As the struggling Michigan State Spartans roll into Madison to face the Badgers Saturday, they will look to rebound after last week's loss to their in-state rival, the Michigan Wolverines. The Spartans (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) come into the game as big underdogs.
If the Spartans want to have any shot at all at making a return trip to Indianapolis (which is highly unlikely at this point), they need to win in a bad way this weekend. In order for the Spartans to come out on top against the Badgers, they are going to need an exceptionally strong game from quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
Maxwell has often been overshadowed this season when the Spartans have come up in discussions due to the Spartans star running back. Much of the time spent by opposing defenses preparing for the Spartans each week has been on that star running back, Le'Veon Bell.
The Spartan offense has continued to attempt to rely on Bell this season despite his inability to consistently produce points for the Spartans. In the four Spartans' losses this season, Bell has scored only one touchdown. Bell has garnered much attention from teams lining up across the line of scrimmage, but this week it will be Maxwell who steals the show and leads the Spartans to an upset victory.
Maxwell has struggled at times this season completing only 55 percent of his passes, while throwing for seven touchdowns with five interceptions. There has been sparks of greatness during the season in which Maxwell has looked like a quarterback ready to lead the Spartans wherever the season takes them.
For Andrew Maxwell, his best games this season have come on the road. On the road, the Spartans signal caller is completing 62 percent of his passes, tossing five touchdowns with only one interception.
While all of the Spartans road games thus far this season have been against opponents much inferior to the Badgers, Maxwell's strong play away from East Lansing is an encouraging sign for Spartan fans.
Maxwell comes into Saturday's game confident in his ability, despite looking shaky at times. During his press conference this week Maxwell said he was happy with his play against the Wolverines, despite the outcome.
"I thought I played well; I thought I did a good job of managing the game,'' Maxwell told the media. He went on to say that he was feeling confident in his ability to make good, smart decisions despite throwing an untimely interception last week.
While the comparisons to former Spartan Kirk Cousins have been made since the first week, Spartans fans need to give Maxwell just a little more time. Maxwell does not have the receiving corps that Cousins benefited from the past few seasons.
Maxwell is constantly evolving as a quarterback during his first season at the helm of the Spartans offense and the game in Madison is just another step in that process. Despite injuries all around the Michigan State lineup, Maxwell is poised for the breakout game that Michigan State fans have been dreaming about.
With the Badgers focus on Bell, Saturday will become the Andrew Maxwell show.
A confident and calm Maxwell will be the key to the Spartans walking out of Madison this weekend with a big win.
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