College Football: Michigan vs Michigan State - D1SportsNet


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College football

Michigan vs Michigan State

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There are several storylines for Michigan State's visit to No. 7 Michigan on Saturday, but one of the biggest has nothing to do with strategies or the implications of the contest.

It's the actual start time of the game that will be the focus for many.

For the first time in the 110-year history of the rivalry, the Spartans and Wolverines will hook up in a night game that is supposed to kick off shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET at Michigan Stadium.

It's a time frame that administrators at each school preferred to avoid but had no power in doing so with television and the Big Ten having full control over prime-time slots.

When it became apparent that there weren't many better matchups to put at night this week than Michigan State-Michigan, the 7:30 p.m. time was established and the groans started from higher-ups at each school.

"Pain in the neck," former Michigan State head football coach and current MSU trustee George Perles said on WVFN 730-AM Lansing when asked his thoughts on the night game with Michigan.

Among the concerns administrators have are traffic and parking headaches, the added time fans now have to tailgate and consume alcohol before the game, and the fact there will be a larger congregation outside the stadium of fans who don't have tickets.

The schools are used to playing their annual rivalry game in the more traditional noon or 3:30 p.m. time slots, but have no choice now to venture into uncharted territory and make the best of it.

As for the game itself, it is a crucial early-season contest in the Big Ten East between unbeaten Michigan (4-0, 1-0) and a Michigan State team (3-1, 1-0) that has already equaled its win total from a disastrous 3-9 season in 2016.

Michigan was off last week following a 28-10 win at Purdue on Sept. 23, and head coach Jim Harbaugh did offer some breaking news on Monday when he said senior John O'Korn will be the starting quarterback.

Junior Wilton Speight was the original starter, but he suffered an undisclosed injury in the first quarter against Purdue and is out for "multiple weeks," according to Harbaugh.

O'Korn went 16 of 28 for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception in place of Speight against Purdue.

"John has done a fantastic job ever since he got here," Harbaugh said. "Every role that he has been in, he has acquitted himself pretty well."

The way Michigan's defense has played this year, it might not matter who is at quarterback.

The Wolverines are first in the Big Ten in total yards allowed (203.3), run defense (69.3 yards a game) and pass defense (134 yards a game). They have allowed just 13.5 points a game.

Michigan State's offense is led by quarterback Brian Lewerke, who has been efficient in the passing game -- 84 of 133 for 963 yards, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions -- and offers a running ability that makes him difficult to defend. He leads the team with 248 yards, while running back LJ Scott is getting the bulk of the handoffs, averaging only 3.7 yards on 58 carries.

On the other side, Michigan State is bringing in a stout defense of its own.

The Spartans enter third in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game (248.3) and run defense (96 yards a game); they are second in pass defense (152.3 yards a game).

Following a turnover-filled 38-18 loss at home to Notre Dame on Sept. 23, Michigan State rebounded in its conference opener with a 17-10 win at home over Iowa last Saturday.

"I thought we tackled well. I thought we stayed square. We kept an edge," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. "Played very well up front."

A young team filled with underclassman starters and contributors, this will be the first road game and the first taste of the Michigan rivalry for several Michigan State players.

"I think that's the fun thing," Dantonio said.

"You played four games at home and now you have to play on the road. Great venue. Lots of Spartans will show up. I think a lot of our young guys will get a sense of something by the first or second snap. Some things you just have to be there to get the feel of it."

Michigan State has won seven of the past nine meetings, but Michigan won last year's game 32-23 in East Lansing.