East Lansing – The #9 ranked Michigan State Spartans (6-1, 3-0) will attempt to make it a perfect October when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska for a Legends Division showdown with the #13 ranked Cornhuskers (6-1, 2-1).  For Michigan State a victory will put them clearly in the division driver seat with key tie breaker victories over Michigan and Nebraska.  

Pre-season many analysts had Nebraska as the favorite to win the Legends Division and Big Ten Championship.   In their first ever Big Ten game on the national prime time stage in Madison, the Cornhuskers bombed losing to Wisconsin 48-17 knocking them back off their #8 ranking.   The following week the Cornhuskers were on the verge of falling out of the division race in their first Big Ten home game.  Nebraska was down to Ohio State 27-6 in the third quarter before storming back to their largest comeback victory in school history. 

Thought to have the top defense in the Conference the Black Shirts have given up 355.7 yards per game and come into this game with the #8 ranked defense in the league. The Huskers surely miss All-American DT Jared Crick thought to be the top defensive player in the Big Ten who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

2011 BIG TEN STANDINGS

 

Legends Division                                

Michigan State 3-0 1.000 6-1 .857

Nebraska 2-1 .667 6-1 .857

Michigan 2-1 .667 6-1 .857

Iowa 2-1 .667 5-2 .714

Minnesota 0-3 .000 1-6 .143

Northwestern 0-4 .000 2-5 .286

 

Leaders Division

Penn State 4-0 1.000 7-1 .875

Wisconsin 2-1 .667 6-1 .857

Purdue 2-1 .667 4-3 .571

Illinois 2-2 .500 6-2 .750

Ohio State 1-2 .333 4-3 .571

Indiana 0-4 .000 1-7 .125

 

Michigan State’s Big Ten leading defense will get DE Will Gholston back this week and they will need him to contend with Nebraska’s option run based attack.  The Cornhuskers have the Big Ten’s leading rushing offense averaging 261 yards/game.  QB Taylor Martinez from Corona, CA has scored a TD in every game this season rushing for 90.9 ypg, and RB Rex Burkhead has scored 10 TD’s and rushes for 107.4 yards per game.   Once again look for Pat Narduzzi to pressure Martinez with blitzes from everywhere but led by LB Denicos Allen who is second in the Big Ten with six sacks.  The MSU defense has 30 tackles for loss and 18 sacks over the last three games.  Junior DT Jerel Worthy has been named a captain for this game joining seniors Kirk Cousins, Joel Foreman, and Trenton Robinson.

STAT COMPARISON –

                         Michigan State   Nebraska

Scoring                               29.3                  37.6

First Downs                        20.3                  21.7

Total Offense                   388.9                432.7

Rushing Yards                 138.0                261.0

Passing Yards                  250.9                171.7

Time of Possession         33:11                 28:07

Third Down Conversions   .396                 .434

Points Allowed                 13.7                    25.3

Total Offense Allowed     222.9                355.7

Rushing Yards Allowed     88.9                162.7

Passing Yards Allowed   134.0                193.0

 

 

 

 

 

Michigan State has won 17 of their last 20 football games and will attempt to defeat three top 15 ranked opponents in a row for the first time in school history.   Mark Dantonio’s Spartans have won eleven of their last twelve Big Ten games.    Las Vegas has the Cornhuskers as a 4 point favorite but Big Ten Network analysts Teddy Greenstein and Chris Martin both pick MSU to knock off the Cornhuskers.  A MSU victory in Lincoln would give Dantonio’s Spartans victories over three of college football’s all-time winningest programs.  (#1 Michigan, #4 Nebraska, and #5 Ohio State).

Last week MSU had a penalty free game against Wisconsin after being criticized for “roughness” against Michigan.  The Spartans will need to keep mistakes to a minimum as it is no secret that Nebraska is a tough place to play.   MSU is 0-3 in games played in Lincoln.   The last being Nick Saban’s 1996 team which had Mark Dantonio on staff and got thumped 55-14 by Tom Osborne’s powerhouse squad which won three National Championships over the four year period 1994-97.   

