Frontrunner status in the Big Ten Legends Division is on the line when No. 20 Michigan and No. 21 Michigan State renew their rivalry Saturday. Kickoff in the 106th edition of the intrastate hatefest, played this year at Spartan Stadium, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
Michigan State currently leads the Legends Division with a 4-0 conference record for one key reason: Their defense, which is at or near the top of the FBS division in nearly every statistic. Michigan State is first nationally in total defense and rushing defense, second in pass efficiency defense, and third in passing defense and points allowed. The Spartan defense is particularly suited for college offenses, and it is being executed with ruthless efficiency.
That defense will have its work cut out for it Saturday as Michigan brings one of the nation's highest-scoring offenses to Spartan Stadium. The Wolverines are averaging 48.3 points per game in Big Ten contests and put up 63 on Indiana last week. Michigan's shown incredible offensive balance, throwing for 263 yards per game while running for 184. Quarterback Devin Gardner has been the key, as Michigan has four double-digit wins when the junior signalcaller has completed more than 55 percent of his pass attempts. The Wolverines squeaked by lowly Akron and UConn and lost to Penn State when Gardner's production dipped.
Rankings and records: Michigan enters the game ranked No. 21 in the BCS standings and USA Today Coaches Poll. The Wolverines are No. 23 in the AP Poll. Michigan State is right behind Michigan in the BCS rankings, coming in at No. 22. Sparty is No. 24 in both polls.
Vegas: The Spartans are 4.5-point favorites Saturday, with the total set at 46.5. OddsShark has the wagering details.
Weather: It's November in the Big Ten. Sporadic rain showers are predicted throughout the day, with a high temperature of 47.
Three names to know
Jeremy Langford: Since earning the lion's share of Michigan State's carries three weeks ago, the junior running back has turned into the workhorse that Mark Dantonio's offense desperately needed. In his last three games against Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, Langford has averaged 23 carries and 115 yards per game with six much-needed touchdowns for a struggling Spartan offense.
Max Bullough: In a conference built on interior defense, linebacker Max Bullough is among the best. The senior has racked up 47 tackles through eight games, including a 10-tackle, one-sack performance against Purdue two weeks ago.
Jeremy Gallon: The speedy wide receiver from Apopka, Fla. has broken through for Michigan this season, catching 45 passes for 831 yards and seven touchdowns. Nearly half of that output came last week, when Gallon caught 14 passes for an absurd 369 yards and two scores in a 63-47 win over Indiana.
Two things at stake
For Michigan State a win would mean a nearly unencumbered path to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans are the sole undefeated team in the Big Ten Legends Division so far, and a victory Saturday would make them 5-0 with games against reeling Nebraska, last-place Northwestern, and also-ran Minnesota left to go.
Michigan needs a win to keep dreams of a Big Ten Championship alive, but the Wolverines also need a win to keep forward momentum as they enter the most difficult stretch of their season. Michigan still has games against Nebraska and at Iowa, as well as their season finale against the hated Ohio State Buckeyes.
Of course, all of those things are secondary to in-state bragging rights and the Paul Bunyan Trophy. A year worth of gloating and a four-foot high wooden lumberjack are all these teams need.
How to witness
TV: ESPN will handle coverage of the game, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe will have the call.
Radio: In Lansing, the radio broadcast is available on WJIM AM 1240 and WMMQ 94.9 FM. Elsewhere, the Spartan Sports Network has the coverage. For Michigan, pre-game and game audio is available on WTKA AM 1050 Ann Arbor or elsewhere on the Michigan Sports Network.
Online streaming: WatchESPN provides streaming options for all ESPN broadcasts.