TIME: Saturday, 11:00 p.m. (CST)
SITE: East Lansing, Mich.
STADIUM: Spartan Stadium
SERIES: Michigan State leads the series with a 26-17 record. The two teams met last season on November 6 when the Spartans beat the Gophers, 31-8, at Spartan Stadium.
RECORD: Minnesota (2-6, 1-3 Big Ten), No. 15 Michigan State (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten)
"We're playing a football team that -- I mean, you put the film on, film don't lie. So we're playing a group -- we're playing defense that -- I'm not sure how many NFL guys are on there, but there's a lot of them, and we're playing against the best defensive tackle I've seen in a long time. It's a big challenge for us, and again, we'll approach this week -- there's no question there's some kids that have gained some confidence over a week ago." -- Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill on Michigan State
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Minnesota: The Gophers need their defense to come up big and stop the Spartans. It's doubtful Minnesota's offense will score many points against the nation's No. 2 overall defense, so its defense will need to keep them in the game.
-- For Michigan State: The Spartans need to start fast and not let the the Golden Gophers carry over the confidence from their 22-21 win against Iowa last week. If Michigan State can put up points early it can ride it's vaunted defense to a victory.
The Gophers created a turnover for the first time in four games against Iowa.
Wide receiver and kick returner Marcus Jones will have surgery for a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. He injured his knee in practice the week of the Iowa game.
Kicker Jordan Wettstein was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Iowa. In his first career start in place of the injured Chris Hawthorne, the junior walk-on converted his only field goal attempt, a 28-yarder in the third quarter, and made his only extra point try. His successful onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter led to the winning touchdown.
The Spartans are 9-3 in November since he arrived in 2007, including a perfect 3-0 mark last season. That was MSU's first spotless November since 1999. The chance for another one exists with games against Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern on tap.
The Spartans are tied with Michigan and Nebraska at 3-1 in the Legends Division. The Spartans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan but need to finish a game ahead of the Huskers to win the division.
Michigan State has the No. 2 rated total defense in the nation, allowing just 228.8 yards per game. The Spartans give up 15 points a game and rank No. 6 in scoring defense.
Michigan State leads the nation in pass defense (127.3 ypg) and is third in passing efficiency defense (95.3 rating). Just two years ago, the Spartans were among the nation's worst, giving up 32 passing touchdowns and record just six picks in 13 games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB MarQueis Gray – The junior is coming of off his best game as a starting quarterback for the Golden Gophers. Gray completed 11-of-17 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions while leading Minnesota on a fourth-quarter comeback in the Iowa win. Part of Gray's improvement since the beginning of the season is regaining his confidence as a quarterback after playing wide receiver last year. "I think there's a confidence level between the coach and the quarterback and the offensive line, and I think all that got better, and hopefully we can continue to move it forward," head coach Jerry Kill said.
WR Devin Crawford-Tufts -- The true freshman had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career last week on catches of 61 and 39 yards. He has made only six catches for the season, but has shown big-play ability with an average of 22 yards per reception.
RB Edwin Baker -- The junior has had a disappointing season overall, but he exploded against Michigan three weeks ago and will try to duplicate the huge game he had against Minnesota last season. Since rushing for 167 yards against Michigan, he has only 53 yards in the last two games combined. He rushed for 179 yards against the Gophers last year.
DE Will Gholston -- He had a career-high 15 tackles, two for loss, against Nebraska and will have more chances to corral a running quarterback in MarQueis Gray.
--WR/KR Marcus Jones will have surgery for a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament and will miss the rest of the season.
--K Chris Hawthorne didn't play against Iowa because of a sore quad muscle. He's questionable to play against Michigan State.
--CB/KR Troy Stoudermire has missed the last four games because of a fractured left wrist. He's questionable to play against Michigan State.
--LB Brendan Beal didn't play against Iowa because of a knee injury. He's doubtful for the Michigan State game.
--OL Josh Campion is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a concussion.
--OT Jimmy Gjere has missed the last four games because of a concussion.
SS Isaiah Lewis (leg, probable)
LB Chris Norman (shoulder, probable)
RB Larry Caper (concussion, probable)
C Travis Jackson (leg, probable)