Michigan-Michigan State grades: Offensive skill players carry Wolverines

The highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from Michigan's win over Michigan State.

| 8 months ago
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Michigan-Michigan State grades: Offensive skill players carry Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines 32, Michigan State Spartans 23

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways for Michigan’s 32-23 win over Michigan State.

Michigan State

Quarterback grade: Tyler O’Conner, 56.9; Brian Lewerke, 66.5

Run-heavy approach and lack of big plays in pass game for Michigan State quarterbacks

Starting QB Tyler O’Conner did little beyond hitting a few short passes, missing on his downfield connections and forcing a late-first-half deep ball that got intercepted. Backup Brian Lewerke provided a late spark with a couple nifty runs and a well-thrown deep ball, but it was too late. However, Lewerke taking a fourth-down sack late in the fourth quarter thwarted Michigan State’s last hopes, so it wasn’t all great from the backup.

Top offensive grades:

RB L.J. Scott, 78.4
WR R.J. Shelton, 75.5
RT Miguel Machado, 74.8
TE Josiah Price, 74.0
LG Brian Allen, 74.8

Scott carries the offense

Michigan State came out fighting and L.J. Scott led the way in their power-running attack with 139 yards on 22 carries while adding another 47 through the air. He forced three missed tackles and showed good patience in setting up blocks in the run game. The Spartans were hit or miss up front as Machado had a nice day at right tackle and Price’s run-blocking was key on the edge, but LT Kodi Kieler had his struggles and center Benny McGowan lost too many blocks in the run game.


Top defensive grades

DI Malik McDowell, 79.2
S Grayson Miller, 74.8
CB Darian Hicks, 71.3
LB Ed Davis, 70.9
DI Brandon Clemons, 68.7

Missed tackles and big plays the story for the defense

While McDowell blew up a number of running plays, there was little behind him against the run and Michigan State finished with 13 missed tackles on the day. DI Brandon Clemons and LB Chris Frey were the only two players with more than one pressure as the pass rush was subpar throughout the game. Safety Montae Nicholson led the way with three missed tackles while Frey and fellow linebacker Riley Bullough had two apiece in a game that Michigan State lost in the front-7.


Quarterback grade: Wilton Speight, 71.3

Speight continues growth for Wolverines

Speight’s progression is one of the stories of the season for Michigan and the college football playoff, and it was another strong outing. He hit 9-of-16 passes thrown at least 10 yards in the air for 186 yards as he made big plays in Michigan’s play action game while also getting some help from his playmakers down the field. Speight did force a bad interception on a wheel play as he threw it blind and late, but if he continues to develop as he has the last two weeks, Michigan will be all the more dangerous as they head into November.


Top offensive grades

WR Amara Darboh, 86.1
RT Erik Magnuson, 80.4
TE Jake Butt, 78.7
RG Kyle Kalis, 75.4
RB De’Veon Smith, 74.4

Darboh and running game pace Michigan’s offense

Amara Darboh was one of the best players on the field, as he finished with 165 yards on eight catches for Michigan. He got behind the defense on go and post routes while also adding a one-handed catch on a comeback. Darboh brought a big-play element to the offense in his best game of the season. Beyond the right side of the offensive line had a great game in Michigan’s power scheme as Magnuson and Kalis provided strong run blocking at the point of attack while Magnuson was clean on his 29 attempts in pass protection. LB/S/RB/PR Jabrill Peppers forced four missed tackles on his five carries and he scored Michigan’s first touchdown.

Top defensive grades

ED Taco Charlton, 84.9
DI Maurice Hurst, 83.3
LB Jabrill Peppers, 78.8
CB Channing Stribling, 78.2
CB Jourdan Lewis, 74.2

Charlton and Hurst lead the way up front

The most common sight against Michigan State’s rushing attack was Charlton destroying blocks on the edge and taking out blockers while Hurst penetrated and slowed down pulling guards in the backfield. Charlton added three QB hits, and four hurries on his 29 rushes as he was the best defensive player in the game. CB Jourdan Lewis gave up only two catches on eight targets for 42 yards including an interception and a pass defensed, but he did get flagged for two pass interference penalties late in the game. As for Peppers, it was an up-and-down game for him against the run as he made a key fourth down stop and later got in on a tackle for a loss but he also got owned at the line of scrimmage before missing a tackle on another play. Overall, there was more good than bad for Peppers who was once again all over the field.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Davey Ineloquent

    Hey PFF, could you tell me if you account for “holding” or “should be holding calls”?

    I’m curious, as by some metrics it’s obvious that incurring any flagged penalty, should impact your overall grade.

    However, I’m curious if you guys/girls also account for holding-calls (or any other infractions/anomalies) when grading the plays yourselves?