3:30 PM ET, October 9, 2010
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Mark Dantonio will not ease his way back to coaching Michigan State. Not with a trip to face Heisman Trophy candidate Denard Robinson and rival Michigan up next.
Still recovering from a mild heart attack and subsequent blood clot in his leg, Dantonio is expected to coach from the press box as the No. 17 Spartans look for a third consecutive victory over the 18th-ranked Wolverines in a matchup of Big Ten unbeatens Saturday afternoon.
Both 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference, the rivals enter this contest unbeaten for the first time since 1999. That impending drama was more than enough for Dantonio to return after suffering a heart attack following a 34-31 overtime win over Notre Dame on Sept. 18. He missed the next week's game against Northern Colorado, and last Saturday's 34-24 win over then-No. 11 Wisconsin after the blood clot was found.
"You can't keep me down Michigan week," said Dantonio, who looks to guide the Spartans to their first 6-0 start since Nick Saban did it in 1999. "It's good to be back -- again."
Dantonio's players couldn't be happier as they try for a third straight win over Michigan for the first time since 1965-67. That stretch also was the most recent time the Spartans won consecutive games at the Big House.
"It's going to be a huge lift," quarterback Kirk Cousins said of having Dantonio back. "He is the one that made this rivalry so important. We draw a great amount of inspiration and excitement from him every time we come and play these guys."
Though Michigan State averages 36.2 points per game in 2010, and has outrushed the Wolverines 364-112 in the last two meetings, its defense faces a major challenge.
Michigan is second in the nation in total offense (565.0 yards per game), third in rushing (324.4) and ninth in scoring (41.4 points per game). Most of those numbers come courtesy of Robinson, the sophomore quarterback who leads the nation in rushing (181.0 yards per game) and is second in total offense (382.6).
Robinson, who did not attempt a pass and was held to minus-9 yards on three carries in the Wolverines' 26-20 overtime loss at Michigan State last season, is 95 rushing yards from 1,000 this year and 87 away from 2,000 total yards.
Plagued by a bruised left knee, Robinson threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 217 and two scores during a 42-35 win at Indiana last Saturday.
"Denard is an outstanding player," Dantonio said. "He makes people miss. We have to swarm a lot of people to the point of attack, get a lot of people to the ball."
Having a star like Robinson certainly gives the Wolverines a chance for what could be their most significant win under embattled coach Rich Rodriguez.
"The rivalry games are always bigger," Rodriguez said. "There's more at stake this year because both teams are undefeated. It's a huge game and our guys understand that. We have got to play better than we have played and hope that they make a few mistakes."
Rodriguez, however, does not expect back-to-back losses in the series to play much of a factor in his team's effort Saturday.
"That's in the past," Rodriguez said.
Michigan must be prepared to stop a balanced Spartans' offense led by Cousins, who has thrown for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns this season. The junior threw two interceptions and no touchdowns against the Wolverines in 2009, but rushed seven times for 75 yards.
Though Michigan State avoided a third straight loss to a Top 25 opponent with last week's victory over Wisconsin, Michigan looks to end a four-game skid against ranked schools.
Top 25 Overview
A battle of unlikely unbeatens takes place in the Big House when Michigan State visits Michigan. Mark Dantonio is expected to coach from the press box after suffering a heart attack Sept. 18. The Spartans, who have not started 6-0 since 1999, are looking to beat the Wolverines three straight times for the first time since 1965 to '67. Michigan QB Denard Robinson looks to continue his stats roll, as he is 95 rushing yards from 1,000 this season and 87 from 2,000 total yards.
Michigan State brings a balanced offense into the Big House to take on Denard Robinson and Michigan in Week 6.
|Avg Points Allowed||18.3||26.8|
NEXT LEVEL: Michigan has the third ranked rushing offense in the nation, and Denard Robinson has used the Wolverine's prowess on the ground to help set up his passes. Robinson has used a run-fake before exactly one-third of his passes this season, and he has completed over 78 percent of his passes after faking the run. Perhaps the greatest effect of Michigan's play-action is giving Robinson time to hit receivers downfield.[+]
Denard Robinson on Throws of 10+ Yards
NEXT LEVEL: Roy Roundtree is Michigan's leading receiver this season, but he hasn't been the Wolverines most potent downfield threat. Roundtree has been able to do most of his damage after the catch, averaging 11.6 yards gained after catching the ball, but on longer throws, Robinson has had far more success spreading the ball among other receivers.[+]
Denard Robinson on Throws of 15+ Yards
NEXT LEVEL: Denard Robinson has 98 rush attempts this season, but only once has he scrambled for a gain after dropping back and looking to throw the ball. Robinson has been the designated ball carrier on a running play 76 times, has kept the ball on a zone read 19 times, and the final two rushes are comprised of a sack and a fumbled snap.
The Spartans joined the Big Ten 57 years ago, and this will be the 8th time since then that the schools will play when both are unbeaten... the Spartans are 5-1-1 in the previous 7 meetings, and in nearly every case, Sparty has gone on to have a pretty successful season...[+]
Michigan State vs Michigan - When Both are Unbeaten
ESPN Stats & Information