Michigan-Michigan State: Does ‘little bro’ have a chance this time?

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Coaches Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio meet after last year’s Michigan-Michigan State game, won by the Wolverines. (AP/Carlos Osorio)

Mark Dantonio looked into the cameras and uttered five words that have defined the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry over the past decade: “Pride comes before the fall.”

Michigan had just beaten MSU in East Lansing, and then-Wolverines running back Mike Hart had dismissed the Spartans as “little brother.” It was 2007. Dantonio’s Spartans have won seven times since then in one of the Big Ten’s angriest rivalries.

Michigan State at No. 7 Michigan (6:30 p.m., Ch. 7) might not look like much of a matchup this time around — the spread is a robust 10½ points — but the Spartans (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have had a way of silencing the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0). It will be especially difficult for them to do so in the first night game in the 110-year history of the rivalry.

MSU fell apart last season, a 3-9 campaign that was so shockingly bad there can’t have been a more disappointing team in the country. Now the Spartans head into Ann Arbor with a little-known quarterback, Brian Lewerke, leading their modest running game and far more young starters than usual on both sides of the ball.

“I think that’s the fun thing,” Dantonio said.

It might not be that fun. Michigan leads the Big Ten in both run defense and pass defense. Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight is out with an injury, but backup John O’Korn strikes most insiders as being every bit as good a player. Maize and Blue by 17.

No. 9 Wisconsin at Nebraska (7 p.m., BTN) could be the game of the year in the Big Ten West. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0), favored by 11½, have been as good as advertised. The Huskers (3-2, 2-0) were a hot mess until they started their league slate against Rutgers and Illinois, which would right most any ship.

We can’t just assume the Badgers will steamroll every West opponent, can we? Well, maybe we can. The Jonathan Taylor-led run game is as in-your-face as any of recent Wisconsin vintage. Tight end Troy Fumagalli and wideout Quintez Cephus always seem to be wide open. UW’s defense is as stout as usual. But at night? In Lincoln? Badgers by only a touchdown.

Let’s rip through five more:

No. 13 Miami -3 at Florida State (2:30 p.m., ESPN): The Seminoles (1-2, 1-0 ACC) just don’t seem to have their bearings without injured quarterback Deondre Francois. Can freshman James Blackman take the heat against a fast defense? Coach Mark Richt and the Hurricanes (3-0, 1-0) are coming on strong. The U, 24-17.

No. 1 Alabama -26½ at Texas A&M (6:15 p.m., ESPN): The Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) could beat the Aggies (4-1, 2-0) eight days a week, and, by the end of this one, embattled A&M coach Kevin Sumlin might feel like they did. Tide by 20.

LSU +3 at No. 21 Florida (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2): The Tigers (3-2, 0-1 SEC) are coming off a humiliating loss at home to Troy. The Gators (3-1, 3-0) are as banged up as anybody. LSU coach Ed Orgeron rallies the troops to a much-needed victory.

No. 23 West Virginia +13½ at No. 8 TCU (2:30 p.m., FS1): The only loss for the Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) came in close fashion at Virginia Tech. The Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0) made their bones in an upset win at Oklahoma State. This seems like a fair fight. Frogs in a tight one.

No. 11 Washington State -2 at Oregon (7 p.m., Fox-32): The Cougars (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) are rolling under Mike Leach. The Ducks (4-1, 1-1) are still trying to reinvent themselves under Willie Taggart, and now — after Justin Herbert broke his collarbone — they need to break in a new quarterback. Wazzu in a fun one.

My favorite favorite: Stanford -5 at Utah (9:15, FS1): Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley might miss this one. Whether or not he does, the Cardinal running game is dialed up to you-can’t-stop-this.

My favorite underdog: Kansas State +4 at Texas (6 p.m., FS1): The Wildcats are the most physical team in the Big 12. Not sure the Longhorns are ready for that just yet.

Last week: 4-3 straight up, 4-3 vs. the spread.

Season to date: 26-11 straight up, 19-18 vs. the spread.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com


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