Each Thursday, WolverineNation will take a look at five storylines for the Wolverines heading into Saturday's game. Michigan State is already 1-2 in conference play, while the Wolverines are riding high after two convincing wins. It'll be a doozy for sure. Here are the storylines for Michigan as it enters a rivalry game that could put the Wolverines one step closer to Indianapolis.
1. Emotions will be running high. No one on this Michigan roster has beaten Michigan State. And no Spartans player has lost to a Wolverine. It will be a very charged atmosphere and a lot is on the line. The Wolverines go into every game, every week, saying it's a championship game. Purdue? Sure, championship. Illinois? Yeah, championship. Michigan State? Same deal. They need to have the same attitude without putting too much more on this game. Quarterback Denard Robinson and the rest of the Michigan squad are at their best when they don't attempt too much. And this is a game in which Michigan won't have to do too much, just what they've been doing. If they go out with too much emotion, trying to do too much, it won't be pretty.
2. Get pressure on Maxwell. Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell is no Kirk Cousins, but the Wolverines need to get after him as though he were. The junior has thrown for 1,607 yards and 6 touchdowns. He's a pocket passer, which means that Michigan will have to get good defensive pressure up front to make sure Maxwell is as uncomfortable as possible. He's coming off a disappointing performance against Iowa and will be making his first starting appearance in Michigan Stadium. There's a lot riding on his shoulders, and Michigan should try to rattle him as much as possible.
3. Gholston versus Lewan. Left tackle Taylor Lewan has done a great job protecting Robinson's blindside so far this season, but he and Michigan State defensive end William Gholston have a history. And it hasn't always been the most cordial one. Outside of the obvious penalty watch most fans and refs will have going during the game, these two should be interesting to watch during plays and in between. Lewan needs to make sure he stays in this game and plays up to his potential. It's not good news if the Wolverines have to play a backup at left tackle ... or quarterback.
4. Be complete as an offense. The Wolverines opened up their run game a bit last weekend against Purdue, and Robinson's decision-making has improved. That progress and game plan will need to continue, as the Spartans are a team against which Michigan needs to be multidimensional in order to be effective. Michigan State boasts a talented defense. The Spartans give up just 15.7 points per game (14th-best in the country) despite the fact that when it comes to passing yards given up (236.3) and rushing yards given up (144), they rank 59th and 86th, respectively. Michigan will have to be solid in the air and on the ground in order to come out with the "W."
5. Stop Le'Veon Bell. He's the Spartans' biggest running/hurdling threat. He has rushed for eight touchdowns and 916 yards through seven games. He has had three games this season in which he rushed for fewer than 100 yards, so it's possible for the Wolverines to slow him. Bell has gotten more than half of his total yardage (99 carries, 524 yards) on first downs, so players such as Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan need to be in peak form early. And really, like so many other Spartans, it doesn't matter what Bell's stats are or were, he is a player who will do nearly anything to make sure the Wolverines don't pick up a win in Ann Arbor.