No. 6 Michigan football at No. 8 Michigan State game preview

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Michigan Football, Jim Harbaugh
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Will it be Harbaugh or ‘Harball’ Saturday for Michigan football?

For Michigan football, the task is simple: escape with a win by any means necessary.

Michigan football has not defeated a top-15 team on the road since 2006 under former head coach Loyd Carr. However, Michigan is yet to lose in East Lansing under Harbaugh (both as a player and a coach).

Though Michigan is also 7-0 and atop the Big Ten standings, they too have struggled. Michigan’s defense has given up a lot of yards under their new defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald.

Nonetheless, Michigan has been excellent, giving their opponents field but not points as they hold the second-ranked scoring defense in the nation, only behind Georgia.

Michigan will be put to the test against an MSU offensive line that should be no challenge for edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and the rest of the Michigan defensive line.

The real test will come against Michigan’s secondary, the weak spot in a solid defensive unit. If MSU can get star-running back Kenneth Walker III or star wide-out Jayden Reed into space, Michigan will be forced to rely on a very young core of defensive backs to make plays.

If Michigan’s defensive line puts pressure on Payton Thorne and stops the run, they will be in good shape.

Michigan’s offense will come to do one thing and one thing only: run the ball.

I know it, Michigan State knows it, and everyone who has watched even one Michigan football game this year knows it. Jim Harbaugh loves to play “Harball” and this weekend will be no different, yet there is a difference from years past. Harbaugh now boasts one of the best running back duos in the nation with Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, who also run behind one of the country’s top offensive lines.

Michigan football struggles in one main area of offense, and that is the passing game. Though starting quarterback Cade McNamara has only thrown one interception in his college career, he has struggled to push the ball downfield and frequently misses seemingly open receivers.

Nonetheless, not all of the blame can be put on McNamara. His receiving corps has been depleted with key injuries to star wide receiver Ronnie Bell in week one against Western Michigan and Roman Wilson in week five against Wisconsin.