A look at this week’s opponent…
The Huskers come into the High Cathedral of the Spartan Nation: Spartan Stadium this week with a six and two record and a #21 national ranking. They are a solid team and they will be a tough opponent.
Last year the Spartans took their worst beating since the bowl game against Alabama. They lost 24-3 and Mark Dantonio knows that his Spartans haven’t lost the bitter taste from last year. He said, “I don’t know if it’s that so much as last year we didn’t play very well against them. That was probably the one game, especially in the Big Ten Conference, that we didn’t come and play as well as we had previously. I think our players want to atone for that a little bit. They look back at that game and say, We can do better.”
Michigan State has NEVER beaten Nebraska, going back as far as 1914. Dantonio admits that being the first Michigan State team to beat the Cornhuskers would be significant. He said of that challenge, “I think Bo Pelini does an outstanding job, he’s an outstanding coach. Again, I’ll go back to saying what I said before: We focus on the challenge of Nebraska, what it means to this football team at this point in time. Let other people worry about that other stuff. But our focus needs to be on how we played last year and then again on what this does for our football season right now. We’ve only got three losses. So who knows how things shape out. I should say we have three losses, not ‘only’.”
When MSU has the ball…
The Spartans’ last drive of regulation against Wisconsin and overtime gave the Spartan Nation hope; hope that the Spartans finally understand that they have to go on the attack to have success.
Earlier this week, Dantonio talked about how that ending can help this move forward this week offensively. He said, “I think, as I said after the game, hopefully this was a defining moment for us a little bit offensively and as a football team. We won a close game. That was important. We played very well offensively when the pressure was on. Pressure was always on, but when it was on at the end of the game, it was crunch time, we made the plays. Not only did the quarterback make the plays, but we ran the ball effectively in overtime. The wide receivers also made the plays. We did the things we had to do which I think should give us a huge boost of confidence and give us some momentum going into this football game. Every game is different. You have to rise to the occasion and get ready for this challenge.”
MSU can win this game. I was not confident prior to the last drive and of course the overtime last week. If they come out like they finished, I have no doubt that MSU wins this game.
The Nebraska defense is much better than the respect they are getting. They are very effective against the pro style offense. Their issues come with a running QB. I asked Andrew Maxwell this week if that means he has to be prepared to use his legs more, something that helped MSU win last week.
He agreed with me and said, “I remember sitting with Kirk last year before the Nebraska game. He was talking to me about the film. He says, The one thing they do give up is quarterback runs. They play a fair amount of man coverage. Anytime you do that, you’ll have guys on the second level running with receivers or tight ends. That opens up some doors, eyeballs that aren’t on you.
This could be a week where this week in practice I can continue to put an emphasis on that. If the situation presents itself, maybe I can capitalize on it in the game.”
The game plan when MSU has the ball is simple. Go on the attack. Play like they did to end the game last week and they will be fine. Do I think they score 50? No, but with their D they don’t have to.
When MSU is on defense…
Dantonio’s defense is stellar. DC Pat Narduzzi is a star and this side of the ball is ready for a fight. I took a ton of grief for calling Taylor Martinez my first team all Big Ten QB prior to the year. He is making me look smart.
Dantonio raved about the play of Martinez saying, “He’s been under center there for quite some time now. He’s just a guy, if it’s not there, he can pull it down, make a play. Their design quarterback runs for him to make a play. On the edge, can make a play. Has a quick release down the field. Great receivers to throw to as well. Big‑play type guys. A lot of things they’ve designed, their philosophy offensively, is to create situations for the quarterback. When you can run the ball, Burkhead, Abdullah, and No.5 Heard is an excellent player, gives you a chance to run the football, creates other dynamics of an offense that can be used as well, such as quarterback runs, boots, things of that nature.”
MSU has to load the box to stop the run and each time that Martinez goes back to pass he has to get pressure. If you only stop the run Nebraska wins. Martinez will sit back, move around, and pick you apart if he has time. You must force him to make snap decisions. That is where he makes the mistakes that win football games.
The Spartans have proven they can stop the run, they have not proven this year that they can get pressure. If they do, they win. This is in my opinion the best offense the Spartans have faced. The offense can play better and still lose this game. Pressure is the key.
The fans are the intangible. Nebraska came in here and owned Spartan Stadium in 1995. It was ugly with 50% of Spartan Stadium wearing red. Tickets for this game are being sold on the internet for as little as $5.
If the Nebraska fans show up and make this a road game for MSU I think this game will be so close that Nebraska wins. For the first time that I can ever remember, I am calling out the fans from both schools as the ones that hold the ever powerful intangible card in their hand.
Prior to the last drive of regulation last week and overtime I didn’t think MSU could win this game. Now I do because of talent, but because of stubbornness. They showed last week that they had to go attack and win something and that they were willing to do it.
I expect MSU to come out on the attack this week. I have faith that the Spartan Nation will show up, even though they have not proven it to me yet. I also know that Bo Pelini, the Nebraska coach, is at one of the best programs in the nation, but he is not a good coach in my opinion. I think he makes a mistake when frustrated and the Spartans come out on the attack.
Make it 17-16 with a last second FG kick by Dan Conroy!