2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 10, Minnesota at Michigan St
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Nov. 5 at Michigan State 31 ... Minnesota 24
CFN Analysis: Minnesota might have beaten Iowa last week, but this was a second straight clunker of a game for the Spartans. If they were really back to form after the emotional wins over Michigan and Wisconsin, they would’ve beaten this bad team in a walk. Instead, the Gophers outgained the Spartans on the ground - 120 yards to 106 – and Kirk Cousins was off again. He threw for 296 yards and two scores, hardly an awful day, but he wasn’t as settled as he needed to be at times and he failed to connect on a few makeable plays. The tackling was mediocre, the pass rush wasn’t as aggressive as it should’ve been, and it was way too close a call. Even so, with Nebraska’s loss to Northwestern, MSU controls its own destiny for the Big Ten title with at Iowa, Indiana, and at Northwestern to close. 10-2 is a must.
The Gophers might have lost and a losing season is now ensured, but this was another big step forward after beating Iowa last week. Michigan State has been one of the best home teams in college football this year, and Minnesota did a great job of staying in the game until late. MarQueis Gray came up with his best game of the year with 295 yards and three touchdowns, and 71 rushing yards, but the two picks were costly, including the one on a miscommunication to seal MSU’s win. Jerry Kill’s team needs to keep improving each week and needs to keep building itself up for next year, and while the tackling continues to be spotty and there are still major problems, this was a positive before getting Wisconsin at home next week. If the run defense can play as well against the Badgers as it did against the Spartans – allowing 3.8 yrds per carry – it could be interesting.
(AP) EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Le'Veon Bell's 35-yard touchdown run with 10:58 remaining helped Michigan State (No. 17 BCS, No. 15 AP) hold off upset-minded Minnesota 31-24 on Saturday.
Bell ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns, and Kirk Cousins threw for 296 yards and a pair of TDs. The Spartans (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) trailed 24-21 after three quarters before rallying.
MarQueis Gray threw three touchdown passes to Da'Jon McKnight for the Golden Gophers (2-7, 1-4), who upset Iowa last weekend but were unable to shake up the conference title race again.
With the score tied at 24, Bell found running room to the right and went all the way to the end zone to put the Spartans ahead. Minnesota had the ball at the Michigan State 45 with 15 seconds left, but Gray threw an interception.
Gray was 19 of 32 for a career-high 295 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, and McKnight caught nine passes for a career-high 173 yards.
Michigan State entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass defense, but Gray and McKnight didn't seem to notice. The 6-foot-4 quarterback found his senior receiver with a short pass early in the first quarter, and McKnight slipped past three potential tacklers before eventually dragging defensive back Johnny Adams into the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
Cousins answered with a 4-yard scoring pass to Keith Nichol, but a fumble by the Spartans' Edwin Baker later in the quarter gave Minnesota the ball at the Michigan State 26. Gray's 13-yard touchdown pass to McKnight put the Gophers back ahead.
The Spartans tied it at 14 on a 1-yard scoring run by Bell in the second quarter, but Michigan State still looked out of sorts. A short while later, the Spartans had the ball inside the Minnesota 20 when there was movement up front for a false start. A frustrated Cousins took the snap and spiked the ball in exasperation, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and knocking his team out of field goal range.
Down 17-14 in the final minute of the half, Michigan State finally found a rhythm, driving 74 yards and taking the lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Todd Anderson with 5 seconds left in the second quarter.
It was Anderson's first career touchdown.
The advantage was short-lived. Minnesota went 80 yards in 11 plays at the start of the third and took a 24-21 lead when Gray found McKnight in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown on third-and-12.
Michigan State had a touchdown wiped out by a replay review later in the third. A sideways pass from Cousins to Bell hit the ground, and Minnesota defensive back Kyle Henderson stopped, assuming the play was over. Bell picked up the ball and ran 60 yards to the end zone, but after further review, officials ruled the pass went forward and changed their call to an incompletion.
Dan Conroy tied it at 24 with a 40-yard field goal 11 seconds into the fourth quarter, after tight end Brian Linthicum made a nice play in the end zone to prevent a possible interception. That drive started at the Minnesota 41 after Trenton Robinson's acrobatic interception.
Robinson also made the interception in the final seconds that sealed the win.
