With Illinois coming up next week, I'm guessing this is the last week of the regular season that our media and blogger picks won't be unanimous.
Kevin Trahan, Inside Northwestern: Northwestern 27, Michigan State 17 — Michigan State is favored by nearly a touchdown in the game, but there’s one problem with that: Northwestern can score on anyone and Michigan State can’t score on anyone. The Michigan State defense is very good, so NU won’t have a huge offensive game, but the Spartans struggled against mobile quarterbacks Everett Golson and Taylor Martinez. Expect Kain Colter to move the ball effectively, and expect a big play or two from Venric Mark. The Northwestern secondary will be without Nick VanHoose once again, but the Spartans have not proven they can pass the ball against anyone, and while running back Le’Veon Bell will get his yards, it won’t be enough for MSU to keep up with NU.
Chris Johnson, Inside Northwestern: Northwestern 21, Michigan State 17 — The untold story of last week’s loss at Michigan was the productivity of Northwestern’s two-quarterback system. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian complemented each other brilliantly against one of the toughest defense NU has faced to date. I have no doubt the Wildcats can shut down Michigan State’s underwhelming offense, particularly if the rush defense extends its recent hot streak for another week to shut down Le’Veon Bell. Northwestern will stop MSU; the question is whether it can score enough points against the Spartans defense, which is the best in the Big Ten. Here’s to betting NU scores just enough.
Jonah Rosenblum, Inside Northwestern: Northwestern 28, Michigan State 17 — I would predict a rout, but Northwestern doesn’t really engage in that type of fan confidence-building activity. That being said, the Wildcats rarely lose twice. And they can’t lose five straight like last year. That’s mathematically impossible, guys. So, I say Northwestern wins this one. The Wildcats responded well from the Penn State loss, ramming the ball down Minnesota’s throat the next week. They responded well from the Nebraska loss as well, absolutely dominating on offense against a despondent Iowa squad. I think the Wildcats can score on this Spartans’ defense. Moreover, Michigan State lacks the aerial attack to exploit this shaky Northwestern secondary.
Jay Sharman, Lake the Posts: Northwestern 24, Michigan State 20 — Can the 'Cats rushing attack work against the best defense (by far) in the conference? Will NU's beleaguered secondary be able to keep Andrew Maxwell in check? This one has all the makings of a Venric Mark vs Le'Veon Bell/may the team with the higher rusher wins the game scorecard type of thing. It's really a big game for both teams as the Cats still have some really big things in their control, like a 10-win season, which happens once every 40 years on average. Some late season momentum could really position NU well for 2013 and at the same time really hold down a recruiting rival of sorts on the brink of staying home for the holidays. MSU as you know holds teams to just 288 ypg of offense and 16 ppg. This game screams of first-to-20-wins. The "X factor" in this game might be the psychology of the jersey color. NU's senior class, its winningest in history has never beaten Michigan State. That, combined with a potential 4th quarter lead could really play mind games with the 'Cats. I've got a rare very good feeling about this one. Fitz's teams perform better on the road in conference and I think the team has really got a chip on its shoulder. I'm here to channel that positive energy.
Chris Emma, PurpleWildcats.com: Michigan State 27, Northwestern 21 — Le'Veon Bell will cause trouble for NU's rush defense, while Andrew Maxwell will have a big day against a struggling secondary. NU will struggle to find its offensive identity. The Spartans come out on top.
Danny Moran, North By Northwestern: Michigan State 24, Northwestern 21 — This just feels like a let down week for Northwestern. Colter and Mark will play but are banged up, and VanHoose’s status is still a question mark. Also, with five wins, Michigan State is still playing for its postseason life. Andrew Maxwell is far from the toughest QB the Wildcats will have faced but he only has 2 interceptions since their first game and Le’Veon Bell is the best running back Northwestern will see this year. It will be close, since neither team will want the lead, but Michigan State will pull out the win and send NU to Tempe.
Jon Davis, Northwestern Highlights: Northwestern 24, Michigan State 17 — NU and Michigan State give up nearly an identical yards per carry average (3.59 to 3.60), but the difference comes from the NU passing attack to pick up some first downs, along with some explosion plays on the ground. Northwestern has 23 runs of 20 yards or more to Michigan State’s 13. Sparty will get some yards on the ground, but not with a high ypc average. This may keep time of possession in Michigan State’s favor, but they won’t be able to convert a high percentage of third down passes. A couple of medium-to-deep passing plays will set up scores, but the Wildcat defense ultimately wins this game.