sweet lordy they're actually 7-0.
Hit the jump, for, like analysis.
Thus far: The Spartans may be 7-0, meaning they've played seven games and won all seven, not losing any of them. I hope I am making this clear. Their non-con was pretty nondescript: trouncings of Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic, and Northern Colorado mixed in with the super-balls overtime victory over Notre Dame where Mark Dantonio called a fake field goal for the win, then got a heart attack because he was so badass. You show me that, and I feel like it's no more impressive than NU's non-con, even if they're margins of victory were slightly more impressive. But when the conference schedule kicked in, Sparty stepped it up a notch: they knocked off then No. 11 Wisconsin in a 34-24 win that shouldn't have been that close - MSU outgained Wisky 444-292 and held the ball for 13 more minutes than the Badgers. Then came then No. 18 Michigan, which was easier - 34-17 for the Spartans. And last week they absolutely dismantled a decent looking Illinois team, winning 26-6.
Us and them: Northwestern is 15-35 all-time against Michigan State, which, when you think about it, is disturbingly awful. Just estimating, it's basically not plausible for NU to become .500 against the Spartans any time in the next 50-75 years.Damn. That's harsh. Highlights include a 48-41 victory three years ago in overtime, and the year before that, when Northwestern went up 38-3 and then lost 41-38. I am eternally grateful that this happened two years before I started going to Northwestern, because I cannot imagine how overwhelmingly furious and violent I would become if I actually witnessed anything resembling that.
When they got the ball: Kirk Cousins is having a downright Dan Persa-esque year: he's averaging 9.6 yards per pass - sixth in the nation, one ahead of Persa - 11:4 touchdown:pick ratio, and the 11th highest passer rating in the nation. Here's the difference between the two teams, though: while Dan Persa is NU's best rushing option, Cousins is a immobile pocket passer, and while Persa is NU's best rushing option, MSU has one of the more potent running attacks in the nation. Edwin Baker has 706 yards rushing, and the "backup" - the two are actually listed as part of a three man committee with Larry Caper on the depth chart - freshman Le'Veon Bell, has 562 yards rushing. That is to say, their backup has roughly twice as many yards as our leading ballcarrier. It's not like they padded these stats against terrible teams either - each back gained at least 75 yards against Wisconsin, and Baker had 147 against Michigan to compliment Bell's 78 yards. (That's a lot of yards.) Although they did have an uncharacteristic off week last week gaining only 93 total yards on the ground. MSU's 5.4 yards per rushing play is 16th in the nation - although it should be pointed out Baker and Bell average 6.7 and 6.9 yards per carry on the ground. Cousins' pass targets are pretty evenly distributed - three players have at least 22 receptions, although the No. 1 target is definitely Mark Bell.
When we got the ball: NU catches a break: it appears cornerback Chris L. Rucker, or as I call him, CL Smooth, will miss next week's game with his legal troubles. Not that big a deal - he's not the best player on this defense by a long shot, even in the secondary. Safety Trenton Robinson has three picks, as does cornerback Johnny Adams, but the strength of this defense is in its linebacker corps. Greg Jones at middle linebacker, now a senior, has been a consistent beast for four years - he won Big Ten defensive player of the week last week for his 20th career 10-tackle performance, which is kinda ridiculous. He also has two picks and three fumbles forced, so, he's pretty much everywhere. It's him and fellow linebackers Eric Gordon and Chris Norman that are the reason they only allow 3.4 yards per carry and have only allowed four touchdowns on the ground thus far this season. Pass defense is a bit shoddier - 5.9 yards per pass is just a scooch above NU in terms of efficiency - but they've only allowed opposition to complete 54.3 percent of passes, the best in the Big Ten.