2020 Michigan State vs Michigan: Four Things to Watch

It’s rivalry week (again) as Michigan will have a chance to retain a rivalry trophy (again) against a team everyone is expecting them to blowout (not again). Michigan State is coming to town with new head coach Mel Tucker and a big fat L from its season opening loss to Rutgers…Rutgers. Been there before. It sucks.

Kickoff’s at Noon on Halloween and if this Michigan team is as good as they showed against Minnesota, it could be over by 1 pm. But never sleep on the hate of a rival.

Here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on this Saturday:

1. Empty Big House

This will be the weirdest. We’ve all seen games at pretty much every other stadium in the country this year without fans but when seeing the Big House empty is going to be weird.

Now, it’s not like the stadium is the loudest, most insane atmosphere in college football but 110,000+ people are a shitload of people, especially during the MSU rivalry game. We’ll see if the stadium staff can give off a real game vibe to give the Spartans a taste of that intimidation factor.

2. That School Down the Road

C’mon, Mel. Really? Not going to say “Michigan”? Just going to call your own school “State” from now on? This is somehow worse than Brady Hoke calling Ohio State “Ohio”. Real original. At least the Buckeyes know which way is up.

As for Michigan State as a football team, they’re not much better than that nickname. The Spartans got beat by Rutgers. Like, the entire game. Not a last-second field goal or some ridiculous comeback game. It was all Rutgers from literally the opening drive.

Five fumbles lost, two interceptions, and two turnovers on downs. That’s impressive, especially when Rutgers is the opponent. Now, to give credit to the Big Ten’s New York TV Market Team, the transfers that came over from all over the Power Five have helped improve the talent on that team. But they’re not a good football team and it was a bad loss for Michigan State.

Are they really that bad though? Yeah, they’re not good. But can they upset Michigan? I’ve seen crazier things happen but I wouldn’t go that far this weekend. Michigan is more talented up and down the roster and has been together as a unit for much longer.

Barring an MSU-like amount of turnovers or half the starters going out with COVID, Michigan should control their home opener from start to finish.

3. Returning from Injury

Everyone is asking about Dax Hill after he left the Minnesota game early (all reports are is he should be good to go against State) but there are two other injuries I’ll be watching closely. Quinn Nordin and Nick Eubanks missed the season opener with lingering injuries and will be big additions when healthy.

But when will that be?

According to his press conference, Harbaugh wasn’t exactly sure on Eubanks return but did say that Nordin should be back this weekend.

Michigan needs to get its kicking game figured out and this should be a good game to try some things out. After missing three field goals last weekend, Jake Moody‘s likely on the hot seat as the place kicker. If Nordin plays, expect to see him get his shot.

Eubanks is another one to keep an eye on. He reportedly traveled to Minnesota but didn’t dress. Michigan instead had OL Joel Honigford don the #85 and slide into a blocking tight end role, and he did pretty well. But with Eubanks, Michigan would have another talented pass catcher at the tight end position alongside emerging Erick All.

4. Can Michigan Cover?

25.5 point favorite. Damn. That’s where the line got up to when it first came out this week.

Michigan is 32-33-1 (49.2%) against the spread during the Harbaugh era and I think they’ll get that ATS to 50% on Saturday. 25 points is a lot in a rivalry game but unless Michigan State dresses up as Ohio State for Halloween, I like Michigan’s chances at covering.

The Battle for the Paul Bunyan. How do you think it will turn out? What will you be looking to see? Let us know in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog