The last game in an absolutely brutal four game stretch for Michigan State, Saturday's match at Nebraska could prove to ultimately decide the Legends division. While the Spartans have already had a successful season, a win in their first meeting since the 2003 Alamo Bowl would cement October of 2011 as one of the legendary months (if such a thing has been ever defined) in MSU football history. A win over the Huskers for the first time ever (Nebraska leads the series 5-0, with Nebraska winning the last regular season meeting 55-14 in 1996 in Lincoln.
While MSU has been on a roll lately, a letdown could be likely after an emotional finish like last week's. After the jump. Three ways how Nebraska could hurt the Spartans, and how MSU can guard against such pain.
The Nebraska rushing attack. Job number one for MSU against Nebraska will be to stop the Cornhuskers on the ground. This attack is co-chaired by running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez, and to devastating effect. UNL ranks 12th in the nation in yards per attempt at 5.50, and both Burkhead and Martinez are among the top 40 rushers in the nation in yards per game. The good news is that Michigan State played an even better rushing team last week in Wisconsin (7th in the nation at 5.81 yards per carry), the bad news is that MSU can't rely on the Spartan Stadium crowd to goad the Huskers into false starts.
Taylor Martinez not throwing the ball. Martinez is extremely effective when he keeps the ball in his hands; he averages 5.78 yards per carry -- coincidentally, the same amount as Burkhead. This rushing prowess is starkly contrasted with his passing game, as he ranks 68th in the FBS in pass efficiency. His completion percentage is even worse, as he is 89th in the FBS at 55.0%. The defensive game plan for Nebraska will hopefully be much the same as it was for Michigan -- stack many defenders in the box, force third and longs, and make Martinez beat MSU through the air, where Robinson, Lewis, Adams, Dennard et al. will be waiting.
- Linebacker Lamonte David's internal GPS towards the ball carrier. As a team, Nebraska's defensive numbers have left something to be desired, in no small part due to the loss of defensive tackle Jared Crick for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Although they're 42nd in total defensive yards allowed, they're 71st in the FBS in yards allowed per carry (4.33), 99th in sacks per game (1.29), and 114th in the FBS in tackles for a loss per game (3.86). Butkus candidate semifinalist weakside linebacker Lamonte David remains though, and he is ferocious. He leads the Huskers in tackles (64), tackles for a loss (7th), and is second in sacks (2). If the offensive line can keep track of him, that'll be a big step towards victory.
Those are a few of my keys to victory. What are yours?
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