#7 Michigan State-Northwestern: Brutally Honest Game Preview

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michigan state

On my way home from the “Banks Bowl” (nickname I give to the annual IllinoisMichigan State meeting, because the former is my undergrad, the latter my MBA school) on Saturday night I drove past the town of Climax, MI on I-94.

The miles immediately leading into Climax are exciting, but then when you’re past Climax, it’s all downhill.

By the way, wouldn’t it be HILARIOUS if there was a town called Refractory Period, MI bordering Climax?

I bring this up because MSU football has had a tendency to climax during the middle of the season these past couple decades. It seems like they start 5-0 and finish 7-5 every season. They’ve also been prone to tremendous let-downs. Beating undefeated Michigan and Ohio State teams in midseason (see 1998, 1999, 2001) then losing to Indiana and Purdue the following week.

Will this year be different? With a 7-0 record, the first since the national title year of 1966, and a #7 BCS ranking, it appears so. Will the excitement for Tom Izzo’s basketball team will be delayed a little?

This week the Spartans show up for Northwestern‘s Homecoming, where they’ve beaten the geographically closest of my three “home” teams three out of the last four.

300 spartans

Throughout the season, I’ll be bringing you these informative yet blunt game previews of every contest I cover and a second game that week that interests me. Except for this week because I’m exhausted from covering/attending SES; Anyways, we have a heavy focus on my three “home teams” Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame, and the Big Ten in general.

Michigan State synopsis: See that picture? It’s the last time I’ll reference the movie “300” when writing about the Spartans. It was cool to make these allusions in 2007, kind of funny to do so in 2008. But now’s it’s 2010 and the “SPARTANS! TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL!!!!!!” type comments need to meet their Thermopylae.

Yes, it’s nice that you got Gerard Butler (King Leonidas) to appear at your Midnight Madness, and you do the whole “SPARTANS! What is your profession?” thing on 3rd down at Spartan Stadium, but that’s it now, ok?

The bit is getting old.

The Spartans jumped out to a 10-0 start in 1965, 9-0 marks in 1966, 1952 and 1951 and a 7-0 record in 1913. The last four times MSU opened a season with seven straight wins the program won national titles, with Big Ten
Championships in 1965 and 1966. So it’s possible the ghost of Duffy Daugherty is smiling right now.

The crowd Saturday will be about 40-50% green and white. Economic depression or not, MSU people travel very well, and there are a ton of Spartan faithful in Chicago to buy up all those tickets that Northwestern fans do not.

pat fitzgerald northwestern

Northwestern Synopsis: As you can see from the picture above, NU Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald is an intense guy. Very intense, and with the shocking loss at home to Purdue, it’s really time to channel that Henry Rollins like personality trait.

In order to win more football games they got to figure out the running game. Or they can solve their recent offensive woes by somehow becoming the 2007 New England Patriots in their passing attack.

Six Northwestern players have been nominated for 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors. NU’s nominees are: offensive guard Doug Bartels, place-kicker Stefan Demos, who earned second-team Academic All-America honors last year, quarterback Dan Persa, superback Josh Rooks, offensive tackle Patrick Ward and defensive end Kevin Watt.

Actress Stephanie March (a 1996 graduate of the School of Communication) and Dale T. Mortensen, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics and an NU faculty member, will add star power to the University’s 2010 homecoming parade, which begins at 8 p.m. Friday (Oct. 22) at Foster and Sheridan Roads on campus. Prior to the parade, a pep rally will be held outdoors at 7 p.m. at Deering Meadow

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays:

For State, Greg Jones could be the first inside linebacker taken next April. Of course, no one knows these days where ILBs will go in the NFL. I also like the potential of WRs Keshawn Martin and Mark Dell and both the tailbacks. Defensive Tackle Jerel Worthy could be a top 5 pick in 2012.

On the Wildcats, LB Quentin Davie and superback (tight end/fullback hybrid) Drake Dunsmore

MSU 28, NU 27  (Banks’ 2010 record 10-3, I guess that gets me a New Year’s day bowl win! Maybe the Citrus Bowl?)

MSU is the only Big Ten team to beat NU each of the last two years. Still this all the makings of a “trap game,” especially given State’s recent history and the fact that Fitz has had an extra week to prepare for this game makes this one a difficult call. Will the Spartans me overlooking the Cats as they prepare for their trip to Iowa, a game that define their season?

Yeah probably. But I also think the Cats have been to maladaptive at times this season, and will likely make a mistake again that bails out the green and white.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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