EAST LANSING — After getting blown out by Ohio State, the Spartans must now turn their attention to the Cornhuskers. Michigan State will hit the road to take on Nebraska in a game we didn’t think would ever be competitive at the beginning of the season.
Considering the circumstances, MSU has opened up as an early two-point favorite. Nebraska is the second worst team in the Big Ten (3-7, 2-5 B1G) so losing to them wouldn’t look good for this program.
This will be the 11th meeting between these two schools. The Huskers lead the all-time series, 8-2, including a 5-1 record at home. The Spartans are 2-3 against Nebraska in Big Ten play.
“Outstanding environment. One of the great venues in college football,” said Dantonio. “Their a greatly improved football team. Coach Frost is building a foundation there.”
The Cornhuskers have gotten better in the past couple weeks — pushing Ohio State around before losing in the final minutes, 36-31. Then they exploded offensively against Illinois, beating the Fighting Illini, 54-35. As a result, they’ve won three out of their last four games (after beginning the season 0-6).
Mark Dantonio has been juggling quarterbacks the past few weeks, but the fact remains — he likes to keep majority of things “in-house.”
He says the plan with injuries is always the same. They will talk with doctors and specialists first before making any decisions. Provided he does make a decision those will be “based on safety and on his ability to compete and play at a high level.”
Brian Lewerke continuously looks like a guy playing with a hurt shoulder, finishing the game against Ohio State completing 11 of his 28 passes for 128 yards and one interception. He hasn’t been accurate for much of this year and it’s only gotten worse due to his injury. That being said, Rocky Lombardi is performing like a young quarterback who has yet to see significant playing time. Even so, majority of the fanbase feels as though he should be the starter.
The Spartan offense has regressed the last four or five seasons. In 2014 Michigan State was ranked 11th in the country (for total offense). It’s gone from there to 73rd, 75th, 91st, and now 111th.
“We need to be better, but I would say right now we’re playing at the highest level of college football,” said Dantonio when asked about the offense.
Michigan State is averaging 351.7 yards of total offense per game (118.4 rushing & 233.3 passing). Dave Warner has been criticized all year long — some of it he deserves and some of it he doesn’t. With this in mind, it still hasn’t been a good season. Fans are starting to ask themselves if it’s time for Warner to see himself out.
Be that as it may, Dantonio isn’t interested in telling people his conversations involving the offensive coordinator.
“Our conversations go just like I talked earlier about how every game is a new game. We’re going to try and figure it out and try to make sure we have success,” said Dantonio. “Those conversations are in-house.”
Nebraska has greatly improved on offense throughout the year. They’ve scored 30 points in five straight games. It’s their longest streak of high scoring games in conference play since 2001. The Huskers racked up 606 yards of offense against Illinois, including 316 rushing yards.
They’ve now gained 450 yards or more in seven straight contests. For their performances last week, running back Devine Ozigbo was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez was granted Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Ozigbo gained 162 yards on 11 carries, and scored a career high three touchdowns. Martinez totaled 345 yards of total offense against Illinois and tied a school record with his sixth 300-yard game.
Let’s not forget prior to Michigan State playing Maryland, the Terrapins had scored 63 points and finished with 712 yards of offense (when playing against Illinois).
Michigan State has been held up by their defense this season. They still rank first nationally in rushing defense, while also being ranked in the top 25 for total defense, scoring defense, red-zone, and third down defense. This is bound to be the most interesting and entertaining part of the game.
MSU allows just 76.5 rushing yards per contest and have held opponents under 100-yards seven times in 2018. They also rank fourth and 18th in the FBS with 12 interceptions.
In 155 games under Dantonio, the Spartans have held opponents under 100-yards rushing 79 times (51 percent). Michigan State is 68-11 in those contests (86.1%).