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Game Day Hub: Everything You Need For Northwestern vs. Michigan State

Click here for pregame analyses, betting odds, how to watch, and more.

Northwestern hosts Michigan State in its home opener Friday during Week 1 of college football. Below is everything you need to know to stay up-to-speed on game day. 

Northwestern vs. Michigan State

Date: Friday, ,September 3, 2021

Time: 8:00 pm CT Kickoff

Location: Ryan Field; Evanston, IL

Watch: ESPN

Listen: WGN 720

ESPN Football Power Index: The Wildcats have a 59.8% chance of winning.

Spread: Northwestern -3

Follow @SIWildcatsDaily on Twitter for live game updates and exclusive content throughout game day.

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Game Preview: 

Offense

This year, with the addition of Temple transfer quarterback, Anthony Russo, the Spartan's offense will look to create more explosive plays and push the ball downfield with regularity. A dynamic offense is not something that Spartan fans are used to seeing, as they have ranked ninth or worse in yards per play in the Big Ten for four straight seasons. While Tucker hasn't publicly announced the starting quarterback, all eyes will be on Russo. The good news for Spartan nation is that it can't get much worse than last year, when they averaged 18 points per game (last in the conference) and turned the ball over 20 times (most in the Big Ten). Northwestern was one of the best defenses in the country last year when it came to forcing turnovers, so Russo better make sure he takes care of the ball and avoid the big mistakes.

Fortunately for Russo, he'll have a pretty talented receiving core, led by junior Jalen Nailor, that will help take the pressure off of him. Last year, Noir averaged 19.8 yards per reception, which led the Big Ten, reeling in 26 catches for 515 yards and four touchdowns. If Noir can pick up where he left off, and be even better, then the Michigan State offense will be in much better shape. The Spartans receiving core as a whole will have their hands full this week against a talented Wildcat secondary.

Defense

Michigan State will have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, they gave up 35 points per game, which ranked dead last in the Big Ten. Coach Tucker will be counting on linebackers Noah Harvey and Chase Kline to lead the unit and to set the tone. Harvey and Kline can except a big boost from up front, as the Spartans return almost everyone from last year's defensive line. DE Jacub Panasuik and graduate transfer DE Drew Jordan will be looking to anchor the line and put pressure on Hunter Johnson come Friday night.

Will Michigan State's defense get off to a hot start against a Northwestern offense that has some serious question marks?

There is a good chance that whoever wins this match up will win the game, the Wildcat offense versus the Spartan defense. Hunter Johnson will be making his first start since 2019 and with the recent season ending injury to running back Cam Porter, it may take a few games for this Northwestern offense to get clicking, which bodes well for the Michigan State defense. However, on the flip side of that, Johnson and the Northwestern offense can look at this porous Michigan State defense and see it as a huge opportunity to start fast right out of the gate. Tucker will have this defense playing better than last year's unit, but the question will be, how much better?

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