Scouting Report and Prediction: Michigan State (9-1 6-0) vs. Northwestern (4-6 0-6)
A look at this weekâ€™s opponentâ€¦
The Wildcats of Northwestern play host to Michigan State this weekend.Â On the windy shores of the big lake, the Spartans look to secure the outright B1G Legends Division championship.
Northwestern entered the season with monstrous expectations.Â Many (myself included) thought this was the year they broke through and won the division.Â They started the season 4-0 and hosted Gameday and Ohio State in week five.
They lost that ball game and their season has imploded.Â It is a classic example of coaches saying they all count one, because in this case that one loss turned into six.Â To their credit, they are still fighting, but it is gone.Â Add to that injuries and this team is snake bitten.Â Dantonio gets itâ€¦so were his Spartans last year.
Coach D said of the Cats this week, â€œNorthwestern, tough football team.Â Going through a little bit of tough times obviously, losing very close, much like we did last year.Â Conceptually tied well together, wellâ€‘coached.Â I think their players have great mental toughness.Â It will be another great challenge for us as we go forward this week up in Evanston.â€
With all due respect to the Wildcats, this game is more MSU vs. MSU than MSU vs. Northwestern.
When MSU has the ballâ€¦
Michigan State sophomore QB Connor Cook stepped up when it mattered most last week.Â On the road in the Big Tenâ€™s #1 game environment he won the game for MSU in the fourth quarter.Â He has struggled to get a fast start.Â Is this the game he breaks out of that?
MSU needs to line up and pound green pound.Â That wind will be flying off the lake at over 20 MPH and it will be coolâ€¦Cold if you are not from the Midwest.Â This is about MSU lining up and pounding on the Cats.
MSU is playing for everything.Â This game is about them.Â Yes, they have perennially struggled with Northwestern, but that is the past.Â This is today.Â MSU needs to use this game to stay fundamentally sound and to use the passing game when they want to and not when they need to.
The running game should be on display on Saturday.Â I want to see Connor Cook put some film out there for future opponents to have to game plan on with him running.Â He doesnâ€™t have to go off for 100 yards.Â He does need to run 4-8 times for 35 yards.Â This will make teams take into account that he can.
When MSU is on defenseâ€¦
In this game I think the Cats struggle to make yards.Â Any yards.Â The MSU D was embarrassed last week.Â With all respect to the Huskers and Ameer Abdullah, who I voted for this week as an All American, the Huskersâ€™ success last week had a lot to do with MSU mistakes.
After the love on Gameday, I know some of them took it personal the way they let the Huskers gash them.Â Watching the film, they were disgusted.Â Feel some sympathy for the Cats because this is not the week to get this defense.
They smell blood and have had their rears chewed on like an old shoe and a new puppy by Narduzzi all week.Â They want to hurt someone.Â They want to punish someone.Â They want the NarDAWG off their butt.
Northwestern is similar to Nebraska and Ohio State on offense, so the Spartans will use this game as extra prep on that side of the ball.Â MSU has been reminded that Wisconsin and Iowa only gave the Cats six and 10 points respectively.Â The challenge has been issued.Â Max Bullough and his Merry Band of Bullies want to bring a physical domination to Ryan Field in Jim Delanyâ€™s backyard.
Dantonio summed up this game in a great way earlier this week.Â He mentioned about MSU winning the last six and Northwestern losing the last six.Â â€œThey need two wins to go to a bowl game.Â They're in that kind of mode.Â Like I say, we got to handle success, handle adversity going up there.Â I know how they play.Â We've played them for six years.Â They've never taken a play off.Â They've never come and not been prepared.Â Never played without emotion.Â They've never not executed.â€
He continued with, â€œEvery game has been an extremely tough game for us.Â We've won some, we've lost a couple.Â That's what I expect.Â I expect the same thing.Â A very wellâ€‘coached football team, a lot of pride in who they are as people and what they do.Â That's not going to change.Â Our football team better be ready to play.Â That's the message to our guys.Â That's what we'll try to carry through the week.â€
He concluded with, â€œWe need to be able to handle adversity, because there's going to be adversity in every game, but we also need to be ready to play.Â That will test our maturity as individuals and as a team.â€
This is MSU vs. MSU.Â The Spartans are playing for a lot and the entire country is watching.Â They want to send a message.Â They wonâ€™t talk about OSU and Urban Meyer, but they know he is listening and watching like a teenage girl.Â They want him to hear them loud and clear.Â â€œKeep politicking for a BCS, but we have a date with you first and you better worry.â€
This is the most focused I have ever seen a Mark Dantonio team.Â On both sides these Spartans have a chip on their shoulder and they are looking for a fight.Â They want a fight and if they come out and smack Northwestern in the jaw early, they may not find much of one in Evanston.
The Spartans have not always handled expectations.Â That is the past.Â This is today.Â The Spartan bullies will beat a dead horse in Ryan Field and with no words uttered about the BCS, make a national statement.Â Make it 31-6 MSU.