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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 17th, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (72,027) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television:ESPN2. Home Record: Northwestern 3-1, MSU 2-1. Away Record: Northwestern 1-1, MSU 1-2. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-0, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: Northwestern 1-1, MSU 2-1. Series Record: Michigan State leads, 33-16.
GAME NOTES: A couple of teams on their way up meet in East Lansing this weekend, as the Northwestern Wildcats face off against the Michigan State Spartans in Big Ten action.
The Wildcats enter the weekend riding their second two-game winning streak of the season following a 16-6 triumph over Miami-Ohio on Saturday. It marked the program's first home win over Miami since 1963 and improved the team to 4-2 overall. Northwestern now heads back to Big Ten play, where it has gone 1-1 and won three straight league road games dating back to last season.
As for MSU, it is also on the rise courtesy of back-to-back victories. Both wins came in Big Ten play, including a 24-14 triumph at Illinois this past weekend. The Spartans are now a level 3-3 overall, with three losses coming by a combined 13 points.
MSU leads the head-to-head series with Northwestern, 33-16, and the Spartans also took a 37-20 decision from the Wildcats in Evanston last season.
Quarterback Mike Kafka ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for 191 yards and that was all the offense Northwestern would need in a victory over Miami this past weekend. The dual-threat gunslinger, who is helping the Wildcats average 382.8 total ypg on the season, completed 15-of-31 pass attempts and ran for a team-high 53 yards. Kafka has enjoyed good success on the season thus far and has completed 66.8 percent of his throws for 1,464 yards, with nine total touchdowns (five passing) to his credit. Zeke Markshausen has been his favorite target with 34 catches and 384 receiving yards on the season and had five catches for 68 yards last weekend. The problem for Northwestern however, has been its ground attack, which is averaging a measly 3.0 yards per carry. The Wildcats have punched in 13 touchdowns on the ground, but they haven't been able to run successfully on a consistent basis.
Defensively, the Wildcats turned in their best effort of the campaign last weekend, as they held Miami to only 302 total yards, including just 126 rushing. Northwestern, which is allowing 337.5 total ypg on the year, made big play after big play last weekend and posted four takeaways and eight sacks. The defense has now forced 17 turnovers, including 10 interceptions, to go with 18 sacks and those are pretty good numbers after six games. Quentin Davie tops the roster with 46 stops and four sacks and he had a terrific game last weekend, finishing with three sacks, two forced fumbles and seven tackles.
Keith Nichol made his first career start at quarterback for the Spartans last weekend, so MSU relied on its ground game a little more and used 193 rushing yards to defeat Illinois. Nichol did a decent job in throwing for 179 yards and a pick, as he stepped in for Kirk Cousins, who was nursing an ankle injury. Cousins, though, had to play in last weekend's game after Nichol left with an arm injury. Cousins has seen a large part of the snaps this season, and he has thrown for 1,002 yards with seven touchdowns, and should start under center this weekend. Blair White is the team's top target and he leads the way with 33 receptions for 449 yards and four scores. In the backfield, Larry Caper and Glenn Winston carried the load against Illinois, as they combined for 159 rushing yards and two scores. The duo have totaled 479 yards and seven scores on the ground this season, but both players left last weekend's game due to injury. Winston's injury was the more serious of the two, as he is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Caper, a freshman, will now be asked to carry a majority of the load.
The Spartans came through with a stout effort on defense last weekend, as they held Illinois to just 272 total yards. MSU, which is allowing 329.0 total ypg on the season, showed great improvement against the pass, allowing Illinois to throw for a mere 140 yards on only 9-of-28 tosses. MSU came up with only one turnover, but that was an interception that was returned 45 yards for a touchdown by Dan Fortener. The unit brought the pressure all game long and finished with six sacks to bring its season total to 18 in that department. It was clearly one of the best performances of the year from this group. Greg Jones continued his fantastic campaign and he led the team with 11 stops and one sack. For the season, he now has an impressive 71 tackles, to go with 6.5 TFLs and three sacks.
MSU is certainly banged up, but the Spartans still have enough firepower, along with hometown support, to edge the Wildcats this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 30, Northwestern 20
10/14 10:42:56 ET
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