Spartans look to get back on track against well-rested Rutgers
Who: No. 4 Michigan State vs. Rutgers
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan State -13.5
Matchup to watch: Leonte Carroo vs. Michigan State secondary
I know Norries Wilson hasn’t said Carroo will be in action on Saturday. Based on the current state of Rutgers, I’m going to assume he is. Carroo might not be in mid-season form coming off a suspension, which is good news for a depleted Michigan State secondary. Arjen Colquhoun and Demetrious Cox will have the task of containing the B1G’s leading returning receiver. Not having R.J. Williamson over the top will hurt the Spartans. Carroo can burn the best defensive backs deep. With the limited downfield threats the Scarlet Knights have, the senior figures to be targeted early and often in this one.
Thing I’m excited to see: L.J. Scott’s continued emergence
Madre London can see the writing on the wall. His freshman understudy is emerging into the feature back the Spartans have been churning out in recent memory. I’m not willing to make the Le’Veon Bell comparison yet, but there is plenty to like about the way Scott runs. We saw that when he went off in the first half against Purdue last week for his first career 100-yard game. He can bust the big runs and still pick up the tough yardage because of how strong his lower half is. That’s a rare combination to have in the backfield, and Mark Dantonio knows it. He could be in line for another big day if the Spartans can get out to another early lead.
Number to remember: 9
Believe it or not, Rutgers is ninth in the country in third-down conversions. Josh Hicks is quietly having one of the better seasons for a B1G running back and Chris Laviano has completed 72 percent of his passes this year. For a depleted Michigan State defense, that’s not good. The Spartans’ defensive depth issues surfaced last week in a game in which the Purdue running game got better and better as the game went on. They have to do a better job of getting off the field. The likes of Shilique Calhoun and Riley Bullough have come up with their fair share of big stops, but MSU can’t afford to rely on sacks and turnovers to bail out the defense.
Prediction: Michigan State 35, Rutgers 17
Jack Conklin, Kodi Kieler and Josiah Price could all be back in action. The Spartans need them. Badly. Because of that increased protection, I think Scott and London both pace the offense. We still might not see Connor Cook throw 35 times. Against Rutgers, he shouldn’t need to. The Spartans have yet to cover a single spread, and I still don’t think this one is a complete rout. But unlike last week, MSU won’t leave the door open for a fourth-quarter miracle.