      INDIVIDUAL  STAT  LEADERS –

 

Michigan State  (after seven games):

Rushing – Edwin Baker (99 carries for 434 yards, 4.4 avg., 2 TDs)

Passing – Kirk Cousins (136 of 204 for 1,607 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs)

Receiving – B.J. Cunningham (48 catches for 723 yards, 15.1 avg., 3 TDs)

Tackles – Max Bullough (45 tackles, 13 solos, 32 assists, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT)

 

Nebraska  (after seven games):

Rushing – Rex Burkhead (130 carries for 752 yards, 5.8 avg., 10 TDs)

Passing – Taylor Martinez (83 of 151 for 1,176 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs)

Receiving – Jamal Turner (15 catches for 243 yards, 16.2 avg., 0 TDs)

Tackles – Lavonte David (64 tackles, 25 solos, 39 assists, 7 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT)

Mark Dantonio will want to establish the run while Bo Pelini’s black shirts will want to shut it down.    Nebraska has yielded 200 yards or more on the ground in two of their first three Big Ten games.

“Our hope is that we can take care of the football and that we can win at the line of scrimmage,” said MSU RB Coach Brad Salem heading into the second of four league road games for the Spartans. “It will be a challenge with their defensive history and who they have defensively personnel-wise, but we have to be ready to match up with them.”

Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Carl Pelini said this week, “Kirk Cousins is more mobile than you give him credit for.  There are guys who are real fleet guys, running type quarterbacks.  There are guys who have a good feel for the pocket and who know how to avoid pressure.  That’s how I see him,” Pelini said. “He’s not necessarily a guy who likes to get out and run, but he moves his feet and gets out of trouble.  They max protect a lot. They keep backs in and they keep tight ends in and they run three and two man routes. Especially with their big personnels, it’s hard to get pressure on him.”

Pelini also said that the Spartans offense has a physical running game that’s going to take what the defense gives them.  “They’re a power running team. Teams have been loading the box against them and that’s why you see their receivers having success,” Pelilni said. “I think if you spread out and start to defend the wide outs then they go back to the running game. They’re a good offense.   They’re very balanced. You can talk about where they’re ranked in the Big Ten rushing, but they’re going to take what you give them. They’re not going to try and fit a square peg into a round hole. If you stack the box, they’re going to throw the ball. That’s what teams have been doing trying to stop the run.  I think they’re a good offense in both aspects.”

Look for Kirk Cousins to have a big game through the air passing to BJ Cunningham and Keshawn Martin as the Cornhuskers have given up 193 yards per game and 11 TD’s through the air this season.  MSU started off the month winning on the road in front of over 100,000 red clad fans in Columbus, they will attempt to close out a perfect month doing the same in front of over 80,000 in the heartland of Nebraska.

 

KIRK COUSINS WATCH:

GAMES WON AS THE STARTING QB:  (#1)

Cousin’s 22-10 record as a starter (68.7%) broke Jeff Smoker’s record of 21 career victories as the starting quarterback.   

 

PASS COMPLETIONS:  (#2)

592 trail Jeff Smoker who is #1 at 685, and past Drew Stanton who is now #3 at 543.

 

`PASSING YARDS:  (#2)

With 7,422 total yards Cousins trails Jeff Smoker who is #1 with 8,932 yards.

 

TOUCHDOWN PASSES:  (#2)

With 52 Cousins passed Bill Burke who was #2 on the MSU career list.   Jeff Smoker is #1 with 61.

 

WR B. J. CUNNINGHAM WATCH

Saturday B. J. moved up the charts in the MSU All Time career record book.

CAREER RECEPTIONS:  (#1)

B.J. CUNNINGHAM has 187 catches;  Matt Tranon (2003-06) is #2 with 148.

 

CAREER RECEIVING YARDS:  (#3)

B.J. has 2,503 yards passing Kirk Gibson (2,347) for #3 and Courtney Hawkins (2,210) for #4 on the MSU All-Time list.  Andre Rison (1985-88) is #1 all-time with 2,992 yards, and Charles Rogers (2001-02) is #2 with 2,821.

 

CAREER TOUCHDOWN RECEPTIONS: (#7)

With 16 career TD catches, Cunningham passed tied #6 Gene Washington (1964-66) with 16 TD catches.  Charles Rogers is at the top of the list with 27 TD’s from 2001-02.  Gene Washington who has been voted into the College Football Hall of Fame was honored tonight as team captain and his name was added to the stadium ring of honor.