Michigan State's offense will have to keep up if their defense can't shut down the spread.
Let's face it. Both of these teams played their way out of a shot at the Big Ten title this year.
With Northwestern's 3-3 conference record and Michigan State's 2-4, neither have a shot at winning their division.
For Northwestern, this game will amount to bragging rights and maybe a higher profile bowl game.
Michigan State, on the other hand, has to pick up a win here or the following week at Minnesota to even become bowl-eligible. My, how the times have changed in East Lansing.
Let's take a look at some of the details and implications this game could have.
Who: Northwestern (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) at Michigan State (5-5, 2-4 Big Ten) — Game No. 11
When: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: East Lansing, Michigan
Stadium: Spartan Stadium
Television: ESPN 2
Radio: Free Football Radio
Spread: Northwester by 6 1/2
QB: 10 Andrew Maxwell — 18 Connor Cook
RB: 24 Le'Veon Bell — 22 Larry Caper
WR1: 25 Keith Mumphery — 21 Andrew Sims
WR2: 16 Aaron Burbridge — 13 Bennie Fowler
FB: 8 Lawrence Thomas — 28 Niko Palazeti
TE: 80 Dion Sims — Paul Lang
OT: 59 Dan France — 76 Donavon Clark
OT: 70 Skyler Burkland — 65 Michael Dennis
OG: 62 Chris McDonald — 72 Nate Klatt
OG: 66 Jack Allen — 64 Blake Treadwell
C: 68 Ethan Ruhland — 66 Jack Allen
DE: 44 Marcus Rush — 89 Shilique Calhoun
DE: 2 William Gholston — 92 Joel Heath
NT: 98 Anthony Rashad White — 99 James Kittredge
DT: 60 Micajah Reynolds — 91 Tyler Hoover
LB: 10 Chris Norman — 34 Taiwan Jones
LB: 28 Denicos Allen — 43 Ed Davis
LB: 40 Max Bullough — 41 Kyler Elsworth
CB: 31 Darqueze Dennard — 32 Mitchell White
CB: 5 Johnny Adams — 36 Arjen Colguhoun
S: 9 Isaiah Lewis — 26 R.J. Williamson
S: 27 Kurtis Drummond — 23 Jairus Jones
P: 3 Mike Sadler
K: 4 Dan Conroy — 17 Kevin Muma
H: 10 Andrew Maxwell
LS: 51 Steve Moore
KR: 20 Nick Hill — 13 Bennie Fowler
PR: 20 Nick Hill
QB: 2 Kain Colter — 13 Trevor Siemian
TB: 5 Venric Mark — 32 Mike Trumpy
WR1: 17 Rashad Lawrence — 19 Cameron Dickerson
WR2: 6 Tony Jones — 21 Kyle Prater
WR3: 8 Demetrius Fields — 11 Pierre Youngblood-Ary
WR4: 14 Christian Jones — 80 Mike Jensen
OT: 70 Patrick Ward — 78 Paul Jorgensen
OT: 75 Jack Konopka — 74 Chuck Porcelli
OG: 72 Brian Mulroe — 53 Geoff Moqus
OG: 79 Neal Deiters — 57 Matt Frazier
C: 66 Brandon Vitabile — 65 Hayden Baker
DE: 88 Quentin Williams — 94 Dean Lowry
DE: 97 Tyler Scott — 98 Deonte Gibson
DT: 91 Brian Arnfelt — 99 Chance Carter
DT: 67 Sean McEvilly — 92 Will Hampton
LB: 44 Chi Chi Ariguzo — 54 Drew Smith
LB: 33 David Nwabuisi — 45 Collin Ellis
LB: 46 Damien Proby — 5- Timmy Vernon
CB: 23 Nick VanHoose — 22 Demetrius Dugar
CB: 15 Daniel Jones — 31 Quinn Evans
S: 24 Ibraheim Campbell — 16 Davion Fleming
S: 27 Jared Carpenter — 10 Traveon Henry
P: 49 Brandon Williams
K: 37 Jeff Budzien — 34 Steve Flaherty
LS: 59 Pat Hickey
KR: 5 Venric Mark — 24 Ibraheim Campbell
PR: 5 Venric Mark — 24 Ibraheim Campbell
Michael Dennis, Offensive Tackle. Questionable, Knee.
R.J. Williamson, Safety. Questionable, Ankle.
Jairus Jones, Safety. Questionable, Leg.
