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Game Preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Michigan State Spartans

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans host the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend to open Big Ten play for the 2022 season. The game on Saturday is set for at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time kickoff and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.

Michigan State is looking to bounce back after a 39-28 loss on the road at Washington. MSU is back at Spartan Stadium this week, and has won eight games in a row at home. However, the Spartans enter the matchup with the Golden Gophers as a 2.5-point underdog, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook.

Michigan State has defeated Minnesota in each of the last five meetings dating back to 2010, but — despite playing in the same conference — this is the first matchup between the cross-divisional foes since 2017.

Minnesota enters the weekend with a 3-0 record and some impressive statistics, but has played a rather weak schedule thus far (New Mexico State, Western Illinois and Colorado). Michigan State comes into the contest with a 2-1 record. Let’s preview the matchup.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2022 Record — 2-1 (0-0 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 430.3 total yards, 264 passing yards, 166.3 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 354.03 total yards allowed, 264.33 passing yards allowed, 89.7 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 115 (38.33 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 52 (17.33 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 24th

2022 Record — 3-0 (0-0 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 554.7 total yards, 242 passing yards, 312.7 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 170.37 yards allowed, 100.67 passing yards allowed, 69.7 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 149 (49.67 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 17 (5.67 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 16th

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 30-17
Current streak: Michigan State has won five games in a row
Last Michigan State win: Oct. 14, 2017 (30-27)
Last Minnesota win: Oct. 31, 2009 (42-34)
Michigan State all-time record: 723-473-44 (.601)
Minnesota all-time record: 721-532-44 (.573)

Uniform Watch:

Michigan State:

All green everything — green helmets with a white stripe down the middle and white Spartan head on each side, green jerseys with white lettering and numbering, and green pants.

A closer look:


No word on Minnesota’s uniforms as of press time, but I would expect white jerseys with gold and maroon accents.

Previous Game Results

Washington 39, Michigan State 28

This game against Washington was always going to be the test for Michigan State to see where it stands in 2022. The Spartans failed that test.

Michigan State was dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and its secondary resembled the porous 2021 defensive backfield, or possibly looked even worse, giving up 397 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air. Washington led from wire to wire.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. found Ja’Lynn Polk for an eight-yard touchdown early, and the Huskies took a 7-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, following a goal-line stand from Michigan State’s defense, MSU running back Jarek Broussard slipped in the end zone to give up a safety. Following the free kick after the safety, Washington would extend its lead to 16-0 when Cameron Davis scored to begin the second quarter.

Washington would strike again later in the second quarter, as Penix found Wayne Taulapapa for a 19-yard touchdown. The Huskies then led 22-0.

Michigan State finally got on the board when quarterback Payton Thorne connected with Keon Coleman for a touchdown and two-point conversion. However, with just 1:30 on the clock before the break, Washington scored again, as Penix connected with Polk for a second time in the end zone. The Huskies led the Spartans 29-8 at halftime.

MSU would open the third quarter with a 26-yard touchdown from Thorne to Tre Mosley on fourth down, but missed the two-point conversion. The Huskies led 29-14 at that point.

Washington immediately answered on a 53-yard score from Penix to Polk, and the Huskies extended the lead to 36-14.

In the fourth quarter, Washington’s Peyton Henry added a field goal, and Michigan State scored two touchdowns (one from running back Elijah Collins, and one from Thorne to Coleman again). MSU failed on a two-point conversion after the first score, but got the two points after Coleman’s touchdown.

Washington earned a 39-28 victory.

For more on Michigan State’s loss to Washington, read our full game recap.

Minnesota 49, Colorado 7

Minnesota played Pac-12 basement-dweller Colorado and dominated. The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter, thanks to a pair of touchdowns from running back Mohamed Ibrahim.

Ibrahim scored another touchdown in the second quarter, while quarterback Tanner Morgan thew touchdown passes to Chris Autman-Bell and Dylan Wright. Minnesota took a commanding 35-0 lead into halftime.

Morgan would find Clay Geary for another touchdown in the third quarter, and the Gophers lead 42-0. Then, to begin the fourth quarter, Bryce Williams rushed in a 22-yard touchdown to extend Minnesota’s lead to 49-0.