Minnesota (2-6) at Michigan State (6-2) Nov. 5, 12:00, BTN
Here’s The Deal … Raise your hand if you thought Michigan State was going to sleepwalk into Lincoln and lay a complete and total egg against Nebraska? Not lose, not just get beat, but play an utterly lifeless, dead game compared to the high-energy, top-level performances against Wisconsin and Michigan. Even with the clunker, there’s still time to win the Legends division, but there’s no margin for error anymore. Remember, beating Wisconsin wasn’t that big a deal – it was an interdivisional matchup – but beating Michigan and losing to Nebraska mattered. Now the goal is to keep focus on the free space game before going to Iowa.
Raise your hand if you saw Minnesota coming within two touchdowns of anyone else on the schedule?
Yes, the Iowa game is always a rivalry battle, and yes, the Hawkeyes aren’t very good, but still, the Gophers showed absolutely nothing over the first part of the season to suggest they could pull off a win over anyone with a pulse. That was the season-maker, but a good showing against Michigan State on the road would go a long way to showing that head coach Jerry Kill has the program on a good path.
Somewhat shockingly, MSU is 1-3 in its last four games against the Gophers, but the talent gap between the two teams is ten miles wide. The Spartans, even after the dud against Nebraska, are still second in the nation in total defense and first in pass defense, while Minnesota, even after the win over Iowa, has the worst offense in the Big Ten and, statistically, one of the worst defenses.
It all shapes up to be a complete and utter blowout, but as last week proved, surprises can come from out of nowhere.
Why Minnesota Might Win: So how did Minnesota shock Iowa after so many rough games? Basically, the Gophers got timely play out of QB MarQueis Gray, and the defense got off the field time and again.
Minnesota was run over by Marcus Coker, and QB James Vanderberg had a nice game, but the secondary kept all the big pass plays underneath, and the secondary came did a nice job on third downs, allowing Iowa to convert just 4-of-11 chances. To have any shot against the Spartans, Minnesota has to stuff Kirk Cousins on third downs – the Spartans converted just 3-of-14 chances against Nebraska and ranks 85th in the nation in third down conversions – and the secondary has to stop medium plays from becoming big plays. More than anything else, for the first time all year, Minnesota tackled. The run defense gave up one big Coker run, and that was about it.
Offensively, Gray has to be fantastic. He has kept the big mistakes to a minimum, but he hasn’t been as dynamic as expected. Against Iowa, he came through when he had to, with his third rushing score in three games and his first passing score since early September. If he’s not great, the Gopher offense won’t do much of anything.
Why Michigan State Might Win: The Iowa game was a mirage. Minnesota doesn’t have the lines to hold up against the Spartan lines, and after the MSU performance in Nebraska, motivation won’t be a problem.
The Gopher offensive line has been decent in pass protection and did a great job for the ground game against the Hawkeyes, but the interior isn’t good enough to hold up against a Spartan defensive line that’s far better and far stronger than it showed last week. The push for the Gophers won’t be there against a MSU defense that allows just 101 rushing yards per game. Wisconsin cranked out 220 yards and Nebraska did a good job mixing things up, gaining 190 yards and two scores. Minnesota isn’t Wisconsin or Nebraska running the ball.
Cousins is a smart, veteran quarterback who’ll pick apart the Gophers if he gets time. He’ll get time. The MSU offensive line has been decent in pass protection, and Minnesota doesn’t have any pass rush whatsoever to worry about. He’s not going to make any big mistakes, and Minnesota isn’t going to force any with just five takeaways on the year. The Gophers haven’t come up with an interception in five weeks and has just one fumble recovery since the opener against USC.
What To Watch Out For: Minnesota safety Kim Royston continues to amaze. The former Wisconsin transfer has been banged up throughout his career, but he’s been able to stay healthy this season and he’s making things happen all over the field. He only has one tackle, but he’s acting like an extra linebacker with 87 tackles, making 16 against Iowa after making ten against Nebraska. He’s hit the double-digit tackle mark in six of the eight games, and he’ll have to be all over the field against the midrange MSU passing game.
Michigan State running back Edwin Baker has to be drooling. The team’s leading rusher only has 472 yards and two scores on the year, with most of his work coming in a 167-yard, one-score effort against Michigan, but last year he destroyed the Gophers with 179 yards and four scores in the 31-8 win. The Gopher run defense continues to be atrocious, allowing Coker to take off for 252 yards and two scores, and Baker and Le’Vion Bell should combine for at least that.
What Will Happen: It’ll be back to reality for both teams. Michigan State’s defensive line will get its groove back, Minnesota’s lines will be overwhelmed, and this should be a laugher by halftime.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 38 … Minnesota 7
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Michigan State -28 O/U: 47
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