Michigan State (5-6) at Minnesota (6-5) (3:30 p.m. ET, on BTN)
Line: Michigan State -8 (Bovada)
Last Meeting: 2011 (Michigan State 31-24)
3 Players to Watch:
1) Le’Veon Bell (HB, MSU):Bell is currently 7th on the MSU all-time rushing list with 2,935 career yards, and could catch Lorenzo White (4,513) if he returns for his senior season. Much speculation surrounds Bell’s decision, but I do know that graduating is very important to Le’Veon and may play a role in his choice to go to the NFL. Bell is the 2nd leading rusher in the B1G with 1,382 yards trailing Montee Ball by only 35 yards. I expect Le’Veon to have a huge day on the road against a Minnesota team ranked 70th in rushing defense which has been allowing 159 rushing yards per game. Even with a banged up offensive line the Spartans should be able to move the ball on the ground, if the Gophers are able to slow the MSU rushing attack they may prevent Mark Dantonio’s team from making their 6th straight bowl game.
2) Philip Nelson (QB, Minn):No one expected the True Freshman quarterback to be playing for the Gophers this season, as it was supposed to be MarQueis Gray’s year. Gray was injured early on and has been moved back to wide receiver. Nelson came in as an under-the-radar pro-style quarterback who looks to have a bright future for the Gophers. He struggled last week against Nebraska completing only 8 of 23 passes for 59 yards and 2 interceptions. He must bounce back (a tough thing for a young QB to do) if Minnesota hopes to prevent the Spartans from bowling.
3) Dion Sims (TE, MSU):This may be Dion’s last game as a Spartan if MSU cannot find a way to win this Saturday. Sims is projected as one of the top Tight End prospects in the nation, and in my opinion the most likely to leave MSU early for the NFL. He is the Spartan’s 2nd leading receiver with 32 receptions for 447 yards and 2 touchdowns despite missing nearly 3 games. Sims had a great game last week snagging 5 balls for 102 yards; look for him to build off that this game. Dion must be productive for the Spartans to win this weekend, and I expect him to grab a red-zone touchdown.
Mark Dantonio felt pretty confident in this week’s presser practically guaranteeing a victory this weekend. The Spartans would look pretty dumb if they are unable to follow through with their coaches comments, and as I mentioned in my weekly article I believe the guarantee came a bit too late. Yes, the extra 15 practices a bowl game allows are EXTREMELY important for next season and without them the team loses out on a lot, but no guarantee was needed. The cons surely outweigh the pros in this situation, and give the Gophers unneeded motivation.
Minnesota is already bowl eligible, but one win did come against FCS opponent New Hampshire. If the Gophers lose this weekend that win could end up hurting their bowl chances, though most expect them to be bowling even with a loss this weekend. The Gophers and Spartans are both coming off of losses, hoping to prevent a losing streak and both teams have something to play for here. It would not surprise me to see the Gophers taking the early lead, leaving the Spartans to fight their way back into the game.
This is a must win for Michigan State, and the 15 extra practices are extremely important for the progression of players for next season. Minnesota players are surely aware of Mark Dantonio’s comments and will be looking to prevent the MSU from bowling. Michigan State may need to comeback in this game (what else is new) but I expect them to get that 6th win. Though the way things have gone this year for MSU nothing would surprise me.
My pick: Michigan State 35, Minnesota 24
Rest of Staff’s Picks:
Andy: Michigan State 30, Minnesota 24