Colorado would finally get on the board in the fourth quarter when quarterback J.T. Shrout hit Austin Smith for a four-yard touchdown.

Minnesota blew out Colorado by a final score of 49-7, holding the Buffaloes to just 226 total yards, including a mere 90 passing yards.

Key Matchups

Mohamed Ibrahim/Minnesota offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive front: This is a strength on strength matchup here. Minnesota enters Saturday’s game with the second-best rushing attack in the country at 312.7 yards per game. Ibrahim also ranks second in FBS, averaging 154.7 rushing yards per game. These are really impressive numbers, albeit against weak competition. Meanwhile, the Michigan State defense allows just 89.7 rushing yards per game (26th in FBS) and 2.69 yards per carry (18th in FBS). Despite an inability to defend the pass, Michigan State remains stout against the run, which bodes well against a team like Minnesota that likes to rush the ball. However, Ibrahim is going to be difficult to stop.

Tanner Morgan/Minnesota wide receivers vs. Michigan State secondary: Minnesota’s passing attack is not Washington’s. Nobody is going to mistake Tanner Morgan for Michael Penix Jr., as the Gophers average a modest 242 yards per game (77th in FBS, despite the weak competition). However, Morgan is a good game manager who is efficient and plays well within offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s system. Morgan will be without his top target in wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell. The Spartans will already have a tough task of slowing down Ibrahim, so Michigan State absolutely cannot allow Morgan to pick apart its secondary as so many quarterbacks have done recently. If the Spartans can make the Gophers one-dimensional, and not let Ibrahim completely take over on the ground, then MSU will be set up to win. If both the rushing and passing attacks are clicking for Minnesota, the Spartans are in for another long day.

Jayden Reed/Keon Coleman versus Terrell Smith/Minnesota secondary: Reed’s status is still up in the air for this game, but if he plays, he will immediately operate as Michigan State’s No. 1 wide receiver. However, with Reed out last week, Coleman shined and proved he can step up when called upon. Reed (if healthy) and Coleman will likely have some matchups with Smith, who is the highest-graded cornerback in the Power Five, according to Pro Football Focus. Smith excels in man coverage, so he would be more than up to the task of taking on Reed or Coleman one-on-one. Minnesota’s defensive strength as a whole is with its secondary, but the Gophers have not seen a team with a set of receivers quite like Michigan State (don’t forget Tre Mosley and Germie Bernard, among others) in 2022.

Game Info

Time: Saturday, Sept. 24, 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time (kickoff scheduled for 3:40 p.m.)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Weather expectations: Cloudy with temperatures around 63 degrees at kickoff, and winds blowing south/southwest at around eight miles per hour
DraftKings Line: Michigan State +2.5


Let’s talk about injuries. As mentioned, Minnesota will be without its top wide receiver, as Chris Autman-Bell will miss the remainder of the season with a lower leg injury. Meanwhile for Michigan State, which has already lost linebacker Darius Snow for the season, it will be interesting to see if wide receiver Jayden Reed and defensive tackle Jacob Slade return this week after missing the game at Washington. Also, safety and team leader Xavier Henderson has been out since the Western Michigan game, and his timetable for a return remains unclear. Certainly there are other injuries for each team, too.

Minnesota enters this game with some impressive statistics. The Gophers have outscored opponents 149-17 and are averaging over 554 yards per game of total offense, led by the rushing attack. Defensively, Minnesota is allowing just 170.37 total yard per game, including just 100.67 passing yards per contest. However, take these numbers with a grain of salt due to the low competition level. Michigan State is Minnesota’s first true test.

Michigan State will be looking to bounce back at home, and has played well at Spartan Stadium under Mel Tucker. Michigan State has also rebounded nicely following a loss during Tucker’s tenure. The Spartans also match-up well with the Gophers’ play style, as Minnesota wants to run the ball as often as possible.

I think this will be a close game, but I could see Michigan State getting the hard-earned victory and opening Big Ten play at 1-0.

For more on Minnesota, please read our “Get to Know the Opponent” piece and our “5 Questions with The Daily Gopher” article.


Which school wins the Big Ten Opener?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Michigan State
    (67 votes)
  • 36%
    (39 votes)
106 votes total Vote Now

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