The Big Ten is more or less settled, barring an unforeseen late season collapse by Wisconsin and Nebraska. Michigan is still in the running in the Legends Division but Michigan State has already played itself out of contention with a 2-4 conference record.
That doesn’t mean that Saturday’s defensive versus offensive clash between Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) and Michigan State (5-5, 2-4) won’t be an exciting game contrasting two very different types of football teams.
They say that defense wins championships, but can defenses keep up with the blazing speed of a read-option spread offense?
We’ll see in East Lansing this week.
When: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via Covers)
Over/Under: 44, Spread: Wake Forest (-6)
While the Northwestern Wildcats aren’t exactly known for their defense, the Spartans have been bad on the offensive side of the ball this season. Giving them a six point edge, even in East Lansing, is generous against an explosive Wildcats team.
There probably won’t be enough scoring to get over the 44 point listing. It’ll be a grinder with a couple of big plays but a game that’s fought closely until the end.
Injury Report via USA Today (as of 11/13/2012)
Nick VanHoose, DB, Questionable
Michael Dennis, T, Questionable
R.J. Williamson, S, Questionable
Jairus Jones, S, Questionable
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Neither of these teams has a shot at a BCS berth. If Northwestern wins its remaining games it could sneak back into the Top 25 after dropping out of it after last week’s loss against Michigan.
Northwestern Player to Watch: Venric Mark, RB
Venric Mark has already gone over the 1,000 yards (1,176) marker and is the biggest impact player for the Wildcats.
Last week he went over 100 yards on a good Michigan Wolverines run defense and also returned a punt for a touchdown that was ultimately called back due to a holding penalty.
He’s explosive and has the ability to change the outcome of the game with a single touch of the ball.
Michigan State Player to Watch: Le’Veon Bell, RB
The Spartans have an elite running back of their own, albeit a different type of runner than Mark. Bell is a grinder and between the tackles pounder that gets yards after contact and makes defenders pay for trying to bring him down.
Bell had 188 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries as the Spartans nearly upset the Nebraska Cornhuskers last week in East Lansing.
He’ll commandeer much of the attention from the Northwestern defense, but even then they may not be able to stop him.
Prediction: Northwestern 21, Michigan State 20
This game is going to be a close one. After coming off of a near-upset of the Cornhuskers, the Spartans are going to be looking to avoid a losing record in Big Ten play with a big win at Spartan Stadium.
They have a heavy task at hand, though, as Northwestern has the explosive type of offensive that may be quick enough to stretch the field and get its skill players in space despite the heavy task posed by the Michigan State defense.
Look for a low-scoring, Big Ten type of game in which the Wildcats bust out a late touchdown to walk out of East Lansing with a win.
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