Previewing MSU vs. Minnesota

USA TODAY SPORTS

Game time: Noon ET
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
TV: BTN
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online Streaming: BTN2Go

Game Week Q&A: Here
Forecast: 38 degrees, partly cloudy,
Line: MSU -14.5

MSU has already clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but they look to go 8-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in school history when Minnesota comes to town on Saturday.

The Gophers are the surprise team of the Big Ten, at 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten. Head coach Jerry Kill took a leave of absence after suffering a seizure before the Michigan game, which was a loss and put Minnesota at 3-2. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys filled in, and the Gophers won their next four, including home games against Nebraska and Penn State. Kill has returned, but coaches from the box upstairs.

A win would give Minnesota its seventh nine-win season in school history (1900-05, 2003). A win would give MSU its third 11-win season in school history (2010-11). MSU's at-large BCS hopes would also require a win on Saturday.

By the numbers

23.1 - Points per game allowed by Minnesota this season.

32.0 - Points per game for MSU's offense in Big Ten play.

5.2 - Yards per carry for Minnesota running back David Cobb.

498 - Rushing attempts for Minnesota this season, No. 15 nationally (45.2 att/game)

2.1 - Yards per carry allowed by MSU's defense, No. 1 nationally

212 - Passing attempts for Minnesota, No. 120 nationally (out of 125. 19.2 att/game)

1.3 - Sacks per game by Minnesota's defense, No. 104 nationally

0.9 - Sacks per game allowed by MSU, No. 10 nationally

4.4 - Rushing yards per carry allowed by Minnesota, No. 81 nationally

4.8 - Yards per carry for Jeremy Langford this season.

5.3 - Touchdown passes per interception for Connor Cook (16/3), the best among Big Ten starters.

72.7% - Minnesota's touchdown rate in the red zone, No. 13 nationally.

96 - Total yards for Minnesota against MSU last season.

Three keys for MSU

Win first down - As you can see by the numbers, Minnesota is a heavy run team. MSU's defense wants to put them in passing situations.

Field position - Minnesota offense doesn't get big plays (No. 75 in plays of 20+, No. 93 in plays of 30+), so Mike Sadler pinning deep will hinder the Gophers on offense.

Tackle Phillip Nelson -  Minnesota's QB runs a lot of draws and also takes off when his first read isn't open. MSU will need to contain him and tackle him.

Three keys for Minnesota

Turnovers - The Gophers had three turnovers against Wisconsin last week, four against MSU last season. They're usually needed for an upset.

Stop MSU on third down - MSU is converting 47 percent of third downs, No. 22 in the nation. MSU's offense also doesn't get many big plays, so the Gophers want to get MSU off the field when they have a chance.

Run the ball - It's Minnesota's offense.

Prediction: MSU 24-10

Minnesota's offense hasn't been very effective against top defenses, and they don't get much better than MSU's, especially in the running game. This game is going to be an absolute slobberknocker, with both of these teams relying on physicality. I wouldn't be surprised by a slow start from MSU and a close score at halftime, but I think MSU will shut down Minnesota's offense and do enough offensively to get the win, get the Honeycrisp Trophy and head into Indianapolis on an eight-game winning streak.

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