Sorry for the tardiness of this preview everyone. I'm writing this from Cozumel right now, and my family's going to see if we can get a sports bar to turn on Michigan State vs. Rutgers at 11 AM Central tomorrow. Hopefully we'll succeed, because senior day is almost always awesome, and it's going to be nice to send our players who have spent four, five, or even six years helping the program achieve the heights it's hit over the past few seasons.
Here are the keys to Michigan State vs. Rutgers.
- Is Connor Cook injured? After his performance against Maryland last week, I have to think Cook's not entirely healthy. He's looked so accurate in the beginning stages of this season, and in the past couple weeks he's definitely had issues throwing down the field. An injured Cook is still plenty good enough to win this game, he's just got to realize his limitations, and let Jeremy Langford wear down the Scarlet Knights to let the Spartans pull away in the fourth quarter.
- Just how good is Gary Nova? It's time again for everyone's favorite parlor game, compare the quarterbacks? Here's quarterback A: 58.0% completion percentage, 9.0 yards per attempt, 19 TDs to 5 Interceptions, passer rating of 152.9. Quarterback B: 58.2% completion percentage, 9.2 yards per attempt, 16 TDs to 10 interceptions, passer rating of 149.6. Quarterback A is Connor Cook, and quarterback B is Gary Nova. Nova has torn up weak pass defenses and floundered against decent ones (OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin), so it's hard to say just how good he'll be on Saturday. Regardless, he has the skills to beat MSU deep, and lord knows that's happened enough this year.
- Has Michael Geiger, like Stella, gotten his groove back? The more I see of Geiger, the more I think he's a Brett Swenson clone: both were short, both were very accurate (although Geiger hasn't shown it at times this year, he did last year), and both have or had trouble with leg strength to make field goals of 50+ yards. It was great to see Geiger complete all three of the field goals shorter than 40 yards last week. The next step is to extend his range from beyond 40.
- Will the fans show up? The weather for game time tomorrow: cloudy, 38 degrees, with around a 30% chance of showers. Granted that's not the worst weather ever (I was within a whisker of hypothermia when I attended MSU-Northwestern at Ryan Field last season), but if the fans have trouble showing up for other games during the season, I doubt MSU-Rutgers is going to move the needle. There are no easy answers here: one can only yell at the students that they're crappy fans, and they need to show up before the students just tune out the yelling entirely. There's no easy answers here -- if there were, stadiums would be full around the country.
- Will something cool happen on senior day? One of my most indelible memories of the 2011 season was watching Joel Foreman get a carry for four yards against Indiana on Saturday. If the game is well in hand by the fourth quarter, tell me you wouldn't love to see MSU lined up on the Rutgers 1, and watch Travis Jackson (if he's healthy, if he's not replace Jackson with Connor Kruse) dive into the endzone for a score, and follow it up with the YES! chant. That'd be one heck of a memory.
Tomorrow's just one more step to a New Year's Six bowl. Hopefully MSU gets a win so they can focus on next week and keeping THE MOST IMPORTANT TROPHY OF NOW OR EVER, THE LAND GRANT TROPHY.