Michigan State is a shell of its former self but dominant victories over hated rivals is always an enjoyment for the Michigan faithful. It was another extremely positive performance that has everyone feeling pretty good about this team heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Wolverines still have to get past a tough Indiana squad and the best team in the country, Ohio State. But if the positive vibes and performances keep coming, this team could have a chance to end this season on a very positive note.
But before that happens, let’s dive back into the blowout victory for Michigan over Michigan State, and the potential final nail in Mark Dantonio’s MSU coaching coffin:
Michigan State 10 – Michigan 44
Here are my takeaways from Michigan’s 8th win of the year:
1. Have Yourself a Day
Make no mistake about it, Shea Patterson and Ronnie Bell have had their highs and lows this season.
But through it all, to see the two players who’ve received the most attacks had career days against the hated in-state rival, that’s just something you just love to see.
Patterson threw for a career-high 384 passing yards and four touchdowns, no interceptions on 24/33 passing. He finished with an 89.0 QBR and broke Tom Brady’s single-game passing record against Michigan State. It was a day to remember for the senior signal-caller.
It was also a hell of a day for the former Missouri State basketball recruit as Bell racked up 150 yards receiving on nine receptions. The big day against the Spartans extends Bell’s lead as the top receiver on the Wolverines with 610 yards on 36 receptions.
With the running game lacking, Patterson and Bell led the passing attack that dominated the Michigan State defense.
2. Players from the State of Michigan
The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry features a ton of in-state talent each and every season. Most of the players on the team have played with one another at some point during their Pop Warner or high school careers, so when they get a chance to go up against one another in this rivalry game, there’s always a bit of extra angst.
Add in the impact the outcome of these rivalry games and individual performances have on the recruiting trail and it’s really important for the health of each program.
So, when Michigan’s in-state talent put up standout performances against the Spartans, it’s a big deal.
Interceptions and pass breakups from Ambry Thomas (Detroit/MLK) and Lavert Hill (Detroit/MLK), another big touchdown against MSU to go along with 4 catches for 48 yards in total for Donovan Peoples-Jones (Detroit/Cass Tech), a stout defensive showing from Aidan Hutchinson (Plymouth/Divine Child) and Mike Danna (Detroit/De La Salle), and flawless kicking performances from Quinn Nordin (Rockford/Rockford), who went 3/3 on field goals with a long a 49 yards and 5/5 on extra points, and Jake Moody (Northville/Northville) who had touchbacks on all of his kickoffs.
All and all, it was a good day for the Wolverines players from Michigan.
3. The Harbaugh Effect
It was a fun little saying following Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor. The mere existence of Jim Harbaugh as the head coach at Michigan would mean positive things for the Wolverines and struggles for the Spartans.
Sounded like just good rivalry banter as Mark Dantonio looked to have one of the most solid programs in the country. But, after looking at the records, I have to ask, is it a real thing? You tell me.
Notice any trends in Michigan State’s overall and Big Ten records over the last 10 years?
- 2010-14 BH
- 2010: 11-2 (7-1 B1G)*
- 2011: 11-3 (7-1 B1G)
- 2012: 7-6 (3-5 B1G)
- 2013: 13-1 (8-0 B1G)*
- 2014: 11-2 (7-1 B1G)
- Overall: 53-14
- Avg Wins: 10.6
- Overall B1G: 32-8
- Avg B1G Wins: 6.4
- 2015-19 AA
- 2015: 12-2 (7-1 B1G)*
- 2016: 3-9 (1-8 B1G)
- 2017: 10-3 (7-2 B1G)
- 2018: 7-6 (5-4 B1G)
- 2019: 4-6* (2-5 B1G)
- Overall: 36-26
- Avg Wins: 7.2
- Overall B1G: 22-20
- Avg B1G Wins: 4.4
That’s a -17 overall win differential and -10 B1G win differential for the Spartans since Harbaugh’s arrival.
During that same time, Michigan went 38-26 (21-19 B1G) between 2010-14 BH and 46-16 (31-11)* between 2015-now.
Now, it’s obviously not all just because of the arrival of a football coach at the in-state rival school. The series is just 3-2 in favor of the Wolverines since 2015, though if you take away an insane final play and a rainstorm, and this series could be heavily leaning one way.
A big reason for the downfall in East Lansing has been the clear lack of depth and talent on the Michigan State roster. But it’s not from recruiting issues.
While State’s recruiting is struggling in the 2020 class (currently ranked 44th overall and 10th in the Big Ten with just one four-star commit), it has actually slightly improved, rankings wise, since Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor:
- 2010-2014 Avg Finish: 30th overall, 5th in Big Ten
- 2015-2019 Avg Finish: 28th overall, 5th in Big Ten
Now, thanks to early departures, injuries, suspensions, transfers, convictions, and other off the field issues, the success on the recruiting trail has been pretty much completely diminished.
So, is it the off-the-field issues that are plaguing MSU? If not, what has been the reason why Michigan State has fallen off since Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor?
While Mark Dantonio’s stubbornness to make assistant coaching changes and the sudden lack of talent development are other big issues, the improvement of Michigan’s on-the-field product over the last five seasons clearly has made an impact as well.
So, is “the Harbaugh effect” real? Are all of these MSU issues and struggles happening is result because of the changing of the guard? Like I said, you tell me.
Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog