Michigan State (5-6) will travel to Minneapolis for its regular season finale against Big Ten Legends division rival Minnesota (6-5) on Saturday afternoon, with plenty on the line.
A Spartans' victory would pull them to 6-6 on the year and make them eligible to play in a postseason bowl game, while a loss would elevate the Golden Gophers' status and solidify them as the fourth-best team in the division.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for Saturday's conference clash at TCF Bank Stadium.
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
When: Saturday, November 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
Listen: 94.9 FM (Lansing), 100.3 FM (Minneapolis)
Live Streaming: BTN2Go.com
Betting Line: Minnesota (+7.5) according to Covers.com
The No. 1 talking point this weekend will about the reversed fortunes of each program. Michigan State went 11-3 last season and beat Georgia in the Outback Bowl, but is now 5-6. On the other hand, Minnesota is 6-5 and bowl eligible after two consecutive 3-9 seasons.
Michigan State Injury Report
*According to USA Today
FB Niko Palazeti (Undisclosed), questionable for Saturday
S Jairus Jones (Leg), questionable for Saturday
T Fou Fonoti (Foot), out indefinitely
C Travis Jackson (Leg), out for season
DL Brandon Clemens (Foot), out for season
Minnesota Injury Report
*According to USA Today
RB Devon Wright (Undisclosed), questionable for Saturday
OL Jon Christenson (Ankle), questionable for Saturday
DT Roland Johnson (Knee), questionable for Saturday
TE Kendall Gregory-McGhee (Back), out indefinitely
LB Quinn Bauducco (Back), out indefinitely
WR Duke Anyanwu (Knee), out indefinitely
OL Zach Motta (Leg), out for season
WR Jamel Harbison (Knee), out for season
The Michigan State Spartans could potentially go from Big Ten Legends division champions in 2011 to 5-7 in 2012. If the Spartans lose on the road at Minnesota, they'll be one win shy of bowl eligibility and be headed into offseason mode early.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is already bowl eligible at 6-5, and is set to earn its first bowl bid since 2009, regardless of Saturday's outcome.
What They're Saying
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is a forward-looking man, and told it like it was after the Spartans' second straight loss last weekend (via mlive.com's Mike Griffith):
You can only live in the present, and you can only live in the future, and look toward the future. We have to get ready for Minnesota. We're in a situation now we're playing for a bowl game, that should be enough motivation, we've lost five (Big Ten) games by 13 points ... but that doesn't soften how this feels.
Despite the struggles in East Lansing, a win on Saturday would have Michigan State bowl bound.
Minnesota's leading wide receiver, A.J. Barker quit the team this past weekend, accusing head coach Jerry Kill of mistreatment during practice last week according to The Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski.
Here is part of an email that Barker wrote that went public (via Jon Krawczynski):
You demeaned me to a point of no return. You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me.
According to Krawczynski, Kill has since said that Barker quit because he was unhappy with the discipline he received and that no abuse or mistreatment took place.
Michigan State Player to Watch
Junior running back Le'Veon Bell is a special player and arguably the best running back in college football this season. The 6'2", 245-pound stud has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game six times this year, and has surpassed 200 yards rushing in two games.
After racking up 605 yards and eight touchdowns during his freshman season, and 948 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore, Bell is poised to go over 1,400 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns this weekend.
Minnesota Player to Watch
Minnesota defensive back Troy Stoudermire is a consistent player for the Golden Gophers on the defensive side of the ball and often goes unnoticed. The 22-year-old Dallas native has loads of potential and has an outside shot at being drafted to the NFL this spring.
He has three interceptions during his time in Minneapolis, but has yet to record a pick this season. Still, Stoudermire leads the team in tackles with 68, and will key the Golden Gophers' defense against the Spartans.
The key matchup in Saturday's game will be Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell vs. Minnesota's rushing defense. Bell is averaging more than 125 yards on the ground per game by himself this season, while the Golden Gophers rank just 76th in the nation defending the run.
Minnesota is giving up more than 160 yards and nearly two scores on the ground per game in 2012. Therefore you can expect Bell and the Spartans' big offensive line to win the key matchup.
On the Hot Seat
Michigan State's junior signal-caller, Andrew Maxwell will need a strong showing on the road on Saturday in order to convince the coaching staff that he's worthy of being the hands-down starter in 2013.
In 11 games this season, Maxwell has completed just 53.5 percent of his passes and thrown for only 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Although Maxwell is averaging more than 220 yards per game through the air per game, he has been inefficient and the Spartans' aerial attack has lacked explosion from day one.
If Maxwell puts together a solid performance and Michigan State wins this weekend, then he will return next season with more confidence and certainly more experience.
Despite their struggles this fall, I love the Spartans in this matchup. Michigan State's last five losses have come by a combined 13 points. The Spartans also have a 1,300-plus yard rusher in Le'Veon Bell, a player capable of taking over the game for Michigan State. I like the Spartans to narrowly escape Minnesota this Saturday and run their streak to three in a row over the Golden Gophers.
Michigan State 24, Minnesota 21
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