Michigan State Spartans (5-6, 2-5 in Big Ten) vs. University of Minnesota Gophers (6-5, 2-5 in Big Ten), Saturday November 24th, 2012 at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Game time 3:30p.m. on Big Ten Network
At stake: Six Years in a Row of Bowl Eligibility for M.S.U.
At the beginning of this year, not many thought Michigan State would still be fighting to become bowl eligible in late November. However, after playing 11 games and losing five by a combined total of 13 points, M.S.U. must win Saturday afternoons contest against the lowly Minnesota Gophers to qualify for a postseason outing. Perhaps more important symbolically for this program, a win would keep alive Coach Dantonio’s streak of leading M.S.U. to a bowl appearance every year since his arrival in 2007. If the postseason tradition is to continue M.S.U.’s woeful red zone offense must improve.
As if having the 9th ranked offense in the Big Ten wasn’t bad enough, the Spartans are 8th worst when cashing in on opportunities inside the 20. Nowhere was their red zone ineptitude more biting then in last week’s loss to the Wildcats of Northwestern. M.S.U. twice failed to score any points at all, let alone a touchdown when they had the ball marked at the two and one yard lines. Incompetence like that, led to a three point lose that could have easily been a double digit victory. Whether it’s a lack of execution, play calling or simply not focusing, the Spartans need to put points on the board when they have the chance, otherwise a very commendable streak may come to an end.
While M.S.U. has its own issues on offense, they pale in comparison to the Gophers trials. Minnesota has the worst passing offense in the Big Ten and it won’t be getting any better tomorrow. The Gophers will start a true Freshman QB from Mankato, MN, Philip Nelson. Besides being young and unseasoned, Nelson will also be without the team’s leading receiver A.J. Barker who as of yesterday left the team due to what he describes as “mistreatment” by Gophers head Coach Jerry Kill over his rehab of a high ankle sprain he suffered against Purdue on October 27th. All this makes for a perfect storm that Sparty should turn into their best defensive outing in the Big Ten this year.
If M.S.U. were to lose tomorrow, it could be a big blow to a program that has worked so hard to turn around its image the last two years. To go from a Big Ten Co-Championship in 2010 and the inaugural Legends Division Title in 2011, to not qualifying for a bowl game in 2012 could not only do damage to the teams psyche coming back next year but may also hurt efforts on the all-important recruiting trail. For those reasons alone I expect Coach Dantonio will have this team firing on all cylinders tomorrow.
Bowl Bound Spartans: 28 Best Dam Hockey School in America: 10
About the Author
Written by Andre' Wiegand
A life long Michigan State University Spartan fan! My grandfather played on the Spartan O-Line back in 1951 and my family has been Spartan fans since. 1999 M.S.U. graduate (JMC). Currently live in Grand Rapids, MI with my wife and two sons.