Michigan State football

© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

What Michigan State football must do in order to upset No. 4 Michigan

Michigan State football is facing its toughest road test of the season on Saturday and this is how the Spartans can shock Michigan.

There’s nothing I want more than to see a Michigan State football win over Michigan on Saturday night.

Do I think it’s going to happen? No, but I do think that anything can happen in this rivalry and crazy things have already taken place under Mel Tucker’s reign.

Two years ago, Michigan State was coming off a loss to Rutgers in Tucker’s first game as head coach and Michigan was a four-touchdown favorite in Ann Arbor. No one expected the Spartans to even be in that game, but they won.

Just last year, Michigan State was down 30-14 in the third quarter and everyone was ready to declare Michigan the winner. The Spartans stormed back and won.

Like I said, anything is possible in this rivalry.

So what do the Spartans need to do on Saturday to pull off the massive upset of the No. 4 Wolverines and extend Me’s winning streak over Michigan to three games?

Here’s my list:

  • Win the turnover battle. This seems obvious, but with Michigan State’s defense struggling this year, it’s been helped out by turnovers. If they can’t get stops the old-fashioned way, they need to pop the ball out or pick JJ McCarthy off. And Payton Thorne needs to make good decisions and ensure he doesn’t give the ball away.
  • Hold Michigan to field goals. Obviously not every drive is going to end in a field goal instead of a touchdown for Michigan, but more often than not, Michigan State needs to keep the Wolverines to three points. The defense struggles to force punts (see: Ohio State, Minnesota games) so keeping Michigan to three on a long drive would be a win.
  • Send blitzes. Seeing as McCarthy has been playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation this season, Michigan State needs to get some pressure on him to make him uncomfortable. I’d guess that the Wolverines run a majority of the time, but when they are in passing situations, Michigan State needs to send blitzes his way.
  • Pass to set up the run. I know this is backwards, but Michigan State hasn’t been able to run at all this season, and yet Jay Johnson is calling dives up the middle far too often. Thorne needs to sling the ball around and make the defense respect his arm and then when they’re expecting pass, throw in a creative run or play-action. Do the exact opposite of what’s expected.
  • Give Elijah Collins the ball. This one speaks for itself. When Collins has touched the ball this year, good things have happened.
  • Utilize the tight ends. Another self-explanatory plan. Maliq Carr showed why he needs to be utilized more and Daniel Barker has been criminally underutilized as well. Get these guys the ball and the chains will keep on moving.
  • Get the ball to Jayden Reed, Keon Coleman. Again, when Thorne gets these two guys the ball, good things happen. And they can both do things after the catch. They’re matchup nightmares for defenses and Michigan could have a tough time matching up with both.
  • Block out the noise. There’s something to be said about playing with a chip on your shoulder and loving the underdog role, but that has to be scrapped before taking the field. Michigan State has to go into this game believing that they can win. They have to recall preseason expectations and realize that they were supposed to contend with the Wolverines for a reason. There’s talent there. If they believe that they’re not supposed to be in the game, they’ll crumble when the pressure is high. Don’t let that happen.

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