Michigan State Football: 3 keys to upset over Michigan in Week 9

Xavier Henderson, Michigan State football (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Xavier Henderson, Michigan State football (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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It’s not going to be easy, but if Michigan State football is going to pull off a shocking upset of Michigan, it needs to do these three things.

The Spartans have a daunting task in front of them as they prepare to travel to Ann Arbor to face the thirteenth-ranked Wolverines this Saturday. Michigan is favored to win by more than 24 points. This matchup could be frightening to watch and not just because it falls on Halloween.

Rivalry games do bring out the best in everyone though (and we’ve come to expect the unexpected whenever the Paul Bunyan Trophy is on the line) so there’s a sliver of hope that if MSU can focus on dictating the following game elements, they will give themselves a fighting chance to shock the world.

What must the Spartans do?

1. Eliminate Michigan’s big plays

This is easier said than done but MSU must prevent (or at the very least limit) Michigan’s skill position players from breaking loose into the open field for large chunks of yardage or touchdowns.

Michigan is coming off of an impressive season-opening victory over Minnesota where they routed the Golden Gophers on their way to racking up 481 total yards and putting up 49 points on the scoreboard in Minneapolis. Michigan gashed Minnesota by averaging an astonishing 8.3 yards per rush and 15 yards per completion.

First-year starting quarterback Joe Milton spearheads their balanced attack. The Spartans may want to consider assigning a “spy” to mirror him and corral him if he tries to scramble or if they expect some draws or designed quarterback keepers to take place during pivotal downs.

Michigan keeps opponents guessing as they mix their air and ground game effectively (they ran for 256 yards and threw for another 225 in their first contest of the fall).

Michigan State’s defense must be sharp to give themselves a shot at sniffing an upset.

Senior defensive linemen Jacub Panasiuk and Naquan Jones have to play at a high level (they were non-factors vs. Rutgers) if they hope to rattle Milton and stymy Michigan’s offense. Antjuan Simmons and Xavier Henderson are reliable, steady stalwarts along MSU’s back-seven and that group of linebackers and defensive backs must fill and stuff gaps and make sure every eligible receiver is blanketed.

The recipe for a miracle in the Big House is a complete lights-out effort from Scottie Hazelton’s unit.