NCAA Football Michigan State SpartansMichigan Wolverines

5 Reasons Why Michigan State Spartans Beat the Michigan Wolverines

1 of 6

5 Factors That Led to Michigan State's Win Over Michigan

Mike Carter - USA Today Sports

You never know what to expect in rivalry games like this one.

The Michigan Wolverines won last year in Ann Arbor, the game looked to be more in the Michigan State Spartans’ favor this year.

Michigan State was looking to stay undefeated in the Big Ten. They are the only undefeated team left in the Legends division of the Big Ten and if they stay that way, then they will likely go to the Big Ten championship game. The Spartans were looking to keep their BCS hopes alive as well.

The Spartans are ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, and seem to have finally gotten some rhythm on offense. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have struggled offensively all season as turnovers, quarterbackstruggles, and a lack of a running game have put them into tough situations.

As expected, the Wolverines could not handle the Spartans’ defense. The Michigan offensive line could not protect quarterback Devin Gardner from the physical Spartan defense. The Wolverines could not get into the end zone as they were held to just two field goals.

Michigan State’s offense has been up and down all season, but they were successful against Michigan as they put up 29 points on Saturday. Quarterback Connor Cook threw for 252 yards and a touchdown, while running back Jeremy Langford ran for 120 yards and a touchdown.

The dominating performance by the Spartans greatly helped them in the BCS rankings. They moved up five spots from last week. The 23-point win over the Wolverines was their most lopsided win in the series since 1967.

What makes Michigan State so superior to Michigan this season and what were the biggest factors in their win over the Wolverines on Saturday?

Jenna Aquino is a Big Ten Football writer for Follow her on Twitter, "Like" her on Facebook, add her to your network on Google, or reach her by e-mail at

2 of 6

5. Michigan’s questionable offensive line

Raj Mehta - USA Today Sports

The Michigan offensive line has been moved around so much this season that it seems impossible for them and the rest of the Michigan offense to ever get into a rhythm. They were unable to do their most important job on Saturday, and that was to protect the quarterback. They allowed seven sacks to their quarterback by the Michigan State defense. Is Michigan’s offensive line just that bad, or is Michigan State’s defense just that good? I think it’s a little of both.

3 of 6

4. Devin Gardner’s struggles

Raj Mehta - USA Today Sports

Gardner’s performance against the Spartans wasn’t too bad if you consider how good the Spartans' defense is and how bad the Wolverines' offensive line is. He did throw an interception at a critical point in the game, killing a Michigan scoring drive that could’ve made it a one-score game. He threw for 210 yards, no touchdowns, and was sacked seven times.

Gardner would be much better if his offensive line was able to protect him.

4 of 6

3. Michigan State’s offense/Connor Cook

Mike Carter - USA Today Sports

Michigan State has had its own struggles on offense this season, but not to the extent that Michigan has. They could not decide who their starting quarterback would be and played multiple quarterbacks each game until they decided that Cook would be their starter. He’s been pretty consistent so far. His performance on Saturday propelled the Spartans to their biggest win over Michigan since 1967. He threw for 252 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Langford was a big part of their win too as he ran for 120 yards and a touchdown of his own.

5 of 6

2. Michigan’s lack of a running game

Mike Carter - USA Today Sports

Michigan’s inability to get their running game going this season has hurt them. Gardner has essentially been their running game since the running backs, mainly Fitzgerald Toussaint, have been unable to perform up to their potential. Toussaint has struggled most of the season and only ran for 20 yards against the Spartans. Michigan finished with minus-48 yards rushing on Saturday, which was the worst output in the program’s history.

6 of 6

1. Michigan State’s defense

Raj Mehta - USA Today Sports

The Spartans are No. 1 in the nation in total defense. It is the biggest reason why they win games, and the only part of their attack that has been consistent all season. They held Michigan to 168 total yards including negative yardage in their struggling running game, sacked their quarterback seven times and only allowed the Wolverines two field goals.

This defense will get the Spartans to the Big Ten championship game, where they will most likely be playing the Ohio State Buckeyes. Can the Spartans’ defense hold up against an extremely explosive Ohio State offense?