Michigan State vs. Nebraska: Legends Division Dominance on the Line

Lake CruiseAnalyst IOctober 26, 2011

7 Sep 1996:  Jamel Williams of the University of Nebraska during the Cornhuskers 55-14 win over Michigan State at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn/Allsport
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Will Michigan State University, the Legends Division leader, suffer a letdown in Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend against the charging Cornhuskers?

If so, then the Spartans could ask for an intercession from the college football version of the Virgin Mary. Whether it works remains to be seen.

State is coming off a miraculous “Hail Mary pass” play win in East Lansing over Wisconsin. The proverbial football gods—there aren’t really any by the way—were watching over the last-second pass that allowed MSU to defeat the Badgers.

Whether NU will be full of grace to grant Michigan State a desperation win remains to be seen. In any case, may the true and living God watch over both teams.

Many God-fearing fans will be in attendance at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska this Saturday afternoon. The Sabbath day game will start at 12:00 p.m. ET and will be televised live and in living color by ESPN.

This game will be a battle for first place in the Legends Division. Nebraska could tie Michigan State for the lead or fall two games behind with four Big Ten battles remaining.

On the seventh day of the week, two sevens will be clashing in this thrilling matchup.

Nebraska is ranked No. 7 in the FBS when it comes to rushing yards per game; they churn out a whopping 261. On the other side, Michigan State’s defense is ranked No. 7 for points given up per game—a measly 13.7.

The matchup featuring sophomore Taylor Martinez trying to run the ball against the stout Spartans will be very interesting. Michigan State was impressive in shutting down the explosive Denard Robinson’s running game two weeks ago.

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 22:  Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans throws a pass in the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Spartan Stadium on October 22, 2011 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Badgers 37-31 on th
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

I’ll be watching to see if Martinez can get loose against the Spartans. Robinson also had trouble passing the ball against MSU, although a strong wind helped the defense in that game. Taylor is still a work in progress when it comes to the passing game.

Michigan State’s quarterback, senior Kirk Cousins, is already the type of pocket passer who Martinez is working hard to become. Cousins’ main target has been senior B.J. Cunningham who is a receiver in the New York Giants’ Hakeem Nix mold.

Fellow senior receiver, Keshawn Martin, is tied with Cunningham for the team lead in reception touchdowns (3). Nebraska as of now doesn’t have a striking receiving corps like Michigan State’s. On paper, therefore, it’s an indication of how this lovely game could be played out.

Speaking of beauty, during the postgame interview with attractive Erin Andrews last week, Mark Dantonio said his heart was racing. He’s the coach who suffered a heart attack after an electrifying overtime win against Notre Dame last year.

His team didn’t commit a single penalty in the Wisconsin game. It shows disciplined methods, when displayed by an underdog, can knock a giant off.

David was a disciplined youth with his slingshot when he toppled Goliath. And the well-trained Spartans have proven to the world what can be done by employing focus and strong will.

Disciplined student bodies watching the game could envision themselves in Indianapolis at the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. I believe the game this Saturday will decide who goes. Now, allow me to prognosticate about which team will be playing for the conference title in Indy.

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 8: The Nebraska Cornhusker marching band takes the field before the Cornhuskers play the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium October 8, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images



Nebraska’s defensive backfield has been shaky and will be tested early and often. I believe B.J. Cunningham can exploit the defensive backs.

The Huskers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) will need to get a lot of pressure on Cousins. They’ll miss Jared Crick, especially in this game, unless a player like Lavonte David steps up big time.

While Nebraska lost to Wisconsin, it was at Madison. Michigan State (6-1, 3-1) lost on the road to Notre Dame—MSU’s only blemish. It leads me to believe the Spartans would struggle in Lincoln if not for the momentum built off last week.

I’ve picked against the Spartans twice this season, and they’ve proven me wrong both times. They beat Michigan and Wisconsin. They handed the Badgers their first loss last season, also in East Lansing, and went on a roll.

After Wisconsin, Michigan State defeated No. 18 Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern and won 6-of-7 to end the 2010 regular season.

The Spartans will avoid a letdown after their stirring victory. Because of the outstanding pass rush and run-stopping defense Michigan State owns, I’m going with them to win at Memorial Stadium, 34-30.

Contact Lake Cruise: Lakecruise@att.net