Spartans And Wildcats Poised For Another Crazy Showdown

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Spartans And Wildcats Poised For Another Crazy Showdown

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By Max DeMara

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Is it just me, or do strange things always seem to happen recently whenever Michigan State and Northwestern get together?

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The latest twist in this series will come this weekend on the road in Evanston, the sight of the largest comeback in NCAA history the last time Michigan State was in town, and will feature a dangerous running and throwing spread attack going against a defense whose play has been nothing short of miraculous during this young season.

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Remember also that Northwestern came into East Lansing as a major underdog and won in overtime last season, stunning the Spartans and handing them one of their numerous “close but no cigar” losses that frustrated players, coaches and fans alike.  The loss stung for weeks, and was one of only two home blemishes last season.  

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So, scratch either team claming a distinct advantage in the motivational department, as both will be looking to make up for painful defeats the last two games in the series. More important than any of these intangibles will be the play in the trenches and over the top. Michigan State’s offensive line will do battle with Northwestern’s surprising defensive line to try and get Javon Ringer free and buy precious time for Brian Hoyer. Northwestern’s defensive line has piled up the sacks this season and keeping Hoyer off of the turf will be critical, and if Ringer cannot be stopped it could become a long day for Northwestern. Equally as important will be the Michigan State secondary keeping up with Northwestern’s speedy backs and receivers. This was a match up that Northwestern exploited whenever they wanted last season and one that Michigan State must address in practice this week.

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This is the kind of game that the Spartans must win if they want to stay in the Big Ten title hunt. It is way too early to be watching the standings, but a win at up and coming Northwestern would go a long way in keeping the season on the right track. The games only get tougher from here on out, and if the Spartans can get this win, they will only gain in confidence for a huge showdown with Ohio State the following week.

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Speaking of Ohio State, this Spartan team is beginning to remind me of the 2002 Buckeye team who shocked many by winning the Big Ten and eventually the national title. Their offense was good enough to get the job done, led by a very talented running back, a solid quarterback, a cast of capable receivers and a bruising offensive line. The defense was special that year, much like it is becoming for the Spartans. Led by Mark Dantonio, the Buckeye defense turned in big plays and big stops and was led by solid interior linemen, a great set of linebackers, playmaking safeties and excellent cover corners.  That year, the Buckeyes won games that many people did not expect. They often escaped on the road and won the close games at home. This was due in great part to the Dantonio toughness factor, something that this edition of the Spartans possesses.

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This toughness will need to be on display in Evanston this Saturday. The Spartans will have their backs to the wall once again and need to perform against a Northwestern offense which is always challenging to defend and a defense which is playing with rugged enthusiasm. This game could turn into another shootout with a wild finish and add to the recent lore of unexpected contests between these two opponents.

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After all, what else would you expect when Michigan State and Northwestern get together?

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