The Spartans will travel to Minneapolis this weekend to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. There’s an old saying in football that a lot of coaches tell their players after a game: “Follow the 24-hour rule.” Basically, you have the night to dwell on that victory or failure that just occurred, but when you show up to work the next day, you better be focusing on the next opponent.
Coming down from the adrenaline and feelings of beating Michigan on the road may have taken more than 24 hours, but it is now Tuesday of a completely different game week, and Week 7 of the college football season overall.
Minnesota has had its struggles, but the Gophers are no slouch. I worry that this game has all of the makings of a “trap game” for Michigan State.
There are plenty of reasons I say this. The Spartans are coming off of a huge, emotional win. The Spartans are favored in this game. The Spartans are on the road. The Gophers have lost two games in a row now. It is another prime-time game. This is the first time this season that Michigan State will travel outside of the state of Michigan to play a game. The Spartan players are very young and inexperienced. All of this leads me to believe there could be a let down here.
The Spartans are the more talented team, without a doubt. I mean, Michigan State’s passing defense ranks 13th in the nation and second in the Big Ten. Minnesota’s offense ranks 12th in the conference and 108th nationally, averaging just 169.8 yards per contest. Michigan State is fourth in the nation in total defense while Minnesota is 98th in total offense.
There’s really no reason for the Spartans to lose on Saturday, unless they’re unfocused during practice this week and not prepared for the Gophers because they took them lightly. This kind of thing happens all the time in college football — just turn to last week’s Oklahoma versus Iowa State game.
The No. 3-ranked Sooners were 31-point favorites and lost by a touchdown. I can’t prove it, but I honestly think they didn’t see Iowa State as a threat and likely didn’t prepare as well as they should have. Of course, losing to Minnesota isn’t anywhere near that same scale, but you get the picture.
With big time names such as Penn State and Ohio State on the schedule later, the Spartans have to make sure they’re not looking past the Minensotas, Northwesterns and Indianas of the world in the coming weeks. MSU must take it one week at a time. Sure, they beat the No. 7 team in the country on the road, but they haven’t won anything yet. The Spartans were smacked around by Northwestern last season, and also lost to Indiana in overtime in 2016. Those teams can beat Sparty.
Now, I am not saying this is the team’s mentality, and I know head coach Mark Dantonio will do all he can to have his team ready for Saturday night’s showdown at TCF Bank Stadium. But, again, these young players have probably never felt as much emotion after a win before last week’s victory. Understandably, that may take a while to come down from.
The Gophers enter the contest with a 3-2 record. After beating Buffalo, Oregon State and Middle Tennessee State (it’s still painful to type that school’s name), Minnesota has dropped two in a row to open Big Ten play. The Gophers lost to Purdue last week, and were beaten at home by Maryland, who was down to its third-string quarterback, the previous week.
So, clearly, things aren’t going well for the Gophers right now, but they’re starving for a Big Ten win. A desperate team can be dangerous. Plus, watching what P.J. Fleck was able to do with the in-state foe Western Michigan Broncos was quite impressive. He knows how to lead, and much like Dantonio, he knows how to get his guys up for big games.
And by the way, the Gophers know to play defense. Fleck’s team ranks 22nd in the nation in total defense and in top half of the Big Ten — kudos to the B1G for having six schools rank in the top 22 in the entire NCAA.
I expect Michigan State to be able to handle Minnesota. I expect Michigan State to win. But I don’t expect Minnesota to just roll over and give up. The Gophers will come to play in front of a home crowd under the lights. The Spartans must forget about their heated rival and focus solely on Minnesota.
Are you worried about Minnesota beating Michigan State on Saturday?
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