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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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

Two Big Ten bottom feeders square off in New Jersey this Saturday, as the Michigan State Spartans and Rutgers Scarlet Knights are set to play each on Saturday at noon.

No disrespect intended, but there should never be a point when fans are actually worried about potentially losing to Rutgers, but here we are. I don’t personally see this happening, but it wouldn’t be too shocking at this point...but still pretty surprising.

What we have with this matchup is two teams that are truly struggling right now, for a variety of reasons each. MSU needs to win this game to keep bowl hopes alive. Rutgers, well, isn’t making a bowl game for the fifth season in a row.

Let the game preview commence:

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2019 Record — 4-6 (2-4 Big Ten)

Offense (per game average) — 351.3 total yards, 228.1 passing yards, 123.2 rushing yards

Defense (per game average) — 337.4 total yards allowed, 231.8 passing yards allowed, 105.6 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored: 218 (21.8 ppg)

Cumulative Points Allowed: 256 (25.6 ppg)

Current S&P+ Ranking: 40th

Rutgers:
2019 Record — 2-8 (0-7 Big Ten)

Offense (per game average) — 275.4 total yards, 141.6 passing yards, 133.8 rushing yards

Defense (per game average)— 447.5 yards allowed, 247.0 passing yards allowed, 200.5 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored: 153 (15.3 ppg)

Cumulative Points Allowed: 386 (38.6 ppg)

Current S&P+ Ranking: 110th


Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 7-3
Current streak: Michigan State with five straight wins
Last Michigan State Win: Nov. 24, 2018 (14-10)
Last Rutgers Win: Sept. 4, 2004 (19-14)
Michigan State all-time record: 705-465-44 (.599)
Rutgers all-time record: 654-666-42 (.496)

Editor’s note: Another loss for Rutgers would be a good omen to get it off of that devil number!


Previous Game Results

Michigan 44, Michigan State 10

The pendulum in this in-state rivalry has swung completely back in Michigan’s favor. For the second year in a row, Michigan was clearly the better team. The Wolverines held the Spartans to just 220 total yards, including a mere 54 yards rushing, and 10 points. Meanwhile, Michigan threw for 384 yards and put up 44 points. MSU was competitive for about one quarter, taking a 7-0 lead into the second quarter before U of M reeled of 24-straight points. MSU would add a field goal, and then Michigan added 20 more points. This one was not any fun for Spartans fans. It’s still “Go Green,” though!

It’s a new week. Rutgers is on the clock:

Ohio State 56, Rutgers 21

The fact that Rutgers scored 21 on Ohio State and kept the game within 35 is honestly much better than what was probably expected from the Scarlet Knights. MSU only mustered 10 points against the Buckeyes (but also only gave up 34). But let’s not get things twisted, At certain points in the game, the score was 21-0 OSU, 49-7 OSU and 56-14 OSU, so it’s not as if Rutgers ever really competed, and the Buckeyes played multiple backups once going into coast mode. Rutgers’ last touchdown came with about one minute to go in the game. The Buckeyes torched the Scarlet Knights for 594 total yards and 31 first downs. Meanwhile, Rutgers totaled just 231 yards and turned the ball over three times.

It’s Senior Day for Rutgers on Saturday, and they have some extra motivation on top of it:


Key Matchups

Cody White vs. Rutgers cornerbacks: White had a big game against the Scarlet Knights last season, catching four passes for 44 yards, and scoring on a 22-yard endaround to seal the game for the Spartans in a contest that was much closer than it should have been. He’ll have to step up once again with Darrell Stewart Jr. likely sidelined for another week. The Rutgers pass defense ranks just 91st in terms of yardage allowed, and 111th in passing yards allowed per attempt. White was one of the few bright spots (minus a bone-headed unsportsmanlike penalty) against Michigan, catching six passes for 78 yards and a near touchdown. Let’s see if he can carry that momentum into this week.

Johnny Langan vs. MSU Secondary: Rutgers has used a variety of quarterbacks this season, but Langan, the redshirt freshman, seems to be the No. 1 option. He has not been very efficient, completing just 52 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is also only averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. Langan is a bit of a threat to run the ball, too — he’s second on the team with 278 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. With Josiah Scott expected to be back in the fold, along side Josh Butler, David Dowell, Xavier Henderson and Shakur Brown, this is a secondary that should have its way with the inexperienced quarterback.

Elijah Collins versus Rutgers front seven: Despite a carousel on the offensive line, Collins is still averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season. He torched the Illinois run defense for 170 yards two weeks ago, and Rutgers checks in even worse against the run than the Illini, as the Scarlet Knights are giving up more than 200 yards on the ground per game. This is a matchup I expect the Spartans to dominate and control the clock. The MSU offensive line has struggled against good defenses, but this should not be the case on Saturday. Look for Collins to easily have another 100-yard day, and perhaps a score or two on the ground.


Game Info

Time: Noon (EST)
TV Channel: FS1
Location: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey
Weather expectations: Partly cloudy with small chance of rain showers, high of 48 degrees, winds blowing west/southwest at four-to-six miles per hour
Line: Michigan State -20.5


Overview:

Michigan State hasn’t lost to Rutgers since the school joined the Big Ten. Look, I don’t care how bad this Michigan State team is — the Spartans are not losing to Rutgers. I say that with about 99.9 percent confidence because you never know with this team, but still. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable betting on MSU -20.5, but Rutgers is a program in shambles for the past several seasons, with an interim coach at the helm. The Scarlet Knights rank 110th (out of 130 teams) in S&P+ rankings.

A little bit of Aaron Young revenge game for Mark Dantonio and the Spartans? Eh, probably not, but still losing a running back (or any position) recruit to Rutgers is embarrassing. Young has rushed 39 times for 140 yards (3.6 yards per carry), with 13 catches for 67 yards, and zero scores. He’s also been used as a kick returner.

Michigan State still has to deal with a plethora of injuries (too many to name) and the fact that Joe Bachie is suspended, but there should still be enough of a talent gap where it doesn’t matter. The good news is that both cornerback Josiah Scott and wide receiver Jalen Nailor are expected to play this week. Scott was banged up with an undisclosed injury in the Illinois game, and then left the Michigan game after the second play and did not return. After playing in the season opener, Nailor has missed nine straight games with a foot injury. Assuming his foot is fully healed, Nailor’s speed should will be a big time asset for the Spartans.

It’s hard to have any confidence in this Spartan team, but if there is any week to have it, it’s this week — Rutgers ranks either last or second to last in nearly every major statistical category in the Big Ten, and ranks toward the bottom of the barrel nationally as well.

There is no reason for the Spartans to lose this game. None.

For more on Rutgers, check out our “Get to Know the Opponent” piece.

The fact that I even have to ask this is a sign of where this program currently stands, but you guys do believe Michigan State will defeat Rutgers, right?

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Michigan State
    (65 votes)
  • 32%
    Rutgers
    (32 votes)
97 votes total Vote Now