Recap: Going going, back back, to Indy Indy

David Banks

The Legends/Leaders split lasted three seasons, and MSU won it twice.

In its final Legends road game, MSU suffocated Northwestern 30-6 to clinch an outright division title and trip to Indianapolis to face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

MSU started off slow, trailing 3-0 after the first quarter, as Northwestern put up 121 yards. For the final three quarters, it was all MSU, which led 14-6 at halftime and didn't look back.

With the win, MSU is 13-3 in Big Ten road games since 2010. It's MSU's third 10-win season under Dantonio. It had only been done two previous times in school history, though playing fewer games in the past makes a difference. MSU has never gone 8-0 in the Big Ten. They'll have a chance to do that next week when they host Minnesota.

BOX SCORE

Looking back at my keys to the game

For MSU

Run the ball - In the first quarter, MSU was running on first down, but passing on second and third. They finally started running on second down, and they went down for their first score. Jeremy Langford finished with 150 yards on 25 carries and two scores.

Avoid big plays on defense - Northwestern relied on bubble screens and short, quick passes to the outside. MSU allowed three passes of more than 20 yards and no runs.

Field position - Northwestern's best field position was its own 48-yard line. Only one other possession starter at at least its 40. MSU's field position wasn't great, but they had three touchdown drives of at least 80 yards.

For Northwestern

Turnovers - Zero turnovers for MSU. Three second-half interceptions for MSU put the game away.

Keep the pressure off Colter/Siemian - Just two QB hurries and no sacks for MSU. Part of this was because of quick passes, and MSU didn't blitz much, but the defensive line alone didn't produce much pressure.

Fast start - Drove to MSU's 5-yard line on their second drive, but MSU held the Cats to a field goal. They got inside the 5 in the second quarter, but again had to settle for a field goal.

Looking at all three sides of the ball

Offense

After a slow start, a great performance all around. I listed Langford's numbers above. MSU was run-first, opening it up for Connor Cook to go 16-for-24 for a career-high 293 yards and two touchdowns  (12.2 YPA)

The numbers were helped by this 87-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler.

There was also a 48-yard pass to Tony Lippett, who clearly has become the top receiver on the team. Eight different players caught a pass: Lippett (3, 64), Josiah Price (3, 35, 1 TD), Fowler (2, 99), Langford (2, 35), Aaron Burbridge (2, 22), Macgarrett Kings (2, 16), Keith Mumphrey (1, 20) and Andrew Gleichert (1, 2).

The 3rd down numbers (4-for-12), weren't great, but overall, another solid performance in some really windy conditions. MSU's seven Big Ten wins are all by more than 12 points.

Defense

It was looking like the Nebraska game again after the first quarter, but MSU adjusted, and Northwestern could do nothing outside of the bubble screens.

The lack of disruption is noted above. Again, part of that is quick passes, but the defensive line has looked sub-par in the last tow games in terms of pass rush. Northwestern averaged 3.1 yards per rush.

Kain Colter was knocked out on a targeting hit by Isaiah Lewis early in the game. The rule has plenty of problems, but I thought it was the right call, based on the rule. I know many of you didn't. Trevor Siemian became Northwestern's full-time QB and went 25-for-43 for 227 yards (5.2 ypa) and two interceptions. Third string quarterback Zack Oliver went 0-for-1 with an interception.

It was the fourth time in five games that MSU held an opponent without a touchdown. MSU has shutout the opponent in the second half of five of seven Big Ten games.

Special teams

Mike Sadler's Heisman chances take a hit, though the wind was certainly a big reason. Five punts, averaging 41.2 yards per kick, one inside 20. He apparently tweaked his leg against Nebraska last week, and he was limping at times.

How about Michael Geiger? He made his lone attempt, a 37-yarder. For a true freshman, he's 12-for-13 on the season, with most of those kicks coming on the road.

Conclusion

MSU hosts Minnesota next week, and it's still a big game for BCS at-large implications. It's MSU's first home game over Thanksgiving weekend since the Big Ten expanded the schedule. Curious how the crowd turnout will be. I'm not expecting much.

As for needing other teams to lose to help MSU's at-large chances, there's still a lot of football to go. Have to have the mentality that it's Rose Bowl or bust. As for Indy, I'm not sure where MSU's section is, and I'm also not sure if it's better to buy tickets earlier or later.

I wasn't a huge fan of the green pants on the road.

It should be a hell of a championship game, but there's still business at hand. Ohio State isn't thinking about Indianapolis right now, either. MSU is going back to Indy, hoping to go back to Cali.

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