EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The difference between success and failure has been fairly easy to measure this season for Michigan State.
When tailback Javon Ringer rushes for 100 yards or more, the Spartans are unbeaten at 5-0.
When Ringer doesn't reach the century mark, Michigan State is 1-2.
So it's no mystery what the Spartans will try to do Saturday when they seek their first win at archrival Michigan since 1990.
"Establishing the running game is very important for us this week," said Jesse Miller, Michigan State's 6-foot-6, 319-pound right tackle. "The team that runs the ball is definitely going to win this game. That's how it's been."
The team with the most productive ground attack has won 35 of the last 38 games between the Spartans (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and Wolverines (2-5, 1-2). On paper, Michigan State has the edge in that department headed into the game. That's one reason oddsmakers have made the Spartans favorites to win entering a game at Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1968.
Ringer leads the nation with 1,179 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns and 263 carries. He averages 147.4 yards per game, second only to Connecticut's Donald Brown.
Ringer says he isn't impressed with his personal stats, but he is impressed with the Michigan defense. He considers it the strength of the Wolverines' team.
"They play hard. They have a lot of speed," Ringer said. "They flow to the ball great. They gang tackle. They have a lot of talent on that defense."
Ringer easily topped the 100-yard rushing mark in victories against Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Indiana and Northwestern.
The 5-foot-9, 202-pound workhorse gained 91 yards on 25 carries in a 16-13 victory over Iowa. The Spartans probably wouldn't have won that game without the help of Hawkeye turnovers.
Ringer was held in check in a season-opening loss at California and in last week's lopsided 45-7 loss to Ohio State. In those two setbacks, Ringer averaged 74 yards on 21.5 carries -- just 3.4 yards per run.
Michigan State ranks seventh overall in Big Ten rushing offense at 161 yards per game, more than 90 percent of which comes from Ringer.
"It's about field position. It's about putting the ball in our best players' hands," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "That's how we'll look at it."
Michigan defensive tackle Terrance Taylor says Ringer is strong and has great vision. But Taylor, defensive end Brandon Graham and the rest of the Wolverines are eager to see if they can stop the Spartans' ground game.
"If they can't run the ball, all the play calling is messed up," Taylor said. "Running the ball is the base of their whole offense, and that's any Big Ten school that's not running the spread."
Michigan, running the spread under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez, ranks ninth in the conference at 140.9 yards rushing per game.
Running back Sam McGuffie leads the diverse Wolverines' rushing attack at 65.7 yards per game. Brandon Minor is another threat out of the backfield, especially coming off his 117-yard performance against Penn State.
"Brandon is a tough guy," Rodriguez said. "He's a talented, physical runner. I think him understanding what we want in our schemes helps his progress. He'll keep getting better."
Quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan also will run for the Wolverines.