2011 Michigan State Spartans Football

 
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Michigan State vs Minnesota Football Preview

 

 

This weekend in East Lansing, Michigan, the college football world will find out if one week's events were isolated instances or the harbingers of continued patterns. Just when you thought it was completely safe to write off the Minnesota Golden Gophers and heap hosannas on the Michigan State Spartans, the two teams put on different masks in week nine of the college football season. As they prepare for a week 10 meeting, a little intrigue has actually entered the conversation surrounding this clash.

Michigan State merchandiseYes, after a 24-3 drubbing by Nebraska in Lincoln last week, the Michigan State Spartans will return home to East Lansing on Saturday to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan State (6-2) was held to 187 yards of total offense against the Cornhuskers. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for just 86 yards in a miserable performance that marked the low point of his senior season. The previous week, Michigan State had handed Wisconsin its first loss of the season on Cousins’ Hail Mary pass to Keith Nichol. Michigan State has been known to play sky-high one week and then crash to earth the next. Sparty can still achieve great things this season, but it's clear that head coach Mark Dantonio's club has not matched the standard set by the 2010 team, which went 11-1 in the regular season and claimed a share of the title in a Big Ten Conference that is far more robust, contentious, and just plain credentialed than this year's football version of the league.

Minnesota (2-6) was supposed to provide a respite for Michigan State, whose October schedule featured matchups with Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. However, Minnesota won its first conference game of the season last week, shocking Iowa 22-21 and capturing the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy. The Gophers fought back from a 21-10 fourth quarter deficit, taking the lead with 2:48 to play on a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback MarQueis Gray. Duane Bennett rushed for 101 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to power Minnesota to its biggest moment of the season to date.

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Minnesota ranks 112th nationally in scoring offense. The Gophers had been outscored by an average margin of 38 points in their first three Big Ten games. The win over Iowa was clearly the first significant victory of the Jerry Kill era. It also injects some freshness into this matchup, which smelled like a total beatdown before the Iowa win. It could still be a slaughter in East Lansing, but now Minnesota at least owns a puncher's chance.

Michigan State continues to boast one of the nation’s top defenses. Despite giving up 55 points in the past two weeks, the Spartans still rank seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing 15 points per game. The Spartans held Nebraska to 270 yards last week, but allowed Huskers tailback Rex Burkhead to run for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

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