It's rivalry week in Michigan, when Paul Bunyan rivalry-focused storylines batter the Internet reader for a good five days. Here's one: Can Michigan stop getting its lunch money taken at the line of scrimmage this year against Sparty?
It seems that for the first time since Mike Hart was a senior, Michigan may boast decent offensive and defensive lines at the same time. This fact...is a new thing for Michigan. Since Lloyd Carr left, when these two teams met, Michigan State has averaged 186 yards per game on the ground. Michigan has averaged 76. Makes one cringe, coming from the school that produced Steve Hutchinson and Alan Branch and LaMarr Woodley and Jon Jansen...
It's not like Michigan hasn't boasted talented linemen throughout this period. But the schemes have never worked against MSU, defensively or offensively. The Michigan O-Line gets blown up yearly, with Spartan defenders quickly making their way into the Wolverine backfield. The Michigan D-Line holds for 1, 2, 3 possessions, eventually falling victim to fatigue and talented Spartan offensive squads.
We've written about the one-sided physical nature of this rivalry, borne of frustration, little-brother taunts, chipped shoulders...We've watched Sparty take out its anger on Michigan yearly, blitzing effectively, pushing maize and blue-clad centers and guards into the backfield, viciously pursing and sacking helpless quarterbacks...Brady Hoke always got his Wolverines up for OSU, but never for MSU, making for an embarrassingly one-sided yearly matchup in the Mitten. The truth is, Michigan is the little brother of this rivalry recently, and that paradigm-shift has been most blatantly obvious at the LOS. It's tough not to live in the moment with such a big rivalry, a rivalry that folks in Michigan feel deep in their souls. And the feeling was, it's going to take a long, long time for Michigan to get back on equal footing with MSU.
But look here in 2015...What's the one word you think of when watching Henry, Glasgow, and Hurst Jr smash through and around opposing offensive lines? "Push." What's the word you think of when the line opens a gaping hole and De'Veon Smith's feet are churning and defenders are getting pushed to the side? "Physicality." When Wolverine linebackers and DB's are aggressively blitzing from all over the field, what do you think of? "Pressure."
Win the LOS, win this game, simple as that. And the Wolverines are in a damn good spot to do just that against a wounded, struggling Spartan team.