Bragging Rights

Injuries to seniors Chad Henne and Mike Hart failed to derail resurgent Michigan after a poor start to the season. The Wolverines, though, are expected to have them back to face their biggest in-state rival for the final time in their careers.

No. 15 Michigan looks for its sixth win in a row over Michigan State and eighth straight overall when the teams meet on Saturday for the 100th time.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Michigan -3.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 89% of bets for this game have been placed on Michigan -3.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

The Wolverines and Spartans will play once again for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Michigan holds a 66-28-5 all-time series advantage.

"If you can't get up for the Michigan-Michigan State game, then there is something wrong with you," Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long said. "We have to go there, so we know we have to match their intensity. We're playing for a Big Ten Championship so all those things combined, if you can't get up for that then you shouldn't be playing college football."

If Henne and Hart are back in the lineup, it will provide an additional boost for Michigan (7-2, 5-0 Big Ten), which hasn't lost since starting the season with consecutive home defeats for the first time since 1959.

Henne sat out last Saturday's 34-10 win over Minnesota after injuring his shoulder during a 27-17 victory at Illinois on Oct. 20.

"There was a lot of pain (at Illinois) but the team needed me and I put my body out there to give us a win," said Henne, who has completed 69.2 percent of his passes (74-of-107) for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions in his last four games.

Against the Golden Gophers, freshman Ryan Mallett filled in admirably by completing 11-of-20 passes for a career-high 233 yards and a 40-yard scoring strike to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter.

Considered one of the conference's top running backs, Hart has missed the last two games after hurting his ankle in a 48-21 win over Purdue on Oct. 13. Carlos Brown started against Illinois and Minnesota in Hart's absence, and rushed for 358 yards with two touchdowns.

Despite playing in just seven games, Hart ranks second in the conference with 1,119 rushing yards and is tied for third with 12 touchdowns.

"It's good to know that our backups can come in and do well," Long said.

But Henne and Hart have been outstanding against Michigan State (5-4, 1-4). Henne has completed 70.1 percent of his passes (61-of-87) for 669 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception in three meetings with the Spartans. Hart, meanwhile, has totaled 564 rushing yards and two touchdowns in those contests.

Following this year's poor start - which had some calling for coach Lloyd Carr's ouster - Michigan is tied with top-ranked Ohio State for first place in the Big Ten. The Wolverines and Buckeyes will play on Nov. 17 in Ann Arbor.

"I think they have character," Carr said of his team. "I think they've proven that they have some resilience, and I think we have, without question, had some wonderful leadership from our seniors, our captains and our coaches.

"I think all of those guys, they have stood up and proven they can take a punch and to get up and fight again."

For first-year Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, the annual matchup with the Wolverines for state bragging rights is one he's eagerly awaited.

"The Michigan game to me is the game that we've pointed toward since I got here, and I think that's the way it should be," he said. "That's the way it should be at Michigan State.

"It's a measuring stick for us because I do consider Michigan one of the elite teams in this conference. They have been and always probably will be."

The Spartans, though, have won just two of the last 11 meetings with the Wolverines with both victories coming in East Lansing by a combined five points.

Michigan State has lost both games this season against ranked teams by just 10 points. It fell 37-34 to then-No. 9 Wisconsin on Sept. 29, and lost 24-17 to the Buckeyes on Oct. 20.

The Spartans also fell 34-27 in double-overtime at Iowa last Saturday after squandering a 17-3 halftime lead. Javon Ringer had 23 carries for 103 yards, but Jehuu Caulcrick provided much of the offense with three short scoring runs.

Ringer is third in Big Ten with 1,111 yards rushing, but has scored just six touchdowns. After running for a career-high 203 yards with two touchdowns in a 52-27 win over Indiana on Oct. 13, Ringer has averaged just 76.0 yards with no touchdowns in two games since.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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