Trick Or Treat ? Sparty Clashes With Gophers Halloween NightOctober 27, 2009
Get ready guys and ghouls, the Spartans come-a-knockin' on Minnesota's door Halloween night, looking for a treat rather than a trick.
What can be said about Michigan State's season at this junction ?
1.) Dissappointing losses have stifled the progress of what looked to be a promising season.
2.) Dissappointing losses have stifled the progress of what looked to be a promising season.
Unfortunately, this is something that Spartan fans have grown accustomed to over the years, but they've remained loyal and faithful to their beloved team.
A 2 point loss to Central Michigan in the closing seconds, a HUGE letdown in South Bend against Notre Dame, and an absolute HEART BREAKER three days ago at home vs. Iowa. Will it get better, or should Spartan fans look ahead to next year ?
Edwin Baker and Larry Caper are both capable suitors to fill the void in the backfield left by superback Javon Ringer. Keith Cousins has settled down nicely to be one of the most efficient passers in the Big Ten. Blair White is there when they need him, and Jeremy Ware has quited the whispers circulating around his consistency.
So what seems to be the problem ?
The Spartans have had this qualm with putting games away when they have the chance since I don't know when. It's something we've all grown used to. 6-6, 7-5, December Bowl Games, it's what we EXPECT most of the time. Last year's team made Spartan fans hungry for more. They were salivating in the off season, waiting to see what Sparty could do in 2009. The successful season of a year ago lingered in the mind of all the MSU Football faithful, anticipating a 2009 that would push forward the progress the program acheived in 2008.
Roland Martin told me recently in an interview " Michigan State does what no one expects them to do", and that could not ring truer this year. We EXPECTED a Spartan team, although lacking in experience, to come out and duplicate the 9-3 record from the year prior.
Spartan fans have stuck to their guns, and supported the team through thick and thin, good and bad, hell or high water, you get the point.
This week Sparty makes the trek to land of 10,000 lakes to tangle with the lowly Gophers of Minnesota. A win here could restore the confidence, rekindle the "fire", and let the Spartans pull themselves up by their boot straps and take back their season.
The Gophers are hurting this year, that's not a statement that's up for debate. Minnesota ranks last in almost every major offensive category, or is hovering just above the basement.
Points per game, a minuscule 21.6, which puts them at 10th in the conference, just about a TD better than the Illini, and LESS than a field goal per game behind Iowa ! The men in green and white are 6th, averaging about 27 points per game. There is less than a touchdown difference seperating first from 6th, an average padded by the Wolverines' desimation of Delaware State two weeks ago.
Total offense per game, 292.8 yards per game, that mark puts them DEAD LAST in the Big Ten. Michigan State is third best with just over 400 yards per contest.
The Gophers are the third most penalized team in the Big Ten, but the Spartans are second when it comes to "oops's" in the conference.
Minnesota converts their third downs less than 35% of the time, while Michigan State gets it done just over 41% of the time. That slim, but extremely BIG difference, can change a game within the blink of an eye. Third downs make or break drives, converting on third down is CRUCIAL.
With their backs against the wall (fourth down), Sparty moves the chains with an astonishing rate of 50% ! Minnesota, on the other hand, turns the ball over on downs 89% of the time when in between a rock and a hard place (4th down).
The Gophers have yet to be "Golden", scoring only 18 touchdowns on the year compared to Sparty's 25.
True, but may be misleading to some readers, is the fact that both teams are in the middle of the pack when it comes to passing yards per game. MSU puts up right around 224 yards through the air, against Minnesota's nearly 230 per.
The one bright, or "Golden" spot, if you will, for the Gophers is running the ball. They are second in the conference when it come to the ground game, racking up just shy of 180 yards per game. Compare that to MSU's 135, advantage Minnesota. The fact that State has two of the best freshman running-backs in the Big Ten could keep it close Saturday night, however.
Both teams are sitting at 4-4 overall with Michigan State one better in the win column with regards to conference play (MSU 3-2, MINN 2-3).
With this being said, the stats suggest an evenly matched duel in MinneSOHHta Saturday night, but Michigan State is hungry, shocked, and desperate to devour the Gophers. If Sparty should prevail, and they most likely will, defeating the Gophers won't be a Hallo (hollow) Ween (win).
My prediction : MSU 31, Minnesota 17.