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Game Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Michigan State Spartans

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan State football program (4-5, 2-4 in the Big Ten) returns home to Spartan Stadium this Saturday to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-5, 1-5 in the Big Ten). For the first time this season, the Spartans will kick off at noon Eastern Time. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

The contest will also be Michigan State’s Military Appreciation Game. MSU is offering complimentary tickets for those who qualify through VetTix (Tickets For Troops). In addition, three Military Honors Chairs have been installed in Spartan Stadium, the Breslin Center and Munn Ice Arena. Furthermore, in collaboration with ROTC groups, the pregame festivities will include having a large flag on the field, and there will also be in-game recognition of all service members and their respective branches, among other activities.

Michigan State enters the game after an impressive upset victory on the road over then No. 16 Illinois. However, as of press time, the Spartans are still down eight defensive players due to suspensions following the postgame tunnel incident at Michigan, including linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon, safety/nickel back Angelo Grose and several other starters and contributors. The Spartans are still dealing with some key injuries as well.

Meanwhile, Rutgers hung tough with the Michigan Wolverines in the first half last week before being blown out in the second half and losing by a final score of 52-17.

For the first time in quite a while, Michigan State is a favorite. The Spartans are currently favored by 9.5 points for Saturday’s game, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook.

Below is a preview of the Big Ten East matchup.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2022 Record — 4-5 (2-4 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 332.1 total yards, 233 passing yards, 99.1 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 426.7 total yards allowed, 259.8 passing yards allowed, 166.9 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 219 (24.33 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 234 (26.0 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 49th

2022 Record — 4-5 (1-5 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 291.4 total yards, 156 passing yards, 135.4 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 310.5 yards allowed, 183.1 passing yards allowed, 127.4 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 178 (19.78 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 232 (25.78 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 82nd

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 9-4
Current streak: Michigan State won the previous contest
Last Michigan State win: Oct. 9, 2021 (31-13)
Last Rutgers win: Oct. 24, 2020 (38-27)
Michigan State all-time record: 725-477-44 (.600)
Rutgers all-time record: 666-687-42 (.492)

Uniform Watch:

Michigan State:

As part of the Military Appreciation Game, Michigan State will wear special green helmets featuring a logo of the mascot “Sparty” carrying an American flag on one side, and carrying a Michigan State flag on the other side. The helmets also feature a white stripe down the middle and a white face mask. The jerseys are green with white lettering and numbering, while the pants are white.

A closer look:


No official word on Rutgers’ uniforms as of press time, but expect red or white helmets (perhaps with the “R” logo in red, white and blue like the Scarlet Knights wore last week), white tops with scarlet red numbering and lettering, and red pants.

Previous Game Results

Michigan State 23, Illinois 15

Few people gave Michigan State a chance to win this one — on the road, down eight players due to the aforementioned suspensions (plus more due to injury), and facing a team that was ranked No. 16 in the College Football Playoff rankings and boasted the nation’s No. 1 defense — but that is exactly what the Spartans did.

It didn’t start too well for Michigan State, as quarterback Payton Thorne threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage.

While Michigan State’s defense would save the day with a goal-line stand on Illinois’ first drive, the Fighting Illini still got on the board first. Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito found wide receiver Isaiah Williams for a 60-yard touchdown pass, which put the Illini up 7-0 early.

Michigan State responded with a 21-yard field goal from Ben Patton, making the score 7-3 late in the first quarter. After an Illinois punt, MSU would find the end zone. Thorne hit wide receiver Tre Mosley on a one-yard touchdown pass and the Spartans took a 9-7 lead after Patton missed the extra point.

The Spartans didn’t look back from there. In the third quarter, after a botched punt from Illinois that gave Michigan State great field position, running back Jarek Broussard took an 11-yard run into the end zone, extending MSU’s lead to 16-7.

On the Illini’s next possession, the Michigan State defense stopped Illinois on fourth down and immediately capitalized on the short field. Thorne connected with Jayden Reed on a 16-yard touchdown throw, extending the Spartans’ lead to 23-7.

Illinois drew closer early in the fourth quarter. DeVito found Williams once again in the end zone, and the Illini’s two-point conversion try was good, cutting Michigan State’s lead down to 23-15.

However, despite some questionable clock management late in the game by Michigan State, the Illini would not score again. Michigan State earned a hard-fought 23-15 victory on the road.

For more on the upset victory over Illinois, please read our full game recap and review the action in our Film Room.

Michigan 52, Rutgers 17

It was a tale of two halves for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights actually hung tough for the first two quarters against No. 5 Michigan, but the Wolverines dominated in the second half.

Michigan opened the game with a long touchdown drive, capped off by running back Blake Corum, to take an early 7-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, Rutgers made a big special teams play, blocking a punt that defensive back Timmy Ward returned for a touchdown. The game was then tied 7-7.

