Game Snapshot: Minnesota vs Michigan State

The Spartans will have at least a share of their first Big Ten title since 1990 if they can win their final three games -- home against Minnesota and Purdue, and at Penn State.

KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET

GAMEDATE: 11/6/10

SITE: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

SURFACE: Grass

TV: Big Ten Network

SERIES: Michigan State leads 25-17 (last meeting, 2009. Minnesota 42-34)

RECORDS: Minnesota 1-8, 0-5; Michigan State 8-1, 4-1

POLLS: Michigan State (16 AP, 15 USA Today)

PREDICTION: Michigan State 24-7

KEYS TO THE GAME:

-- For Minnesota: Withstand what surely will be a strong start by Michigan State. The defense will certainly be tested by an offense that had been playing well until last week. QB Adam Weber and his receivers must make big plays to stay in the game.

-- For Michigan State: Take advantage of Minnesota's problems on both sides of the ball. The Gophers have been atrocious on defense and not dramatically better on offense. The Spartans essentially need to show up in the proper mind-set to take care of an inferior foe to improve to 9-1 on the season.

SCOUTING THE TEAMS:

-- Minnesota has some talent on offense, but the numbers haven't been as good as hoped. Part of that is inconsistency, especially when it comes to running the ball. A bigger part is due to the fact the Gophers are usually so far behind that the offense is forced into comeback mode in every game.

Can the Gophers stop anyone? Uh, no. The Gophers are allowing 36.2 points a game during the eight-game losing streak. The defense gives up an average of 417.6 yards a game, including 201.8 yards on the ground per game. The pass defense isn't as much of a weakness, but that's only because teams haven't needed to throw the ball a lot because they've been so far ahead.

Senior WR Mark Dell is playing the best ball of his career, and Michigan State's passing game is working well other than the mistakes QB Kirk Cousins made against Iowa. It's the rushing attack that needs help. The offensive line has been whipped too often of late, and freshman RB Le'Veon Bell may be running out of gas.

A fearsome pass rush of late has the Spartans second in the Big Ten with 18 sacks, but Iowa totally muted that rush. That led to some big plays downfield, and senior LBs Greg Jones and Eric Gordon missed on some plays they normally make.

FAST FACTS:

Gophers: Minnesota's losing streak is now at eight games since winning its opener over Middle Tennessee State. ... The Gophers are averaging 22.8 ppg and giving up 34.1 ppg. ... Minnesota's win over Michigan State on Halloween night last year is the Gophers' last Big Ten win. QB Adam Weber threw for 505 yards in the 42-34 affair... Minnesota has given up an average of 1.56 sacks per game, a big improvement over last year when the Gophers surrendered 3.15 per game and were 113th in the country. ... How meaningless can time of possession be? The Gophers with their lone win in nine outings are holding the ball for more than half the game (31:42), which is No. 22 in the nation.

Spartans: Michigan State's rushing attack is going nowhere fast. The Spartans were averaging 225 yards a game through six games, but they've managed 93, 105 and 31 yards in the past three games. That average is now down to 175.4 yards a game, good for fifth in the Big Ten. ... To get to the Rose Bowl, they'll need some help. Michigan State has the head-to-head edge over Wisconsin, but would lose in a tie with Iowa or Ohio State. A three-way tie with Wisconsin and Iowa would get the Spartans to Pasadena for the first time since 1988. ... Senior CB Chris L. Rucker is back in a starting position after a two-game suspension and eight days in jail for violating his probation.

INJURY WATCH:

Gophers:

OG Matt Carufel (knee, out), FB Jon Hoese (hamstring, doubtful), TB Donnell Kirkwood (hamstring, doubtful).

Spartans:

CB Darqueze Daniel (knee, questionable), RG Chris McDonald (undisclosed, questionable), WR Keshawn Martin (ankle, questionable).


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