Can Nebraska derail Michigan State’s Big Ten momentum?
The Cornhuskers host the Spartans in a game that could decide the Legends Division.
By: Patrick Snow | 10/26/11, 2:23 PM EDT
Michigan State has been the talk of the college football world this week after beating undefeated Wisconsin with an improbable Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play. The Spartans have enjoyed a successful month with wins over Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, but now they finish the October gauntlet with a trip to Nebraska. If MSU can defeat the Cornhuskers, Mark Dantonio’s bunch would have a virtual lock on the Legends Division. Nebraska was favored by many to win the league, but Bo Pelini’s crew has looked fairly average despite the 6-1 record. With a raucous home crowd in Lincoln, the Huskers have a chance to show they are still a title contender with a victory over the red-hot Spartans.
Who wins: Nebraska or Michigan State?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s not going to be easy getting a victory in Lincoln, but I like Michigan State to knock off the Cornhuskers on Saturday. I’m interested to see how the Spartans perform in this game, especially after last week’s last-second win over Wisconsin. Can Michigan State come out with the same type of energy? Or will the Spartans come out flat? Michigan State’s defense gave up a season-high 443 yards to Wisconsin last week, but also forced three turnovers. There’s no question the Cornhuskers can run the ball with quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. However, can they establish enough of a passing attack to keep Michigan State’s defense off balance? I’m not sure Nebraska can. Another concern for the Cornhuskers is the defense, as we still don’t know how this unit matches up without tackle Jared Crick in the lineup. The Spartans seem to have their running game back on track, which is going to be a tough test for Nebraska’s defense. This matchup with Nebraska is the last in a very difficult four-game stretch for Michigan State. If the Spartans can survive this game, they should win the Legends Division.
Memorial Stadium will be rocking on Saturday when Nebraska takes down Michigan State. Expect the Huskers to showcase underrated running back Rex Burkhead (752 yards, 10 TDs) and expose a Spartans squad that has struggled on the road this season. MSU has only played two games away from East Lansing this season — a 31–13 blowout loss at Notre Dame and an ugly 10–7 win at Ohio State. The Husker faithful are hungry for a huge Big Ten win at home. And since the Blackshirt defense won't get regular-season revenge against Wisconsin — although the Legends could play the Leaders in the inaugural Big Ten title game on Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — this Michigan State matchup is the next best thing, since Sparty took down the Badgers in a thriller last week. MSU's bubble will burst; NU will roll.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I know Michigan State has had a very Clemson-like three-game run with wins over Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, but I think the similarities between the Spartans and Tigers end there. Michigan State needed some random and extremely rare plays to beat the Badgers last week — try a blocked field goal, blocked punt, safety, two Russell Wilson interceptions and a key third-down untouched fumble. Nebraska is at home and has its power rushing attack on cruise control while Sparty gave up a season worst 220 yards rushing last week (128 was the previous high). Michigan State's luck runs out this weekend.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I was a huge Nebraska proponent coming into this season, but the defense has struggled mightily. Despite the great crowd in Lincoln, I’ll take Michigan State to stay hot and remain perfect in the Big Ten. I like the Spartans’ balance on offense, and the top ten-rated MSU defense should be able to slow down the one-dimensional NU offense just enough to pull out the win. I expect Nebraska to play better down the stretch, but it’s difficult for me to ignore that the Huskers’ defense has already allowed four 100-yard rushers on the season. Even though MSU has not played well away from East Lansing, I think quarterback Kirk Cousins and crew will be able to play time-of-possession football and leave Lincoln with a close victory.
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