I'm well aware that the reason NU lost against Purdue was because I couldn't unearth any rap lyrics about Purdue. Well, nobody's ever made a rap about Michigan State neither, but sometimes in life you gotta improvise. Luckily for me, Lil Wayne goes hard like those boys from 300 - presumably referring to the Persians, the eventual victors of the Battle of Thermopylae. I think tomorrow's game will also be much like the movie "300", specifically the parts where Xerxes has a goat-person inside his tent and the part where the old deformed leper priests sexually abuse the oracle that's supposed to tell them whether or not to go to war. Those are the two most quotable parts of the movie, in my honest opinion.
(Other quotable option: "I keep this sh*t 300, I put that sh*t on my hood" - Waka Flocka. Unfortunately, like most Waka Flocka lyrics, it makes no sense, and is overshadowed by the fact that in the background Flocka is yelling "FLOCKA! BOW BOW BOW BOW BOW BOW" because that's all he does and I don't know why he's famous, so I opted for Weezy.)
Onto the game stuff!
When we got the ball: You say Dan Persa is our best offensive option? I say Michigan State has one of the best pass defenses in the Big Ten - they've picked off 12 passes, good for fourth-best in the nation. Call me crazy - and admittedly, I'm crazy - but for NU to win tomorrow, their offense will have to be more than the Dan Persa show. NU will have to have a limited - but effective - running game. I'm talking 25 carries by running backs for 110 yards or more. Michigan State's defense will be absolutely cued in on every move Dan Persa makes. They'll also be prepared to stop Jacob Schmidt's dives up the middle with little or no blocking. Get inventive with the run game. Run more options, maybe an end-around that doesn't end in a fumble. The pass:run ratio still should be more slanted towards the pass than in recent weeks - I'm just hoping that extra passing opens up a little bit extra room for our backs and makes the long-missing run game somewhat relevant for just one week.
Semi-under-the-radar player to watch: Mike Trumpy. Trumpy was awol against Purdue - nine rushes for 23 carries. Thus far, I think he's the best running back NU has had this season - backhanded compliment, y'all! But all things aside, NU might need him for the W.
When they got the ball: Michigan State has one weakness: they give up a lot of sacks. Not as many as Northwestern, but, still, a lot of sacks. For the Cats to win, this is what they'll have to exploit: Kirk Cousins is immobile but very accurate. A strong pass rush from the front four is pivotal to NU's hopes of victory - provided that a few extra blitzers doesn't mean Justan Vaughn will be allowing 80-yard touchdown passes.
Semi-under-the-radar player to watch: Nate Williams. Michigan State has a preposterously disturbing running game. I'm not expecting NU to stop it. I know NU's run defense too well for that. But if Nate Williams steps up and just slows down guys - not even tackles, just slows them down - three yards past the line of scrimmage, NU will be greatly benefited. Against Purdue and Minnesota, it took five or six yards for a linebacker to even get to the running back on most plays, let alone bring them down. Run defense is a major concern against a team that generally runs wild - it's on our linebacking corps to close up the holes that open up.
Spread: MSU - 6. Quite frankly, this is a little surprising - it was MSU -5 until Thursday. Normally, Vegas gives the team NU is playing against five more points than they deserve, hear, an outmatched NU team is going up against the No. 7 team in the nation, and... -6? That seems a little... conservative, to me.
My pick vs. the spread: Michigan State. COUGHCOUGHCOUGHJINX
My pick in April and jokey five-word summary: MSU, "THIS IS BADNESS!" the pun being based on when that guy got kicked into Sparta's signature bottomless pit in the movie "300". And the substituted "badness" for "madness" because losing is bad.
And my pick today...
Michigan State, 35, Northwestern, 24. These were the numbers I pulled out of my ass on The Only Colors podcast, and I'm sticking to them: NU has the offensive firepower to put up points against Michigan State, but, probably won't be able to stop anything whatsoever, because MSU's offense is just too great and multifaceted.