Absolutely nutty things can happen when the Michigan State Spartans and Northwestern Wildcats get together. Last year’s meeting in Evanston took three overtimes to decide, as NU won 39-31. The last time the Cats went up to Sparta, they ruined Homecoming by winning 54-40 in a game that was actually more lopsided, at least in the second half, than that sounds.
In 2006, Michigan State came to Ryan Field and rallied back from a 38-3 deficit to win 41-38. The Wildcats’ 35 point blown lead is a NCAA football record. That game came to mind when we saw the two sides clash in basketball in February.
Spread: The Michigan State Spartans are double digit favorites across the board. Playamo review provides thorough information on online casinos, many of which offer sports betting. Depending on the sports book, you’ll find MSU favored anywhere from -10 to -12.
TV: FS1, Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman, Michigan State Spartans Alum Holly Sonders (see photo above)
Radio: WGN, Dave Eanet, Ted Albrecht
Radio Segment/Preview of this game: 1620 The Zone Omaha, KOZN, audio embedded below:
MSU won by a score of 65-60, in a game where they once trailed by 27 (43-16 with 4:18 to go in the first half).
That’s the greatest comeback in Big Ten history. And if all this seems utterly coco loco, just look at how guano crazy the ending to the 2001 meeting in football was.
Here is the box score scoring summary from the last 32 seconds, courtesy of ESPN.com’s college football page:
#20 Michigan State Spartans Preview (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke (5 TD passes, 5 INTs on the season) has often played like a maverick this season, making some real riverboat gambler type decisions. It definitely makes for very entertaining football, and when you match that up against this NU defense, well we could be in for a bumpy ride on Saturday, given how the Cats defense is long overdue for some turnovers.
You can hear Lewerke discuss the zaniness of the NU series, what fundamentals he’s been working on in 2018, which Michigan State Spartans QBs he emulates and a whole lot more in this exclusive we had with him at Media Day.
(The exclusive portion of the interview begins around the 8 and a half minute mark, the Northwestern talk at the 10 minute mark)
Lewerke joked about still having nightmares from the interception he threw in overtime that sealed that game.
“I really think our season would have gone a lot differently had we been able to win that game and I wish we could have,” Lewerke said, but thing happen, you move on and learn from it.”
One of the biggest reasons that Lewerke has had to often be an ole gunslinger this season is the mediocrity/inconsistency of the running game. With senior starter LJ Scott out for his second straight game with an ankle injury last week, a 31-20 victory over Central Michigan, he was replaced by sophomore Connor Heyward (Craig “Ironhead” Heyward’s kid), who ran for 48 yards and a touchdown.
The most productive rusher on the team was La’Darius Jefferson, who ran 13 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Weston Bridges chipped in with six carries but just 18 yards.
Jefferson has the best YPC of the three tailbacks who have seen a bulk of the carries, but it’s not mind-blowing (4.2), while Heyward’s yards-per-carry (3.6) and Scott’s (3.4) are far far below MSU standards.
Northwestern Wildcats Preview (1-3, 1-1 Big Ten)
For about a quarter and change, NU had an answer for Michigan’s fearsome defense, led by the their trio of NFL first round draft prospects. Then, from the mid second quarter onward, the Wolverines were able to totally shut down the Wildcats by overpowering their offensive line, which is a bit of a patchwork right now.
“Offensive football, man, it is really ugly if it’s just not clicking,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald after his team’s 17-0 lead gave way to a 20-17 defeat (the first time Jim Harbaugh has won a collegiate game when trailing by 17 or more, in 32 tries).
“Doesn’t matter if it’s the North Shore (Griffins) or the New Trier Trevians or the (Chicago) Bears or us, we just have to find a way to help our guys make plays, we just got to do a better job coaching.”
It doesn’t get any easier this week. After playing what is arguably the most talented and fearsome front seven in the league last week, now the Cats take on the nation’s #1 run defense. The Spartans are number one with a bullet too in that department, leading the nation by yielding only 40.3 yards rushing per contest. The next closest is San Diego State, at 64.5 yards allowed per game.
That’s very unfavorable, when Northwestern’s current starting tailback, John Moten IV, only average 2.3 yards per carry while the new back-up Solomon Vault averages just 2.6.
Pat Fitzgerald discussed the wildness of last year’s game, and also what makes the MSU Program stand out, on multiple levels, in this interview from Media Day. Fitz discusses the hallmarks and value up on which the Spartans program is build. Audio is below and the discussion begins around the 5:30 mark:
“I think any time you play a Mark Dantonio team, and I don’t think this is trade secrets, you need to be able to battle up front, both lines of scrimmage is where Mark has built his program,” said Fitzgerald.
“You got to be ready for the hand to hand combat, it’s going to be one of the most physical game of the year…You could argue that they have the best receiving corps not only in this conference, but in the country, you know top to bottom.”
He also said the program as a whole flies under the radar, and doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
“Not it my eyes, and not in our program’s eyes, but I think that program still does (get overlooked). I don’t think it gets the respect that it deserves, nationally, with the success that Mark has had.”
Prediction: Michigan State Spartans 27, Northwestern Wildcats 21
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.
Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud and YouTube. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to any and all of his
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