2. Strengths against strengths
Michigan State’s defense has been respectable this season. The Spartans rank 61st in scoring defense and are allowing 24.3 points per game.
When Jim Harbaugh mentioned Michigan State’s third-down defense this week, though, he wasn’t kidding as the Spartans allow teams to convert just 27 percent of the time, which ranks third in all of the FBS.
However, it just so happens that the Wolverines are the best third-down team Michigan State has faced yet this season. Michigan football is fourth in third-down conversions at 55 percent. The Wolverines are also ranked 16th in third-down defense, allowing just 31 percent.
In another category that should help decide the outcome, Michigan State is ranked sixth in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed. MSU is giving up 3.4 yards per attempt this season, while the Wolverines are fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards.
Michigan isn’t running the ball as much but it’s been effective and Nebraska was allowing 1.8 yards per attempt prior to its matchup with the Wolverines, who ran for 249 yards and 4.9 yards per attempt against the Huskers.