clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

TOC Staff Picks: Michigan State vs. Northwestern

The Spartans knocked off the Wildcats 29-20 last season

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The second year of the Mel Tucker era will get underway Friday night in Evanston, as Michigan State takes on Northwestern.

The Spartans brought in double-digit transfers, while seeing a similar number exit the program. The new look Spartans have yet to announce a quarterback and several transfers could play key roles.

MSU knocked off the Wildcats 29-20 last year and enters the game as a slight underdog. Here is what The Only Colors staff writers have to say about the game:

Ryan O’Bleness

Michigan State 24, Northwestern 21

This is an interesting matchup because both teams have rosters that look incredibly different compared to last year. Nobody knows how well this new-look Michigan State team full of transfers and true freshmen, with a few of last year’s contributors sprinkled in, will perform in 2021, but I think opening the season with Northwestern is going to be a great measuring stick for the Spartans. I expect this to be a relatively low-scoring game as the offenses work the early season kinks out and the defenses come in more ready to play. At the end of the night (which is going to be really late for me in the press box, by the way), I have a feeling MSU gets the job done.

Austen Flores

Northwestern 21, MSU 17

Northwestern is a fringe top-25 team and will look for revenge at home from last year’s upset. The goals for MSU is to come out of the contest with a solidified starter at quarterback and a glimpse of an overall team identity.

Zach Manning

Northwestern 24, MSU 17

I understand Northwestern has had some early injuries and their quarterback didn’t look good the last time we saw him, but I just don’t know what to expect from this MSU team this season. The Spartans brought in a wealth of Power Five transfers, many of whom should see some significant playing time. But I’ll need to see the offense string together some drives before I put my faith in this team.

David Harns

MSU 27, Northwestern 23

No idea what to expect this year, but why not be optimistic until proven otherwise? How’s that for some in-depth analysis?

Paul Fanson

Northwestern 34, MSU 21

So here’s the deal. When “I” make picks for MSU or any other college football team what I actually mean is that I let my computer make the picks and then I explain if I believe my computer or not. In this case, my computer believes the preseason ranking data where Northwestern was held in much higher regard than our Spartan and the game was projected to be about a seven-to-nine point spread.

But, as kick off approaches, MSU is only about a field goal underdog. I expect MSU to be very competitive in this game with a decent shot to win. But, there is still far more about the Green and White that we don’t know relative to what we do. That said, the Wildcats lost a lot of production off from last year’s team. In other words, your guess is as good as mine (or my computer’s).

Kevin Knight

MSU 27, Northwestern 24

This one is a hard pick as both teams saw a lot of roster turnover. On top of that, it is a matchup between cross-division rivals (through this season at least before that switches to Minnesota) and opens the season for both. NU traditionally struggles in September under Pat Fitzgerald, and the Tucker regime is in full swing with a true spring and summer offseason of training and practice under the belt this time. Give me the Spartans by a narrow margin in a rock fight, 27-24, with graduate senior kicker Matt Coghlin giving the go-ahead points on a late field goal in the fourth and a stout defense forcing a turnover on downs to ice the victory.


MSU 24, Northwestern 20

I expect this to be the quintessential B1G game between two teams with offensive challenges. The total score hasn’t reached 50 points since 2017, I don’t expect that to change — MSU in a beautifully ugly close win.

Matt Hoeppner

Michigan State 32, Northwestern 24

Maybe it is the optimism that can only come before the season starts, maybe it was seeing that Script State uniform video, but whatever the reason, I feel like MSU starts off the season with a win in Evanston.

The Spartans were able to beat a better Northwestern team last year with a team that was thrown together on the fly with new coaches and a new system. This year, the team has had a full version of Camp Tucker to get ready. Despite the abundance of new faces, I think this team will be better than most expect.

I think the Spartans offense comes out and shows what they can do against a decent Wildcat defense, and the MSU defense is able to do enough to hold down a new quarterback and get out with a win.

All aboard the Tucker Train!

Throughout the year, several members of TOC will participate in Big Ten picks using Tallysight. You can keep up with those picks here: