ES Game Day: Spartans to shutout surprising Gophers The Enlightened Spartan: ES Game Day: Spartans to shutout surprising Gophers

Friday, November 29, 2013

ES Game Day: Spartans to shutout surprising Gophers

#11/11 Michigan State Spartans (10-1, 7-0) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-3, 4-3)
Time:  12 pm ET
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Weather:  35 and cloudy,  13 mph winds
Line: MSU by 17

  • The ES has scoured the internet for the past two days, and cannot find one single prediction from the state of Minnesota on the Gophers vs Spartans football game.  How pathetic for the Land 'O Lakes.  
  • Merriman, MSU 34-10; Bardo, MIN 21-20; Dienhart, MSU 37-3; Yarina, MSU 24-7
  • CFN/  MSU 27-10
  • Detroit News: Charboneau, MSU 31-10; Niyo,  MSU 27-10; Wojo, MSU 27-10
  • ESPN:  Rittenberg, MSU 24-10; Bennett: MSU 17-6
  • MLive: MSU 20-6
  • and Prediction Tracker:  MSU will win by 15.5
  • all six pick MSU
  • MSU, 24-6
  • The Detroit Sports Site: MSU 30-10
  •  Feldman:  MSU 17-3; five of six pick MSU
  • Athlon:  Gall, MSU 34-13; Light, MSU 30-13; Lassan, MSU 31-13; Fox, MSU 38-10
ES sez:

What A Great Dayyy Forrr Footballlll!!!!  It will be a cold affair, but some sun will show up to help bring the temps to just above freezing.

This is one of the more interesting games of the season.  Minnesota's 8-3 record is among the greatest surprises in college football.  But, let's look more closely at common opponents... which the performance clearly favors the Spartans.  Minny's season was headlined with a 34-23 win at Nebraska.  But, the 'Huskers were whipped by Iowa today (we whipped both the Corn, 41-28, and Iowa, 23-7, on the road).  The Gophers slipped past Northwestern by 3 (who we killed in Chicago by 25 points), and snaked past Indiana by 3 (who we also hammered by 17 pts).   And, of course, the big difference - Minny lost to Michigan by 29 points; we absolutely annihilated the Wolverines by 23.  

Minny off vs Spartan def:  Minnesota's offense has quietly performed very well on the ground, with David Cobb running for more than 1,000 yards so far; but, his most recent peformance of 17 carries for 68 yards vs Wisconsin in more likely to be similar to what he will expect at Michigan State and the nations' best rush defense giving up just 59.4 yards per game.  Minnesota will likely be forced into a pass game, which is already ranked just #116 in the nation at 154 yards per game.

QB Phillip Nelson has a 9 TD vs 4 INT ratio, and completing 53% of his passes.   The Spartans are giving up just 177 yards per game, ranked #9 in the nation.  The Big Green has the best secondary in the land with Darqueze Dennard (4 INT, 7 PBUs), Kurtis Drummond (4 INTs, 5 PBUs), Trae Waynes (5 PBUs).  To boot, the Spartans' sport a nice pass rush with Denicos Allen, Shalique Calhoun, and Marcus Rush adding to 25 sacks.

Spartan off vs Minny def: The Gopher defense is giving up a reasonable 376 yards per game, ranked #46 in the nation. They are giving up 150 yards on the ground per game, and another 220 through the air per game.  These are respectable against respectable opponents. But, Minnesota's defense doesn't seem to work well against tough, grinding teams like Michigan State, with tough defenses.  Let's look at a comparable opponent to Michigan State on the road - such as last week's Gopher stint at Wisconsin:

1st Downs1811
Total Yards324185
3rd Down Conversions4-163-13
4th Down Conversions1-21-3
Minny couldn't get over the hump; just 185 total yards, and just 82 through the air.  More importantly: three stats stand out.  3-13 third downs (23%), an 11-minute TOP advantage to Wisky, and a 3-1 turnover advantage to Wisky.  This means that Wisconsin controlled the game on both sides of the ball, including on offense.

To that end, I see a similar effort out of Michigan State and the Spartans' ability to run the ball with success. To add to Spartan RB Jeremy Langford's 1,000 yard season, Michigan State is surging with its pass game, averaging 199 yards per game, but coming off a career-best 293 yards out of QB Connor Cook in a frozen, windy tundra at Northwestern.  If anything, MSU has turned out to have the most balanced offense, with the least mistakes, of any in the Big Ten conference.  Give Spartan receivers credit for making big plays in recent weeks:

at Northwestern -  (rec, yds, TD, long)
Lippett, Tony           3   64    0   48
Price, Josiah           3   35    1   15
Fowler, Bennie          2   99    1   87

at Nebraska -
Lippett, Tony           4   67    0   34
Kings, M.               3   37    0   17
Fowler, Bennie          2   29    0   16
Mumphery, Keith         1   27    1   27

vs Michigan -
Fowler, Bennie          6   75    1   25
Lippett, Tony           5   62    0   21
Kings, M.               2   14    0   10

And, in seven games of Big Ten play, Connor Cook is an impressive, 61% completion percentage (124 of 203), with 11 TDs, 3 INTs, 1,565 yards.  Wow. 

Special teams:  Minny's kicker Chris Hawthorne has hit on 12 of 15 FGs, 4-of-5 from 40-49, but 0-fer-2 from 50 out.  Their punter, Peter Mortell, has kicked 17 of 51 inside the 20, with a long of 62 yards. Our kicker, Michael Geiger, has hit 12 of 13 FGs, including 6-of-6 from beyond 40.  Sparty's Mike Sadler  should win the award for the best punter in the nation. 27 of his 59 kicks have been placed inside the 20, with a long of 69.  A big time advantage to the Spartans here

History: Since the Doctor showed up, the Spartans have handled the Gophers pretty well. MD has a 3-1 record, including the last three: 31-8 and 31-24 wins at home, and a 26-10 win in Minneapolis last year. The ES hates most of the teams in the Big Ten, but it is tough to dislike the ultimate underdog, of which the Gophers rank near the top because of their disgusting play on the gridiron for most of the last 70 years.  The ES is really rooting for Jerry Kill and his staff; Kill's continued seizures, and how his staff has overcome the situation has been truly inspirational. Further, coaching way the hell up where Bud Grant used to coach, and in an outdoor stadium, is an endorsement of the thick-skinned nature of football.

Final:  ES sez, it is senior day, and watch Max Bullough go out playing ape-shit.  Michigan State 22, Minnesota 0.

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