PREVIEW: MICHIGAN STATE AT MINNESOTA

After a disappointing performance against Purdue last week, the Spartans find themselves in familiar territory at the helm of John L. Smith once again. They look to salvage a season which they started 4-0 and have now gone 1-4 since.

What: Michigan State (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) at Minnesota (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
Where: H.H.H. Metrodome (64,172), Minneapolis, Minnesota
Last Meeting: MSU 51, Minnesota 17 (Oct 16, 2004)
All-Time: MSU leads 25-14 (Michigan State has won 2 straight)
In Minneapolis: MSU leads 11-9
Injuries: MICHIGAN STATE- WR Kyle Brown (ankle)-should start, OT Stefon Wheeler (ankle)-should start, DT David Stanton (shoulder)-should dress but playing time is questionable MINNESOTA- RB Laurence Maroney (ankle)-will play but is not 100 %,

East Lansing - Coach John L. Smith desperately wants to see some emotion out of his players as they head to play in the always loud Metrodome in Minneapolis.

After a disappointing performance against Purdue last week, the Spartans find themselves in familiar territory at the helm of John L. Smith once again. They look to salvage a season which they started 4-0 and have now gone 1-4 since that time.

The Spartans once again look to notch a sixth victory on the season that will make them bowl eligible, but Smith doesn't like the talk about a bowl game. He believes that it's important for his team to execute and play well throughout the entire 12-game season.

"It just bothers me when I hear us going out the door to play the game, to walk on the field, to, ‘Let's go get a bowl game,"' Smith said.

"That, to me, is not the right reason to be playing the game. The other things will take care of themselves. Rewards and awards will take care of themselves if we play for each other and have fun."

The Spartans need to get their priorities straight because there is an awfully dangerous Gopher team waiting to pounce on any sign of weakness.

To speak about the Gophers is to speak of their running game, and to speak of the Gopher running game is to speak about Laurence Maroney. Maroney, a Maxwell Award finalist for the nation's top collegiate athlete, is one of the best and most complete running backs in the country, making him the primary focus this week for the Spartan defense.

Laurence Maroney/Gopher ground attack vs. Spartan defense: Minnesota is second behind Michigan State in total offense and leads the Big Ten in rushing offense with over 2600 yards with 28 touchdowns.

"We have awful good lineman and we have really fine running backs. Again, I think the scheme is good, but our guys work really hard at it," said Minnesota head coach Glen Mason.

Maroney has 1394 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season and when he's on the sidelines getting a breather, it's backup running back Gary Russell carrying the ground load, amassing 883 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Russell is hardly a backup as he is nearing 1000 yards rushing on the season, marking the third consecutive season that the Gophers have had two backs with over 1000 yards on the ground.

"They're going to come out and line up in two-tight and they're going to run the football first and throw down the field second and they run a lot of play-action and boot package off of that," said Smith.

Michigan State offense: The high-powered Michigan State offense has shown to have some oil leaks in it from time to time. They did not score in the second half against a Boilermakers defense that was one of the worst in the nation. They also only managed 14 points against a Northwestern defense that is also one of the nation's worst.

Drew Stanton has been pretty consistent this season but has com up short a few times in the closing seconds of games, getting intercepted on the offenses last second drive against Purdue. The success of the offense and of the team rides on whether the offense can put the ball in the end zone and Michigan State has struggled to do that lately, especially in the second half of games.

Pick: By looking at both teams it is obvious that Michigan State desperately needs a win, while Minnesota looks to improve their bowl status. Minnesota is a complete team and will have success against the Spartan defense. Even if the Spartans have early success at stopping the run, Minnesota can either continue to bore you with the run until they break one or pass it to a variety of options at receiver.

Michigan State always has the potential to wake up and show how they can really play when they are at full throttle. They will make the game close if not pull it out from the Gophers grip.

Minnesota 35-Michigan State 31


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