Mirror images? Michigan State vs.Northwestern

"Our defense has to accept a challenge (of facing an extremely potent Northwestern team) and get the ball back for us." --MSU head coach John L. Smith

EAST LANSING - When #22 Michigan State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) faces off against unranked Northwestern (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) on Saturday, two of the highest scoring offenses in the Big Ten will be on display, as well as one of the top freshmen in the country this year in Wildcats running back Tyrell Sutton.

Matching up with the Wildcats can seem like a mirror of offenses between the two squads with both being spread offenses with several weapons downfield. The Wildcats are second to the Spartans in the Big Ten in pass offense with 318 yards a game. This game has all the makings of a shootout in East Lansing.

"Well we try to make it a one-sided shootout if we could," said head coach John L. Smith. "Our defense has to accept a challenge and get the ball back for us."

The major difference comes on the defensive side. Not only is Northwestern the worst defense in the Big Ten, but ranked 116 in the nation. This is a weakness that the Spartan offense, best in the Big Ten, should take full advantage of on Saturday.

"The fans like to see a high scoring game," said defensive end Michael Bazemore. "We're hoping for a very boring defensive game." In the past two games, the Spartan defense have played well in the first half but fallen flat in the second half. If they can play like they did in the first half at Ohio State, anything is possible.

"We only gave up the one big play and we were stopping the run and containing Troy Smith pretty well," said Bazemore.

Bazemore and the defense have a great task ahead of them in trying to stop a complete offense on both sides of the ball. Besides the downfield threat at the hands of Wildcat quarterback Brett Basanez, but true-freshman Tyrell Sutton has emerged as the second leading rusher in the Big Ten (861 yards, 12 touchdowns) as well as the second most rushing touchdowns.

"We want to make them one-dimensional and stop the run and get a pass rush to help out our DB's," said Bazemore. "I don't want them to score any touchdowns, realistically they may score a touchdown or two, we just have to go out there and make more big plays than they do."

The Wildcats feature two receivers, Shaun Herbert and Jonathan Fields, who average at least 5 receptions a game with Herbert averaging 72 yards a game through the air.

Spartan cornerback Jaren Hayes will be tested again for the third straight game as he will have to play big against the opponents top receiving threats. Hayes struggled last week, giving up a long touchdown to Buckeye Santonio Holmes late in the game last week.

It will also be interesting to see what John L. Smith does with his kicking game. John Goss remains the Spartans' kicker, despite having two very shaky games filled with missed and blocked kicks.

The problems with the kicking game as well as Northwestern's weak defense might influence Smith's decisions on fourth downs as far as going for a first down rather than kicking the ball.

With two losses in the Big Ten, the Spartans now focus on each game as a must win to even have some hope of a conference championship. With the high level of competition in the Big Ten this season, every game will be intense and maybe with some help from other teams, the Spartans can play somehow get back in the running for the title.

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