Michigan responded with another touchdown, as quarterback J.J. McCarthy ran into the end zone from one yard out. The Wolverines took a 14-7 lead.

In the second quarter, Rutgers added three points after a 32-yard field goal by kicker Jude McAtamney, which cut Michigan’s lead down to 14-10.

Later in the second quarter, quarterback Gavin Wimsatt hit wide receiver Sean Ryan on a three-yard touchdown pass. Rutgers took a 17-14 lead late in the first half, and went into halftime with the lead.

The second half was all Michigan, however. The Wolverines outscored the Scarlet Knights 38-0 in the final two quarters, including 28-0 in the third quarter alone.

In the third quarter, McCarthy threw touchdowns to running back Donovan Edwards and Cornelius Johnson, Corum scored another touchdown and Wimsatt threw a pick-six to linebacker Michael Barrett.

In the fourth quarter, kicker Jake Moody made a 29-yard field goal and Isaiah Gash scored a rushing touchdown. Michigan won by a final score of 52-17.

Key Matchups

Gavin Wimsatt/Rutgers’ quarterbacks vs. Michigan State: Michigan State has struggled to stop the pass for the majority of the season, but it’s clear the team has played much better in the past three games with Xavier Henderson back in the secondary and orchestrating the defense. However, Wimsatt, and every quarterback who has played for Rutgers this season, has struggled. This season, Wimsatt has completed just 43.5 percent of his passes, with two touchdowns compared to six interceptions. As a whole, Rutgers’ three quarterbacks have combined to complete just 51.2 percent of passes for only seven touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions. Meanwhile, Michigan State ranks 105th in the nation in pass defense (259.8 yards allowed per game). But in the three games since Henderson returned, the Spartans have allowed an average of just 195.3 passing yards per game in that span. Rutgers only averages 156 passing yards per game, which ranks 122nd out of 131 teams. MSU has to keep that trend up against a subpar quarterback.

Jalen Berger and Michigan State running backs/offensive line vs. Rutgers’ front seven: Rutgers is stout defensively, and is a tough team to run on. The Scarlet Knights rank in the top-45 nationally against the run, allowing just 127.4 yards per game. Meanwhile, Michigan State has struggled to run the ball this season, averaging just 99.1 yards per game (120th in the FBS). However, the Spartans found some success on the ground against Illinois’ No. 1 ranked defense and Berger ran for some tough yards. This should give Berger, Elijah Collins, Jarek Broussard and the MSU offensive line some confidence in the ground game moving forward, but the Scarlet Knights pose another tough test in the trenches.

Payton Thorne/Jayden Reed/Keon Coleman vs. Rutgers’ secondary: While Rutgers is stout against the run, the Scarlet Knights are strong against the pass as well. Rutgers allows just 183.1 passing yards per game, which ranks 22nd nationally. Michigan State’s offense comes into the contest averaging 233 passing yards per game (68th in the FBS). Rutgers has some impressive players in the secondary, including safety Avery Young, but if wide receivers Jayden Reed or Keon Coleman find themselves in one-on-one situations, Thorne needs to take advantage of that, as Coleman and Reed are strong bets to win those matchups more often than not.

Game Info

Time: Saturday, Nov. 12 at noon Eastern Time (kickoff scheduled for 12:01 p.m.)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Weather expectations: Cloudy, temperatures around 41 degrees at kickoff, winds blowing west/northwest at around 10 miles per hour
DraftKings Line: Michigan State -9.5


Both of these teams like to use similar “keep chopping” phrases to represent their respective programs. Michigan State is the more talented team here, but Rutgers is a gritty team with a stout defense that allows just 310.6 total yards per game (18th in the FBS). It is quite possible that the Michigan State offense has trouble moving the ball and scoring points in this game.

However, Rutgers is very poor offensively. Out of 131 qualifying FBS teams, the Scarlet Knights rank 125th in total offense (291.4 yards per game), 122nd in passing yards per game (156), 87th in rushing yards per game (135.4) and 114th in scoring offense (19.8 points per game). In all likelihood, Michigan State only needs to reach around 21 points to win this game.

Over the past few weeks, Michigan State has gotten healthier (although MSU is still dealing with some injuries and of course the suspensions), proper adjustments have been made (particularly on the defense side of the football by defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton), execution has been somewhat better and the Spartans will look to build off of the confidence from the win over Illinois.

However, while Rutgers will struggle to put up points, the Scarlet Knights’ defense will keep them in this game. Michigan State cannot take Rutgers lightly and suffer an upset at home. If the Spartans are focused, this could be a double-digit win.

For more analysis on Illinois, please read our “Get to Know the Opponent” article and our “5 Questions with On The Banks” conversation.


Which school wins this Big East matchup?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Michigan State
    (17 votes)
  • 10%
    (2 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now

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