Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka comes into the contest sporting a lofty 130.8 passer rating, completing 66.8% of his passes and ranking second in passing and total offense, but has shown the penchant for making the big mistake.
Kafka has thrown just five touchdown passes against four interceptions, so look for MSU to try to pressure the junior signal caller into making bad decisions that could result in turnovers.
Senior receiver Zeke Markshausen ranks fourth in receiving.
Critics have complained that the Wildcats offense has been up-and-down all season and that can be traced to the lack of a complimentary running game.
Running back Arby Fields lead the 'Cats with just 190 yards rushing on just 53 carries. Contrast that with MSU, who has three backs with almost that much yardage or more. (Larry Caper 60 for 275, Glenn Winston -out for the season, 60 for 204, Caulton Ray 40 for 156.
Expect MSU to do what they do, run the ball despite suffering numerous injuries in the Illinois game.
Freshman Larry Caper suffered a bruised thigh but is expected to play, but sophomore Glenn Winston is out for the season after suffering a knee injury. Senior A.J. Jimmerson will be questionable due to tweaking his knee on a special teams play, but junior Caulton Ray could see some carrier to offset the losses. Even freshman Ed Baker could be pressed back into service after getting nicked up early on.
Who's going to quarterback for MSU is the bigger question? Expect both Kirk Cousins, who's believed to be suffering from a high ankle sprain, and Keith Nichol, who injured his non-throwing arm to be ready. MSU has said that freshman Andrew Maxwell could play in a pinch, (showing the significance the staff places on this game) but its hard to imagine, save an emergency situation, that he would go in.
MSU also has receiver Keshawn Martin, a high school quarterback at Westland John Glenn, who could play back there in a pinch.
The Spartans could also go to more of a four linebacker look in this one to offset Northwestern's short passing game. MSU's three freshman linebackers (Chris Norman, have all shown the ability to play well in spurts. Junior Greg Jones leads the conference with 71 tackles and has 3 sacks to go with it.
PICK: If Nichol or Cousins can play effectively, MSU should be able to operate its play action passing game to control the ball for long stretches to keep the Cats off the field. If neither can go, this game is up for grabs.
Michigan State 31, Northwestern 20