't plan to give him back. Both teams will take the field at Spartan Stadium on Saturday looking to stay undefeated and keep their Big Ten title and College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Michigan vs. Michigan State: Need to know
Both teams ranked in the top 10 for this game is a rarity: While both programs have plenty of history of which to be proud, this season's game is a bit of a rarity. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 with Michigan at No. 6 and Michigan State at No. 8. It's only the fifth time both teams have been ranked in the top 10 when playing, with the last occurrence in 1964. Overall, it's only the 18th time in the first 113 meetings that both teams enter the game ranked. Michigan State has won three of the first four meetings when both teams were ranked in the top 10, which includes the 1964 meeting when the No. 9 Spartans beat the No. 7 Wolverines 17-10.
This game will likely be decided on the ground: It's not a secret what the Wolverines want to do on offense. Michigan has run the ball on 65.4% of its offensive snaps this season, which is the sixth-highest rushing rate in the country. The only teams that have run the ball more often than the Wolverines are the three service academies, Minnesota and Northern Illinois. They're quite good at it, too. The Wolverines rank sixth nationally in total rush EPA (expected points added) and 12th in rushing success rate. Blake Corum leads a two-headed attack with Hassan Haskins, and both will face a Michigan State defense that has been mediocre against the run (79th in defensive EPA against the run, 61st in success rate). You can bet that's an area the Wolverines will look to exploit and Michigan State will want to stop. Odds are the team that succeeds in this area on Saturday will win the game.
Michigan State has one of the most explosive offenses in the country: When you think of Michigan State offenses over the years, particularly the units during the Mark Dantonio tenure, the word "explosive" does not come to mind. Maybe "implosive," but definitely not "explosive." They were offenses that were more of the 3 yards and a cloud of dust variety. Well, no more. That's not dust in the air but smoke, as this 2021 Michigan State offense ranks 18th in explosive play rate and is tied for the lead nationally in plays of 60 yards or more with seven. Kenneth Walker III has been a big reason why. His 10 rushes of at least 20 yards are tied for the most by a running back this season as the Spartans offense has relied on big plays to put points on the board and will look to break off a few more against a stellar Michigan defense.
How to watch Michigan vs Michigan State live
Date: Saturday, October 30 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Spartan Stadium -- East Lansing, MI
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs Michigan State prediction, picks
While the Wolverines have dominated the scoreboard for most of this rivalry's history, the Spartans have dominated the spread in recent years. Michigan State has covered 11 of the last 13 meetings and five of the last six in East Lansing. I think that trend continues this weekend. Michigan's rushing attack will cause problems for the Spartans defense, but the Wolverines have not been nearly as impactful in the passing game. It's hard to cover spreads as a road favorite when you can't move the ball through the air effectively. Prediction: Michigan State (+4.5)
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