Minnesota-Michigan State Football Preview

The Gophers face Michigan State for the second straight season after losing their first contest of the year. Last year, the Gophers fell to the Spartans 44-38 at home. They trailed 31-17 at halftime and rallied from a 44-24 fourth quarter deficit. However, after scoring two quick touchdowns, they failed to recover an onside kick and the Spartans held on for the win. If the Gophers hope to play in a January bowl game, this is a must-win. Minnesota enters the game as a 9-½ point favorite.

The Spartans enter Saturday's game against Minnesota with a 3-3 overall record and a 2-1 conference mark that includes wins over Indiana and Illinois. Their only conference loss came at Iowa in the second week of the conference season. The team has yet to win two straight games, but they have also have not lost two straight contests. They have followed each loss with a win.

The Spartan use a spread offense and are led by sophomore quarterback Drew Stanton, who has completed over 61 percent of his passes while throwing for 735 yards. Stanton had an outstanding game in last week's win over Illinois as he completed 21 of 28 passes for 199 and three touchdowns. He also threw a two-point conversion and caught a touchdown on a flea-flicker.

Michigan State currently ranks second in the Big Ten behind Minnesota in rushing offense, averaging 194.3 yards per game. Stanton also leads the Spartan offense in rushing with 352 yards (70.4 yards per game). However, the Spartans, who are rushing more than last year, have three other players with more than 200 yards rushing. Four players had nine or more carries in the Illinois win.

The Spartans have six players with 10 or more receptions, led by Matt Trannon, who also plays basketball for Michigan State. Trannon has a team-high 20 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown. Seven different Spartans have one touchdown catch, including one by Stanton.

Defensively, the Spartans use a multiple 4-3 alignment. Senior Ronald Stanley leads a unit that ranks seventh in the conference in total defense but is fourth in the league in passing defense. However, they are only ninth in rushing defense as they allow 174.3 yards per game, which could be a bad sign as they face the Big Ten's top rushing offense.

Stanley leads the team with 68 total tackles, including six tackles for a loss. Senior safety Jason Harmon is tied for the conference lead with three interceptions this season, while junior Jaren Hayes tops the team with 10 pass breakups.

Kicker Dave Rayner has made all 15 extra points and is nine of 14 in field goals. Two of his misses were from beyond 50 yards.

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