Scouting Report and Prediction: #11 Michigan State (10-1 7-0) vs. Minnesota (8-3 4-3)
A look at this weekâ€™s opponentâ€¦
The Gophers of Minnesota are playing on solid coaching and a tough-as-nails physical approach.Â They arenâ€™t the most talented team that MSU will face, but are probably the best team MSU will play.Â Let me explain.Â Their team chemistry is amazing, and they play together.Â
MSU has played better groups, but not any team as united.Â Dantonio addressed their unity while their head coach is recovering.Â â€œWell, I think it talks about their staff, that they have an experienced staff.Â Their staff has been with him for a very long time.Â A lot of those guys, some guys for 20 years.Â So you've got people that understand what he wants and basically been indoctrinated into his way of thinking.Â So the transition is very smooth.â€
This is a game that the Spartans canâ€™t afford to have a slow start against.Â They need to come out, smack the Gophers in the mouth, and take care of business.
When MSU has the ballâ€¦
Michigan State is facing a Gopher team that has won four of the last five.Â MSU is tenth in the nation having only allowed Connor Cook to be sacked 10 times.Â Yes, ten times.Â The Spartans will continue the pound green pound approach and allow Cook to throw when they want to.Â
The Gophers will attack, so MSU needs some quick hits on runs and some up tempo passing game to attack that.Â Cook has shown no issues doing that, so I am not worried about that angle of the game.
Cook has done everything that he has been asked other than starting fast.Â This being the last home game of the year would be ideal.Â The Gophers are playing on emotion.Â That is why the key is for the Spartans to start fast and put their foot on their proverbial throat.
That is why toughness and dominance are the keys to this ball game.Â No turnovers to give Minnesota any momentum.Â Just step in and take care of business.Â
Dantonio said this week of the Minnesota defense, â€œThey play hard on defense.Â They're going to press you on defense.Â Hageman, No.99, is a force.Â I think their secondary is very good.Â They run very well, tackle well, play man coverage, linebackers will attack you downhill.Â They'll pressure the quarterback. â€œ
When MSU is on defenseâ€¦
The Gophers rushing attack is right up the gut.Â They will not waver.Â They will come right at Max Bullough and his merry band of bullies.Â Their strength is the Spartansâ€™ strength and that is good for Michigan State.Â The Gophers are a lot like MSU in that they will do what they do.
Gaining 200 yards a game on the ground (27th nationally) has been how the Gophers feasted this season.Â Even Nebraska didnâ€™t get that and neither will they on Saturday.
Surprisingly, the Gophers are balanced and MSU must capitalize with QB pressure.Â Look for MSU to stick to the same game plan they have all year.Â The Spartans wonâ€™t change for anyone. Will Minnesota stick with what they do or try to outsmart the Spartans?
Dantonio said of the Gopher offense, â€œOn the offensive side of the ball, quarterback is a runner, both of them, so they'll present that possibility.Â Cobb is a 1,000â€‘yard rusher, and he's a guy that hasn't started all year, a lot like our guy, and has sort of gotten his rhythm and has sort of really adapted to the situation, but a very tough runner. Offensive line is big, physical, so they're a tough football team.â€
Dantonio looked back at the 2011 team and was concerned that even though they played well in the B1G championship game, perhaps too much attention was placed on the Rose Bowl.Â He has done an amazing job of coaching this team, and since the Nebraska game they have stayed focused in like a laser.
How focused?Â This week the team logged MORE film hours than ever according to Mike Tressel LB coach.Â That tells you something.
This is a senior class that wonâ€™t let this team falter on their day.Â Will they play over the top with emotion?Â They havenâ€™t and I donâ€™t expect it.
Both the Spartans and the Gophers are good at forcing opponents to give the ball back via the turnover.Â So who wins that battle?
Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who donâ€™t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus five ratio at least every game.
MSU is in a zone.Â They are focused and they are on a mission.Â I love this Minnesota team and how they are playing.Â They are tough, and they are playing solid football.Â On this day, they simply are not as good.Â MSU will come out, take command early and dominate the Gophers.Â Make it 38-6 MSU.