Rutgers (6-4) at (10) Michigan State (8-2)
Saturday, November 22, 12 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: Having recently secured bowl eligibility for the ninth time in the last 10 years, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are hoping to keep the good times rolling as they pay a visit to the 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.
Rutgers took down visiting Indiana last weekend, putting the brakes on a three-game slide and giving the team its sixth win in 10 opportunities this season. In addition to this bout, the Scarlet Knights have only next Saturday's trip to fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland left on the regular-season docket. RU has two wins in its history over top-10 foes, but has never turned the trick on the road.
Michigan State won at Maryland last Saturday, 37-15, putting the pain from a double-digit home loss to Ohio State temporarily behind it. As a result of that setback, the Spartans need to win out and hope the Buckeyes falter in their remaining two games for coach Mark Dantonio's squad to reach the Big Ten title tilt for the second straight year, and the third time in the four years the event has been in existence.
Rutgers leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 3-2, and this is the first meeting between the two since the Scarlet Knights posted a 19-14 victory back in 2004.
Rutgers and Indiana played to a near standstill in the first half of last week's encounter at High Point Solutions Stadium, as the Hoosiers held a 13-10 lead at intermission. From there however, the Scarlet Knights went on a tear, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter, and another two in the fourth to earn the 22-point victory. Gary Nova threw for 217 yards, hitting standout receiver Leonte Caroo five times for 125 yards and two TDs. Josh Hicks did his best to combat the effort of Indiana RB Tevin Coleman, and while his 114 yards and a score on 20 carries was certainly sufficient, it paled in comparison to Coleman's monstrous 307-yard effort.
The RU defense was battered at the point of attack by one of the nation's premier runners, but it did a nice job against the pass in yielding only 179 yards and a TD, while logging nine TFL, including five sacks. Lorenzo Waters (11) and Steve Longa (10) both had double-digit stops in the contest, with the former coming up with an INT as well.
For the season, Rutgers is scoring 26.3 ppg while permitting 28.8 ppg. Nova is completing 58.2 percent of his passes for 221.2 ypg, and he has 16 TDs against 10 INTs. Caroo has caught 46 balls for 933 yards and eight scores, while Desmon Peoples spearheads the rushing attack with 447 yards and three scores.
As evidenced last week, Rutgers has struggled to contain opposing running backs this season, allowing more than 200 yards per game on the ground, which ranks the team 13th in the 14-team conference. The Scarlet Knights are however, among the top teams in sacks, registering 30 of them to rank third, with Kemoko Turay credited with 7.5 and Darius Hamilton 5.0.
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood praised his team for all it has accomplished.
"I'm excited for our football team. I'm excited for our football program, to go to the ninth bowl game in ten years, I think there's only three other teams in the Big Ten that can say that if what we looked at is correct."
Jeremy Langford ran for 138 yards and two TDs to help push Michigan State past Maryland last weekend. It was the 14th straight Big Ten opponent that allowed Langford to rush for at least 100 yards, and the team as a whole generated 482 total yards. Connor Cook wasn't all that efficient (14-of-31), but threw for 240 yards. He did not have a scoring strike or an interception, and Keith Mumphery led the receivers with 78 yards.
The MSU defense stood its ground against the Terrapins, permitting only 252 total yards, including a mere six yards on the ground. The Spartans allowed 246 yards and a pair of scores through the air, but logged three sacks and came up with three picks, one of which was returned 25 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter by RJ Williamson. Ed Davis had more than twice as many tackles (nine) as his closest teammate (four), while Marcus Rush received credit for two sacks.
Michigan State is the Big Ten's second-highest scoring team, averaging a robust 43.8 ppg, while pacing the league in total offense (514.0 ypg). Cook ranks No. 1 in the conference with his 246.6 ypg, and he has thrown 19 TDs against only five INTs, while Tony Lippett has a club-best 51 receptions for 999 yards and nine scores. Langford has gone over 1,000 yards for the season (1,116), and he averages 5.5 ypc, 111.6 ypg and has scored 15 TDs.
The Spartans have performed exceptionally well against the run this season, allowing 103.7 ypg, and they permit only 305.5 total ypg -- both ranking the team fourth in the conference. MSU leads the league in sacks (33) and is third in INTs (13). Shilique Calhoun and Davis has combined for 12.5 sacks, and both Kurtis Drummond (team-high 53 tackles) and Williamson have three picks apiece.
Coming off the loss to Ohio State, Dantonio was concerned about getting off to a slow start at Maryland.
As it pertained to the first half, he said, "I was pleased we were winning, I was not pleased with the performance in terms of production. The message to the team was just, 'hey, let's go.' We were our own worst enemy, too many penalties, different things were going on out there."
As good as Rutgers is feeling now that it knows it's going to a bowl game, the euphoria will be short-lived as Michigan State is clearly the superior team in this matchup. Expect the Spartans to deliver a strong dose of Langford and the run game, while Cook does what he needs to keep the visitors honest.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 34, Rutgers 17
11/19 10:35:34 ET