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Pick up game: TOC makes Week 8 picks

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Michigan State is back on the road, this time to Northwestern and The Only Colors staff makes their picks.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

After a one year hiatus, Michigan State is bowl eligible again after beating Indiana at home in Week 7. But the team has bigger goals ahead for this year and a chance to keep progressing as the Spartans head to Evanston for Week 8.

Everything about this game screams trap game for MSU after earning the hard-fought win against Indiana at home and with the toughest stretch of the season starting next week. On top of that, Northwestern is playing for their own bowl bid. With only four wins so far, the Wildcats need every win they can just to get to the postseason.

The Spartans have had plenty of success against Northwestern, even in Evanston. With a huge contingent of the fan base living in nearby Chicago, MSU is always well represented against Northwestern. So the “home field advantage” will likely be split pretty close to even.

With the Spartans only a field goal favorite, the experts think the game will be close. But how does the staff at The Only Colors think it will play out? And what’s going to happen in that second place game in Columbus? We pick the whole Big Ten Week 8.

Matt Sheehan

MSU 23, Northwestern 20 (Overtime)

MSU keeps winning these one possession games, and I don’t see them breaking that tradition this weekend. I also don’t see it being an OK Corral shootout like last year considering how pedestrian both offenses are and how strong MSU’s defense is.

This game isn’t a chip shot. It’s on the road (granted not the most hostile atmosphere) and the passing game has been stale for weeks. A victory for MSU depends on three keys: 1) MSU’s run offense carrying the load, 2) The kicking game (field goals and kickoffs) being strong and 3) containing Northwestern’s Justin Jackson. I think MSU can knock those three keys down.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois

Michigan vs. Rutgers

Penn State vs. Ohio State

Indiana vs. Maryland

Iowa vs. Minnesota

Nebraska vs. Purdue

Matt Hoeppner

Michigan State 24 Northwestern 13

Once again, this game will not be pretty, but I expect a better offensive performance than we saw last week. Lewerke rightfully took responsibility for his poor performance, and I expect a much better showing out of him this week. MSU will need it, Northwestern has been very stingy against the run in conference play, but not as much against the pass. I think MSU comes out with a lot of play action, similar to how they started against Iowa, and moves the ball well early. After that it will be the job of the defense to shut down a Northwestern offense that is lacking in playmakers, outside of Justin Jackson. The Spartans tack on some points late and get out of Evanston with a win to stay undefeated in Big Ten play heading into November.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois

Michigan vs. Rutgers

Penn St vs. Ohio St

Indiana vs. Maryland

Iowa vs. Minnesota

Nebraska vs. Purdue

Ryan O’Bleness

Michigan State 23, Northwestern 13

Both offensives have struggled a bit so far, though I think Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson are a solid quarterback/running back combo. The way that Jackson gashed the defense last year was not a fluke. With that said, he'll have a much tougher time this season against a young, hungry and much improved defense. Thorson is turnover-prone and if the Michigan State defense takes Jackson out of the equation and forces Thorson to beat them through the air, we should be looking at a victory for MSU. With that said, I do think Thorson is the most talented quarterback the Spartans have faced since entering B1G play. He's struggled to move the ball the last couple of games, but he has the ability to make things happen with his arms and legs.

I think we're looking at another low-scoring, grind-it-out type game. The difference will once again be the defense. Can Michigan State shut down Thorson and Jackson? I have nothing but confidence that will happen, but those two should not be looked at as easy assignments. Defensively, Northwestern has been shredded against the pass, though they have a pretty decent pass rush and rushing defense. I think Lewerke is going to be the X-factor and he needs to prove that he can throw the football downfield. At the end of the day, Spartans get it down and extend the win streak to five games.

Rest of Big Ten picks.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois

Rutgers vs. Michigan

Indiana vs. Maryland

Penn State vs. Ohio State

Minnesota vs. Iowa

Nebraska vs. Purdue

Kyle Thele

Michigan State 27, Northwestern 20

So we know the formula – the MSU offense starts slow, but the defense keeps it close giving the team a chance to win, then things break late and MSU takes the win. Things won’t change much this week.

Northwestern has a respectable record, but that comes with the caveat of playing in the B1G West. They are a sloppy team that will get taken advantage of. The offense won’t look great through the first half, but they will score a touchdown of at least 30 yards, and then ice it late.

As a wise man once said, “good teams win, great teams cover.”

Wisconsin vs. Illinois

Michigan vs. Rutgers

Penn St vs. Ohio St

Indiana vs. Maryland

Iowa vs. Minnesota

Nebraska vs. Purdue