Michigan State vs. Northwestern prediction and game preview. The Spartans try to avoid a fourth straight loss when they host the Wildcats on Saturday.
Michigan State vs. Northwestern Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing.
TV Broadcast: Big Ten Network
The mood in East Lansing is pretty somber. Michigan State is on the verge of losing four in a row for the first time since 2006 – the year before coach Mark Dantonio arrived. There’s legitimate talk that the Spartans might not qualify for a bowl game only one season after appearing in the College Football Playoff. This might turn out to be the most disappointing season of Dantonio’s tenure, but bouncing back against Northwestern could give the Spartans some much-needed confidence.
Speaking of confidence, the Wildcats have a bit more after beating Iowa, 38-31, on Oct. 1 and are coming off a bye week. Northwestern was averaging 16.3 points per game during a 1-3 start going into Iowa City, but it managed 362 total yards to pull off the mild upset. Justin Jackson had a big game and could be in for another given how the Spartans are allowing opponents to run all over them.
What to Know About Michigan State
BYU totaled 260 yards on the ground during its 31-14 victory in East Lansing, dropping Michigan State to 1-2 at home. The Spartans are allowing an average of 179.3 rushing yards during their three-game losing streak as defensive standouts have missed time. Linebackers Riley Bullough (right shoulder) and Jon Reschke (left ankle) missed their second straight game together and third each overall. Their statuses for this one are uncertain.
Also unclear is the Spartans’ quarterback situation. Michigan State finished with 206 total yards – its fewest in five years – and Dantonio replaced Tyler O’Connor with Damion Terry in the fourth quarter. Terry threw an interception, but he also ran for a touchdown. It might be time for a switch under center, a decision Dantonio will make at some point this week.
What to Know About Northwestern
Justin Jackson ran 26 times for 171 yards against the Hawkeyes while scoring his first touchdown since rushing for three in the season opener. It’s also the first time he cracked the 100-yard mark in four games, giving the Wildcats an offensive boost it badly needed. Clayton Thorson also had one of his better games, throwing all three of his touchdown passes to Austin Carr.
Northwestern did allow its most points of the season despite allowing only 283 total yards. That’s because the Wildcats’ punt coverage was terrible and gave the Hawkeyes a couple of short fields. That’s something Northwestern can’t afford this week, especially with Michigan State’s offense sputtering and needing some favors.
Offense: Even – Both teams have decent running games and inconsistent quarterback play.
Defense: Even – Michigan State ranks eighth in the Big Ten allowing 5.26 yards per play. Northwestern is ninth giving up an average of 5.3.
Special Teams: Michigan State – The Wildcats are last in the conference in opponents’ punt return average of 17.6 yards after Desmond King torched them for a couple of 32-yard returns in their last game.
Coaching: Michigan State – Dantonio still has the edge on Fitzgerald despite going through a rare down season.
Intangibles: Michigan State – The Spartans have won five of the last six meetings, with the most recent coming in 2013.
Matchup To Watch
Justin Jackson vs. Michigan State’s banged-up defense
If Jackson puts together another big performance, the Spartans likely are doomed. It’s still unclear if Bullough or Reschke will be able to play, and standout lineman Malik McDowell needed to be helped off the field at one point against BYU.
Spread: Michigan State -4
Over/Under: No over/under as of post
Michigan State vs. Northwestern Prediction
Terry takes over at quarterback and sparks Michigan State’s offense with his dual-threat talents, helping the Spartans pull out a victory to snap their losing streak.
Michigan State vs. Northwestern final score prediction: Michigan State 27, Northwestern 21