Scouting Report and Prediction: Michigan State vs. Northwestern Wildcats
A look at this weekâ€™s opponentâ€¦
The Spartans traditionally have some great battles with the Cats.Â They have never lost in Evanston and have won three in a row.Â There is bad weather on tap for this game and it should be a great game as MSU has already won the B1G Legends division and the Wildcats are already bowl eligible.Â The Cats are playing for the chance to improve their standing to get a better bowl game.
One of the nice aspects of the game is the mutual respect that the coaches have for each other.Â I asked Dantonio about that respect and he said, â€œI do have a lot of respect for Pat Fitzgerald and what he's been able to do there and building that program and sustaining it.Â Every game we have played against them, an extremely tough game, all over the place, backâ€‘andâ€‘forth type games and very physical type games, as well.Â So with that comes respect.â€
When MSU has the ballâ€¦
The Wildcats do not have a good defense.Â If the weather were going to be dry I would say that the Spartans could have their best offensive numbers of the year.
Because of the aforementioned weather I look for MSU to keep it simple.Â Northwestern struggles to stop the run and MSU will take the same mentality of last weeks win over the Hoosiers and take it right at them.Â They will run and use the play action pass when they load the box.Â Just like the Hoosiers, when Northwestern loads the box MSU will go over the top and get them downfield.
This could be LeVeon Bellâ€™s best game.Â The sure handed and sure-footed back should have fun against the Wildcats and they have already proven they canâ€™t stop the pass either.
Dantonio said of their defense, â€œDefensively they are going that play extremely hard.Â Peters is a guy that makes a lot of plays for them, No.10.Â They are on a fourâ€‘game win streak and that's where we are at.â€
When MSU is on defenseâ€¦
The Cats can score points and they have a great offense.Â Dan Persa is a game changer and is finally getting to a ready stage that he wasnâ€™t at early coming back from an Achilles injury.
Unlike Rich Rodâ€™s spread that is more of a rushing game, the Cats are more geared for the pass.Â The bad weather will have a bigger impact on them then MSU.Â MSU needs to load the box, get pressure and contain.Â They have a proven track record against the spread and I look for them to have a difficult time with the Cats, but not to fail.
I had originally on TV, radio, print and on this site said I thought MSU would lose this game.Â The Cats defense because of a myriad of issues is not what they were supposed to be and the same is true on offense.
I also didnâ€™t expect this MSU senior class to the leaders they are.Â Let me say they were great leaders last year, but they have taken it to another level.Â This group is pulling the wagon and they are ready.
There was a lot of talk about whether or not Mark Dantonio would rest players knowing they have the Legends already wrapped up.Â I didnâ€™t expect him to and he isnâ€™t.Â When asked about resting players he gave a very good explanation of why he wonâ€™t be doing that.
Dantonio said, â€œWell, I don't really like the message that it sends for our group of people in a 12â€‘game schedule.Â And I do think that you have to gain momentum.Â So if we go out there and don't play our best players and get shellacked and go into the next week with a negative mindâ€‘set, I don't think that's good for our football team.
Plus, I always think you're either getting better, or not, one way or the other.Â So we want to continue to try to build the steps towards what we want.Â 10â€‘2, there is a difference I think between 10â€‘2 and 9â€‘3, especially in this conference, being 6â€‘2 and the possibilities that might have.
All of those things indicate to usâ€‘â€‘ and we have always talked about, you finish the job, whether it was in winter workouts.Â It wasn't so much how we came into a winter workout or running the first interval test.Â It wasn't so much how you ran interval No.1; it was how you ran interval No. 20 or how you finished the drill running through the line.
I think we want to keep that mindâ€‘set with our football team, especially our young players.Â Obviously some things could happen where we could rest some players at the end of the game or something of that nature, but I don't expect it, because we are going to play to win.Â And I'm not going to sit here and alibi the situation if we don't win and say, well, we didn't play as hard as we could.Â I don't think that's acceptable or fair to anybody involved in this.â€
The Spartans are on a mission.Â They are all business.Â They are not the team I expected them to be at this point of the year.Â This is perhaps the best leading senior class ever at MSU.Â We already know they are the leading class as far as on field wins.Â What most miss is the leadership they show off the field and on the field for intangibles leadership issues.Â They are guiding the bus here and they will deliver.
Dantonio talked this week about the MSU vs. Northwestern games.Â They always seem to be weird and take on a life of their own and he agreed.Â â€œNo, it really doesn't.Â It sort of happens I guess.Â They are a noâ€‘huddle, speedâ€‘itâ€‘up type of offense, and they are going to be an emptyâ€‘â€‘ they are going to be in all these different formation sets, and they have got skill; and they have guys we put in position of space and we have to tackle well in space.
We have to play under control and we have got to playâ€‘â€‘ because of the hurryâ€‘upâ€‘type offense, you have to work at that.Â A lot of people are doing that now so it's not as unique, I would say, but you still have to maintain your conditioning throughout the entire game.
So it becomes difficult.Â I don't know how the game all plays out.Â Sometimes it just seems to play out like that.Â I can't remember even all of the scores the last four games, but I know that we sacked a quarterback eight times last year and we played pretty well defensively as well but the score ended up like that.â€
MSU is ready for this game and they see this as another statement.Â I look for big offensive numbers and the defense to have a good day against a great offense.Â MSU is on a mission and Northwestern has NEVER faced a Spartan team as determined or ready as they are right not.
Make it MSU 34 and Northwestern 20.Â The Spartans will end the regular season 10-2 as I predicted.