EAST LANSING - Don't be fooled by Northwestern's closer than expected loss to Michigan, the statistics say that Northwestern is a one-dimensional football team and that if State can contain the Wildcats passing game, they should win easily.
Inside the Numbers reveals that Northwestern is one of the nation's worst rushing teams and isn't that much better throwing it. Northwestern (rank 23rd in nation in passing offense) was able to get ahead of the Wolverines based on UM's inability to defend any spread offense.
While defensively, the Wildcats are stout, offensively, they don't show much of a threat.
NU's junior quarterback C.J. Bacher sports a decent 109.1 passer rating, but that is much lower than that of MSU's Brian Hoyer's 144.3.
While Hoyer has completed 58.2% of his passes and thrown nine TD passes against just three picks, (and has a better passer rating than some more hyped signal callers such as Nebraska's Sam Keller, USC's John David Booty, Cal's Nate Longshore and Tennessee's Erik Ainge) Bacher has shown the propensity to turn over the football, completing 56.6% of his passes, but throwing just four TDs vs. seven interceptions.
When rushing the football, the Wildcats rank 81st in the nation (led by Brandon Roberson's paltry 54.4 yards per game), rushing for just 126.6 yards per game, while the Spartans run it with the nation's best (20th) piling up 208.8 yards per contest.
Defensively against the run is where the Wildcats have been able to stay respectable. Northwestern is a very sturdy 49th in rushing defense (led by senior linebacker Adam Kadela tied for 39 in the nation in tackles), allowing just 137.40 yards per game on the ground, but their passing defensive isn't nearly as effective. NU gives up an average of 239.8 yards per game via the air.
MSU is giving up just 185.4 yards per game through the air and its rushing defense (rank 37th in nation) allows just 119 yards on the ground.
MSU ranks second in the nation in sacks, averaging 4.6 per game and fifth in tackles for loss with an eyepopping 9.8 per contest.
BOTTOM LINE: Also MSU needs is a workmanlike effort against the Wildcats, meaning show up, play with intensity and passion, leave it all on the field and they should walk off with a "W". The "X" factor is MSU's return game defense. They've been hurt by long returns both in the kick and punt game. If they clean that up, the Spartans should be in excellent shape Saturday.
PICK: Michigan State 30, Northwestern 13
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS: NU One-Dimensional
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