MICHIGAN STATE AT
The Spartans and Cornhuskers aren’t where they hoped to be at this point in the season, but the upcoming clash could be a turning point for both schools.
Michigan State enters the game 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten. Despite on of the best defenses in the conference, the Spartans have sputtered on offense. Junior quarterback Brian Lewerke has battled injuries and inconsistency all season long, senior running back L.J. Scott has been injured the majority of the season and has already announced he will return in 2019, and top receiving option Felton Davis III tore his achilles in the loss to Michigan.
Nebraska, 3-7 overall and 2-5 in conference play, has made significant strides in the last four weeks. The Huskers started the year 0-6, the worst start in Nebraska history. But the Huskers earned their first win against Minnesota on October 20 and followed it up with a victory over FCS opponent Bethune Cookman. The next week, Nebraska gave Ohio State all it could handle, but came up just short, 36-31. The Huskers defeated Illinois, 54-35, last week.
Nebraska has the second best offense in the Big Ten, but they haven’t faced a defense as tough as the Spartans, which boasts the No. 2 defense in the conference. The key in this matchup will be how Michigan State contains Nebraska’s freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. The Husker signal caller, when healthy, has been among the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. Martinez ranks 14th nationally by averaging 305 yards of total offense per game, 245 through the air and 60 on the ground.
The Spartans will need to bottle-up the freshman by utilizing quarterback spies and closing down escape lanes in the pocket. But even if Martinez is locked down, Nebraska has another option in senior running back Devine Ozigbo, who has averaged 134 yards per game on the ground and scored nine touchdowns over the last five games.
But the Spartans can’t only focus on the Nebraska running game. The Huskers have a pair of receivers, senior Stanley Morgan Jr. and sophomore J.D. Spielman, who rank third and fourth in the conference in receiving yards. The Michigan State pass defense ranks 11th in the Big Ten, but also has 12 interceptions, which is 18th in the country.
The Spartans will rely heavily on linebackers Andrew Dowell and Joe Bachie, who lead the team in tackles, to stop the run and contain Martinez. Safeties Khari Willis and David Dowell will be tasked with helping in the run game, while also playing as the back-end of the pass defense.
A low-scoring game would favor Michigan State, while a high-scoring affair would fall on the side of the Huskers.