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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans are coming off of an emotional victory on the road against heated rival Michigan last week. How will the team respond?

The Spartans travel to Minneapolis for a Week 7 matchup against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a Big Ten West opponent. This will be the second consecutive night game for Michigan State, and already the third prime-time contest of the season.

We’ve mentioned this plenty, but MSU is an incredibly young team. After beating the Wolverines, will the Spartans stay focused and take care of a Minnesota team they are more talented and healthier than? Or is this a trap game for the green and white?

Let’s dissect this matchup further with a game preview.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:

Record — 4-1, (2-0 Big Ten)

Offense — 394 total yards per game (6th in Big Ten), 212.4 passing yards per game, 181.6 rushing yards per game, 22.4 points per game

Defense — 258.6 yards allowed per game (2nd in Big Ten), 161.4 passing yards allowed per game, 97.2 rushing yards allowed per game, 16.4 points allowed per game


Record — 3-2 (0-2 Big Ten)

Offense — 359.8 total yards per game (10th in Big Ten), 169.8 passing yards per game, 190 rushing yards per game, 28 points per game

Defense — 314.4 yards allowed per game (6th in Big Ten), 200.2 passing yards allowed per game, 114.2 rushing yards allowed per game, 17.2 points allowed per game

Quick takeaways: Looking at the high level statistics, it is easy to see that Michigan State has the upper hand. The Spartans fare better in every offensive and defensive category except rushing yards per game and points scored per game. Due to shaky quarterback play, the strength of Minnesota’s offense is its rushing attack, and the Spartans must shut that down to have success against the Gophers. Both defenses rank in the top half of every listed defensive category, so we may be in for another low-scoring game, however the Gophers are really banged up in the secondary and Michigan State needs to take advantage of that.

Series History

All-time record: Michigan State leads 29-17

Last Spartans win: Nov. 30, 2013 (14-3)

Last Gophers win: Oct. 31, 2009 (42-34)

Biggest Spartans win: 51-17 (2004)

Biggest Gophers win: 39-12 (1958)

Current Streak: Michigan State has won four games in a row

Longest winning streak: Michigan State won 17 games straight from 1977 through 1997

Takeaways: These two teams first met in 1950 and have been seeing each other off and on since. This year’s matchup marks the first meeting since 2013. The Spartans have won the previous four matchups, with the Gophers winning the three contests prior. Michigan State has dominated the series overall, winning 63 percent of the games. The Spartans went on a 17-game tear from the late 1970s through the late 1990s. Minnesota reeled off seven straight wins early in the series from 1958 through 1970. The Gophers have only won eight times since then. This series has been all Sparty.

Previous Matchups

Michigan State: The Spartans went into a hostile environment, overcame the No. 1 defense in the land and made it through a monsoon to punch their bitter rivals, Regular Michigan, in the mouth. And that is something I will never get tired of talking about. Michigan State smartly was able to gain a lead at halftime, before the elements became unbearable. The Spartans also completely shut down Michigan’s offense the entire game by controlling the trenches and causing turnovers. MSU’s offense sputtered in the second half, and the play-calling became quite conservative, but that was just the nature of the beast in those conditions and against a damn good defense. The Spartans held off the Wolverines 14-10.

Minnesota: The Gophers lost to Purdue 31-17 on the road. With just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the weather took a turn and the game had an 88-minute long weather delay. The Gophers forced four turnovers, and actually led 17-16 with a little more than two minutes to go in the game. But a Purdue kickoff return gave the Boilermakers the ball in Minnesota territory, and Purdue answered with a touchdown four plays later. Minnesota tried to put together a late drive, but their fate was sealed once quarterback Conor Rhoda threw a 76-yard pick six.

Key Players

Michigan State:

Brian Lewerke: 135.2 QB rating, 1,057 passing yards, 61.3 percent completion rate, nine TDs, two INTs, 309 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns

LJ Scott: 58 rushes, 214 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, one TD, six catches for 31 yards and one receiving TD

Felton Davis III: 22 catches, 265 yards, four TDs

Joe Bachie: 44 tackles, five tackle for loss, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery

Khari Willis: 34 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, two passes defended


Conor Rhoda: 132.5 QB rating, 786 passing yards, 55.7 percent completion rate, five TDs, four INTs

Shannon Brooks: 65 rushes, 315 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, five TDs, two catches for 10 yards

Rodney Smith: 108 rushes, 398 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, two TDs, seven catches for 49 yards

Jonathan Celestin: 41 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery, two passes defended

Thomas Barber: 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack, two fumbles forced, one fumble recovery

Game Info

Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Weather expectations: 51 degrees at kickoff, cloudy skies, winds 8-10 MPH, rain likely throughout the game

Odds: Michigan State -4

Over/Under: 40


Michigan State should win this game, but as stated 100 times this week, the Spartans must not take Minnesota lightly. Michigan State proved last week that its defense is very strong. The pass rush came alive last week, sacking John O’Korn four times. The Minnesota offense has struggled, but one thing it has done very well is protect its quarterback. The Gophers have allowed just one sack all season long. The inspired Michigan State defensive line versus the sturdy Minnesota offensive line will be an interesting matchup to watch.

Minnesota struggles to throw the football, and Michigan State ranks second in the conference and 13th in the nation in passing yards allowed. What Minnesota does well is run the ball. Michigan State’s defense is also tough there, ranking 12th nationally and third in the Big Ten. I want to reiterate the importance of shutting down the Gophers on the ground, and forcing Conor Rhoad to beat the Spartans through the air. I don’t see it happening. Couple that in with Minnesota’s injuries and I see Sparty walking away with a two-touchdown win at least.

How do you see it shaking out? Poll time!


Who wins in Week 7?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Minnesota Golden Gophers
    (17 votes)
  • 93%
    Michigan State Spartans
    (264 votes)
281 votes total Vote Now