This Saturday, the No. 16 Michigan State Spartans (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) will make their way to Lincoln, Neb. to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2, 4-1).
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM ET and will be televised on ABC.
Both teams are jockying for position atop the Big Ten Legends Division. A win for Michigan State would put them two games clear of the field with two games to go against Northwestern and Minnesota, while a win for Nebraska puts them in control of their own destiny.
For Michigan State, they are 0-7 all time against Nebraska but are hoping to buck that trend come Saturday and take control of the Legends Division.
What follows is a look at who will have advantages and where come kickoff this Saturday.
Michigan State rushing offense vs. Nebraska rushing defense Advantage: Michigan State
Last week, Nebraska’s rushing defense stepped up in a big way against Michigan, where they allowed just -21 yards, continuing the trend of holding Michigan in the negatives in the rushing category.
However, in their previous two games, the Cornhuskers’ defense surrendered 271 rushing yards in a loss to Minnesota and 245 yards the following week to a struggling Northwestern squad, a game in which Nebraska needed a last second Hail Mary to come away with victory.
For Michigan State, junior tailback Jeremy Langford has really emerged this season as the Spartans’ primary rusher, having topped 100 yards in each of Michigan State’s last four games.
In addition, the Michigan State offensive line has had a tremendous push the season, while freshman running back Delton Williams has shown his ability to get in the game and make some things happen.
Michigan State passing offense vs. Nebraska passing defense Advantage: Nebraska
Connor Cook and the rest of the Michigan State passing attack are improving every single week. However, it is still yet to be seen if Cook can keep it going. Although during the Michigan game, Cook finished going 18-33 for 252 yards, he still struggled at times throwing an accurate ball and finding his receivers down field.
As for Nebraska’s passing defense, they have proved to be a very opportunistic set of hands thus far on the season, having intercepted 12 passes and four pick-sixes in the first nine games. Senior cornerbacks Stanley Jean-Baptiste (4 interceptions) and Ciante Evans (3) lead the corps, each with a interception returned for a touchdown as well.
While Cook has shown the ability to take care of the ball this season, thus far with only three interceptions to his name, he’s going to need to continue that trend against a very opportunistic Cornhusker secondary.
Michigan State rushing defense vs. Nebraska rushing offense Advantage: Michigan State
This could very well be the most interesting match up of the game.
First off, the fact that Taylor Martinez isn’t playing in this game, out with a foot injury, bodes huge for Michigan State. The senior quarterback has had his way with the MSU football defense the past two years, including last year when Martinez torched them for 205 yards on the ground en route to a 28-24 come from behind victory for the Cornhuskers.
Although Nebraska will be without Martinez, junior tailback Ameer Abdullah has been very, very good, having rushed for 1,213 yards and 7 touchdowns thus far on the season, including scoring the game winning touchdown at Michigan last weekend.
However, Abdullah will certainly face a daunting task this weekend when he goes up against the best rushing defense in the country, one that gives up just 43.4 yards a game.
At the end of the day, look for this stout Michigan State rushing defense to come out on top as Nebraska’s offensive line injury woes really come into effect in this game.
Michigan State passing defense vs. Nebraska passing offense Advantage: Michigan State
If Michigan State is able to shut down Abdullah and the Nebraska rushing attack, the Cornhuskers would then theoretically have to try and beat Michigan State through the air.
However, with inexperienced redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. expected to make the start Saturday, this matchup certainly looks to sway in Michigan State’s favor. Armstrong has, at times this season, been known to turn the ball over a lot (two 3-interception games),
Again, with all the offensive line woes that Nebraska has experienced this season, expect Shilique Calhoun, Marcus Rush and company to be able to rush the passer and possibly force Armstrong into some errant throws.
Michigan State special teams vs. Nebraska special teams Advantage: Push
Neither team really has much of an advantage here.
Michigan State punter Mike Sadler has been very good this season. Having officially been named a finalist for the Ray Guy award, Sadler has time and time again pinned MSU’s opponents inside the 20 yard line.
As for both team’s kickers, both have been solid (MSU’s Michael Geiger, 9-10 FG and Nebraska’s Pat Smith 7-8).
And the return game?
For Michigan State, they have struggled this season a bit with muffed punts, while Nebraska’s Kenny Bell has shown the ability to make some things happen in the return game, averaging 27 yards per return, including a long of 63.
Overall Advantage: Michigan State
At the end of the day, Michigan State should come out on top and come away with its first victory over Nebraska in program history. Once again, expect the best defense in the country to be in tip-top form Saturday as the Spartans take complete control over the Big Ten Legends Division with two weeks left to play.
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