Michigan State's already suffered a host of injuries to their offensive line this season, perhaps the main reason their Big Ten aspirations were derailed. If Michael Dennis can't play on Saturday, it'll only add to a long list of disappointing news for the unit this season.
Jones and Williamson are both backup safeties on the depth chart, but at this critical point in the season, every bit counts. The Spartans will be hoping the two can suit up on Saturday.
Kain Colter, Quarterback. Probable, Ankle.
Venric Mark, Running back. Probable, Shoulder.
Nick VanHoose, Defensive back. Questionable, Arm.
Colter and Mark are both banged up, but expected to play this Saturday. Despite their offensive line woes, Michigan State still has a stout defense. Colter and Mark will have to bring their A-game come Saturday.
VanHoose, one the Wildcats' starting defensive backs, has not played in the last two games but is still as possibility to suit up against the Spartans.
Michigan State's defense was unable to stop Nebraska on the ground.
Despite picking off Nebraska's Taylor Martinez three times, the Spartan defense was unable to contain him on the ground, as he ran for more than 200 yards and a couple of scores.
Darqueze Dennard was flagged for a pass interference call late in the game, and Martinez was able to find his target in the end zone with only six seconds left in regulation.
Final score: Michigan State 24 - 28 Nebraska
Michigan's Devin Gardner picked up 2 scores through the air and another 2 on the ground while filling in for Denard Robinson last week.
Northwestern almost closed out the game against Michigan last week, but were unable to run the clock out.
Michigan put up a field goal to send the game into overtime with just two seconds left.
Wolverine Devin Gardner ran in for a touchdown in Michigan's opening driver in overtime. Northwestern was unable to match the score and fell to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference.
Final score: Michigan 38 - 31 Northwestern
If Northwestern wins, it improves its record to 8-3 overall and 4-3 in conference. The Wildcats have already played themselves out of title contention.
Northwestern wins bragging rights against a conference foe and maybe make a last push back into the Top-25 by seasons end.
If Northwestern loses, oh well. Nothing really happens, except for a loss. They can kiss any shot at the Top-25 goodbye, but there aren't many repercussions beyond that.
If Michigan State loses, they'll have a must-win season finale at Minnesota if they want to be bowl-eligible. The repercussions could be severe if the program fails to make it to a bowl game.
This game is most certainly more important for Michigan State, but that doesn't mean Northwestern won't bring their A-game as well.
Kain Colter and Trevor Seimian will have to have efficient games this weekend. Both quarterbacks have combined for 10 passing touchdowns and only three total interceptions on the season.
If they can continue to take care of the football, they can keep their offenses on the field longer.
Michigan State's defense was absolutely torched by Taylor Martinez on the ground for more than 200 yards in their last game. Colter has proven he has the ability to pick up large chunks on the ground, and he'll have to exploit the holes the Spartan defense shows him.
Le'Veon Bell is going to have to put the offense on his back this weekend. He ran for 188 yards against Nebraska two weeks ago, and Northwestern gave up more than five yards per carry last week.
Bell has well over 1000 rushing yards this season and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He'll need to play his best game of the season to keep Michigan State's offense on the field and Nebraska's off the field.
...it can expose Michigan State's terrible run defense as of late.
As long as the Wildcat quarterbacks don't turnover the ball and they keep pounding the rock, Northwestern's offense will stay on the field and mandate the pace of the game.
They have the better offense on paper, and are giving up on average about one touchdown more per game than the Spartans this season, so the defenses are a lot closer than they might appear.
...if they can limit Northwestern's ground attack. The Wildcats are averaging 237.6 rush yards per game.
If the same Spartan defense shows up that came to play against Nebraska, then they might as well not bother.
The defense will have to slow Northwestern's read-option spread offense, and give the Spartan offense more time behind the ball.
If the likes of Kain Colter and Venric Mark get going early, the Spartans will be in trouble.
With the season on the line, expect a much tougher Michigan State performance come Saturday.
Mark Dantonio will have to plan to get bowl-eligible in the final game of the season at Minnesota.
It'll be a close game with Michigan State giving it their all in front of a home crowd, but in the end Northwestern will prevail.
Their rushing attack will prove too much for the Spartans to handle in the latter stages of the game, and we'll see some big plays in the second half.
Michigan State has everything to play for, but it'll have to take it with them to Minnesota the Following week.
Prediction: Northwestern 31 - 24 Michigan State