Michigan has pushed its way back into the national spotlight with three straight shutouts and looks to continue its impressive run when fourth-ranked Michigan State visits for a Big Ten showdown on Saturday. The 14th-ranked Wolverines have allowed only 14 points total in five consecutive victories since losing to Utah in first-year coach Jim Harbaugh’s debut on Sept. 3.
It’s the first time Michigan has strung together three straight shutouts in the same season since 1980 and the Wolverines stand second in the nation in total defense (181.3 yards per game). That unit will be challenged by a Michigan State squad which has won 10 consecutive games and is led by quarterback Connor Cook, who is 29-3 as a starter in his career – 18-1 against Big Ten schools. The Spartans are averaging almost 400 yards of offense and have won six of the last seven games in the series. “We need to play better at certain points,” Michigan State Mark Dantonio told reporters. “But we are undefeated, we’ve found a way to win football games; that’s the bottom line.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Wolverines -6.5, but that’s moved to -7. The total is up to 41.5 from the opening 40.
Michigan State – T Jack Conklin (Probable, knee), TE Josiah Price (Probable, undisclosed), C Jack Allen (Questionable, ankle), RB Madre London (Questionable, ankle), S R.J. Williamson (Late November, bicep), OL Dennis Finley (Out for season, leg), LB Drake Martinez (Out indefinitely, foot), CB Vayante Copeland (Out for season, back), S Mark Meyers (Out indefinitely, suspension), LB Ed Davis (Out for season, knee).
Michigan – CB Channing Stribling (Probable, undisclosed), WR Brian Cole (Questionable, undisclosed), LB Mike McCray (Questionable, undisclosed), TE Tyrone Wheatley (Questionable, undisclosed), RB Wyatt Shallman (Questionable, undisclosed), DE Mario Ojemudia (Out for season, Achilles), DT Bryan Mone (Out indefinitely, leg).
WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid-40s with a small, 16 percent chance of rain. Wind will blow across the field around 11 miles per hour.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The Spartans are still undefeated, but recent wins over Purdue and Rutgers were not very convincing. They have a tough test ahead as they take on the Wolverines at the Big House this Saturday. The Wolverines are coming off three straight shutouts, and two of those games were against Top 25 teams.” Covers Expert Jesse Schule.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (6-0 SU, 0-6 SU, 2-4 O/U): The Spartans hope to get standout left tackle Jack Conklin (knee) and tight end Josiah Price (leg, four touchdowns) back for Michigan, but running back Madre London (ankle) is out indefinitely. Tailback Delton Williams, who was expecting to redshirt, has been activated to back up starter LJ Scott (418 rushing yards, six TDs) along with Gerald Holmes. Cook has thrown for 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions this year and his top target is Aaron Burbridge (34 catches, 560 yards, four TDs).
ABOUT MICHIGAN (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS, 1-5 O/U): The Wolverines have coupled their stingy defense with a balanced offense that is averaging 201.3 yards rushing and 189.2 through the air. Jake Rudock tossed three interceptions in the opener at Utah and has three in five games since while completing 62 percent of his passes overall and De’Veon Smith (390 yards rushing) leads the ground attack. Linebacker Joe Bolden keys a balanced defense with 38 tackles while lineman Willie Henry had two of his four sacks against Northwestern last week in a 38-0 win.
* Spartans are 7-0 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
* Spartans are 0-6 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Under is 6-1 in Wolverine’s last seven home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-eight percent of Covers users are backing the visiting Spartans.