Northwestern +7 @ Michigan State
Michigan State (5-5) hosts Northwestern (7-3) this Saturday looking to become bowl eligible in a year filled with disappointments. For the Spartans, the defense has played very well this year but the offense has not been able to recover from key personnel losses from last year’s team. Michigan State is giving up just over 16 points and 113 rushing yards per game on defense but is averaging only 19.7 points per game on the offensive side of the ball.
Northwestern was eliminated from contention for the Legends division championship a week ago in a heartbreaking loss at Michigan. The Wildcats took the lead with less than a minute to go but Michigan moved into field goal range on a Hail Mary with seconds to play in regulation to set up the game tying score. The Wolverines went on to win in overtime. In the game against Michigan, all-Big Ten running back Venric Mark was injured but is expected to play against the Spartans.
In a game that will help determine the Big Ten’s bowl pecking order, this game is much bigger for the Wildcats than it is for the Spartans. With a win this Saturday, Northwestern has a chance to wrap up a New Year’s day bowl bid – something that isn’t taken lightly in Evanston. Conversely, Michigan State is playing out the string and the locals have turned their attention the school’s basketball team.
What will happen: Both teams will run the ball and run it often; however they’ll go about it in different ways. Northwestern will spread out Michigan State and keep the Spartans from keying on Venric Mark. The Spartans will pound the ball straight ahead with Le’Veon Bell but that plays right into the strength of Northwestern’s defense. The Wildcat defensive line will contain the Michigan State rushing attack in a low scoring, close game. Look for Northwestern to pull ahead in the fourth quarter and hold off a late Spartan rally attempt.
Prediction: Northwestern 20 Michigan State 17
The Play: Northwestern +7
YTD Record: 12-9 (7-2 last three weeks)