Week 9: #9 Michigan St. (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten Legends) @ #13 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten Legends)
Still a smidget drained/irked/blasted after the St. Louis Cardinals won the seventh game of the 2011 World Series over the Texas Rangers to win it all last night, so this will be relatively short, I guess…
Holy shit, what the hell did Sparty do against Wisconsin last week. They fell behind early, came back in the middle, gave up the lead late, and then won it even later on undoubtedly the most insane Hail Mary I’ve ever seen. Just when I was about ready to start (most likely) another http://www.firedantonio.com, Sparty pulled a win over previously 4th-ranked Wisconsin out of their collective asses. My voice recovered in time for me to lose it 2 nights ago, as the Cardinals mounted two comebacks to win game 6 of the World Series.
Clearly, this is a huge game for Sparty. It’s been a rough October, as they have now played Ohio St., followed by three straight ranked opponents. According to ESPN Stats & Info, MSU has played three straight ranked opponents 11 times in school history, the last coming in 2003, in which they went 1-2. MSU has never won all 3, and they certainly appear to be on the verge of that today, especially considering who they’ve beaten the last 2 games and how they beat them. A win also would put MSU in the driver’s seat in not only the Legends division, but the entire Big Ten conference.
Leaders leader (God, that sounds insanely dumb) Penn St. is 4-0 in conference play, but has two games remaining against #13 Nebraska (home) and #12 Wisconsin (away). As if those two opponents aren’t difficult enough, they face a sure-to-be-pissed Illinois today at home and in two weeks travel to Columbus to play a somewhat improving Ohio St. team. Meanwhile, if Sparty can get past Nebraska in Lincoln, they’ll finish with Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern. I like their chances to finish atop the conference much more than Penn St.’s, although I’m sure at least Iowa and Northwestern won’t go down quietly.
Sparty is going to have to run the ball much more effectively with both Baker and Bell today than they have all season. It’s not a complete necessity if they want to win, but it would be nice to see what I thought was their offense’s strength have some success against a “good team”. QB Kirk Cousins was absolutely great last week (22-31/290/3 TD/0 INT), but consistency hasn’t always been his calling card. Supposed #1 RB Baker was nowhere to be found against the Badgers (11 CAR/15 YDS) but luckily, his backup picked up the slack (16 CAR/87 YDS). Against a below-average Nebraska run D, the two need to be more than good even though Cousins and WR B.J. Cunningham are still proving to be viable offensive threats.
The D will have to play better than it did last week, too. While Nebraska will not throw the ball 50 times, they have a top-10 rushing offense, nationally. Wisconsin basically ran all over Sparty last Saturday, to the tune of 41 carries for 220 yards. That was roughly 153 more rushing yards than Sparty was allowing per game before the contest. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez averages almost 16 carries and 91 yards per game on the ground and Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini’s strategy will not change for MSU. It’s up to Sparty’s front 7 to contain him, similar to the way they shackled Michigan dual-threat QB, Denard Robinson.
QB Kirk Cousins: 1607 YDS, 11 TD, 4 INT, 66.7 CMP% 146.7 RAT
RB Edwin Baker: 99 CAR, 434 YDS, 2 TD
RB Le’Veon Bell: 75 CAR, 374 YDS, 6 TD
WR B.J. Cunningham: 48 CAT, 723 YDS, 3 TD
QB Taylor Martinez: 1176 YDS, 7 TD, 6 INT, 55 CMP%, 127.7 RAT/110 CAR, 636 YDS, 9 TD
RB Rex Burkhead: 130 CAR, 752 YDS, 10 TD
WR Jamal Turner: 15 CAT, 243 YDS
MSU Offense (national ranking in parentheses):
Total: 388.9 ypg (66), Passing: 250.9 ypg (43), Rushing: 138 ypg (77), Scoring: 29.3 ppg (59)
Total: 432.7 ypg (35), Passing: 171.7 ypg (103), Rushing: 261 ypg (7), Scoring: 37.6 ppg (20)
Total: 222.9 ypg (2), Passing: 134 ypg (2), Rushing: 88.9 ypg (8), Scoring: 13.7 ppg (7)
Total: 355.7 ypg (42), Passing: 193 ypg (29), Rushing: 162.7 ypg (70), Scoring: 25.3 (54)
Sparty gets DE William Gholston back after he served a one-game suspension for practically forgetting he was playing football, and not in a UFC match. A team that committed 13 penalties for 124 yards against Michigan did not commit a single penalty against Wisconsin, a game with bigger implications than the previous one. Still, the offense needs to get better in the second half, namely Baker and Bell, especially if they don’t want a repeat of last Saturday. If their D can take away Nebraska’s ability to run, even remotely, it would spell doom for the Huskers. The last thing Nebraska wants is to rely on Martinez’s arm to win them a ballgame. I believe this Sparty team is for real (for a Big 10 team) and is in Lincoln to handle business and get one step closer to a Big 10 crown.
Sparty wins, 28-20.