Michigan State hoping to avoid letdown against desperate Nebraska
Who: No. 7 Michigan State vs. Nebraska
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
Spread: Michigan State -5.5
Matchup to watch: Maliek Collins vs. Jack Allen
The All-American center is back. Michigan State’s offensive line leader will return to the team after he injured his ankle against Rutgers on Oct. 10. That’s huge for MSU. Against arguably the most talented defensive tackle in the B1G, he’ll be needed. Collins is capable of wreaking havoc on the running and passing game against just about anyone. If Allen has a little rust, Collins is more than capable of exploiting it. Lucky for Allen, he’ll have help. It’s also going to be the first time since the Oregon game in Week 2 that MSU will have its original offensive line. Ultimately, that could allow MSU to dominate in the trenches.
Thing I’m excited to see: Connor Cook vs. Nebraska’s “pass defense”
The Michigan State senior quarterback has earned everything he’s gotten this year. Having said that, he’s been blessed with some dismal pass defenses to operate against. Nebraska is the fourth worst pass defense in the country. Two of the three teams below the Huskers are Oregon and Indiana, both of whom Cook already diced up this year. Nebraska had no answer for Purdue redshirt freshman David Blough. What makes anyone think that they’ll string consecutive stops together against the nation’s winningest quarterback? Even Mitch Leidner broke the 300-yard mark against Nebraska. All signs point to Cook going off like he did against Indiana.
Number to remember: 7
This is about as obvious a number as I’ll ever include in this category. Nebraska is trying to avoid that dreaded seventh loss. It would be the second time since 1959 that the Huskers reached that mark. It’s crazy to think that Nebraska needs to take down two top-10 opponents just to gain bowl eligibility. Still, you never know how a desperate, angry team is going to come out. Perhaps that’s why Vegas is only giving the Huskers 5.5 points. Tommy Armstrong and Terrell Newby will likely be back for this one, which obviously helps Nebraska’s chances. Still, the question will be whether or not Nebraska can sustain an “us-against-the-world” effort for four quarters.
Prediction: Michigan State 42, Nebraska 28
It’s hard to even say what an upset would mean for Nebraska fans. Would beating MSU finally earn Mike Riley some credibility in Lincoln? After all, Bo Pelini never beat a top-10 B1G team. He also never missed a bowl game. If MSU was still beat up on the offensive line, maybe I’d be tempted to predict the upset. But I just don’t see the Spartans stubbing their toes against a far lesser Nebraska team. The College Football Playoff dream stays alive for MSU and the non-bowl nightmare becomes a reality in Lincoln.