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Stats of the Week - Northwestern vs. Michigan State

If stats are for losers, then this article is certainly apropos.

This is how Northwestern fans feel on good days as of late
This is how Northwestern fans feel on good days as of late

Another week, another different way to lose a heartbreaker. But it wasn't necessarily all bad, as Northwestern scored in overtime (10 points!), which marks the first time the 'Cats have scored in extra time since their 2007 win against Minnesota (there were 4 overtime games in the interim in which the Wildcats failed to score and, of course, lost).

Speaking of overtime, as of 2007, NU was 8-1 all time in overtime games (the only loss coming to TCU in 2004 that featured 5 FG misses by the 'Cats), including a 4-0 mark at home. Since then, the 'Cats are 0-5 in overtime games (bringing W-L records by coach to 6-1 under Randy Walker and 2-5 under Pat Fitzgerald).

If the Michigan game somehow didn't go into overtime (I will refrain from going into dropped interception discussions at this point), this would have marked the first time since at least 1995 that NU would have won a game without scoring a touchdown.

This Saturday's game against Michigan State will be televised on ESPN, which also doesn't bode well for NU, as the 'Cats have lost 3 straight , and under Fitz NU is 3-10 when Northwestern appears on ESPN. Out of those 13 games, NU has been the underdog in all but one (the 2010 win at Minnesota) and that trend looks to continue this week with the 'Cats opening as 7.5 point underdogs.

Speaking of being an underdog, the Wildcats have not yet won as an underdog in 2013, which is something they've done well under Fitz: NU has won 19 games as an underdog since 2006, including at least one each season, and this may very well be NU's final shot at earning that upset with an even-worse-than-NU Illinois team (currently 3-7) to finish the regular season. Coincidentally, NU's last win as an underdog came in 2012 against Michigan State, where the 'Cats were also 7.5 point underdogs.

MSU is also ranked (currently 13th in both the AP and Coaches Polls), and all of Fitz's 5 wins over ranked opponents have come in the month of November. In fact, the 'Cats have at least 1 win over a ranked opponent in each of the last 4 seasons when they had an opportunity to do so (NU faced no ranked opponents in 2012, but had at least 1 win over such an opponent from 2008-2011). Since 2008, NU is 7-8 ATS against ranked foes.

Curse of GameDay? After ESPN's College GameDay's visit to Wrigley Field in November of 2010, NU went 2-8 in their next 10 games, losing by an average of 9.5 points per game. After it's recent visit this October, NU has lost 6 straight by an average of 10.

Interesting Over/Under note: NU games have been under the O/U for 5 consecutive games. Given MSU's defensive prowess/NU's offensive woes plus MSU's offensive inconsistencies/NU's decent defense, expect a low O/U to be set in this game.

Since 1995, NU has 6 wins over MSU. In all of those games, NU had a halftime lead and were either tied or ahead at the end of the 3rd quarter. In the 'Cats' 8 losses to the Spartans over that same span, they were behind at halftime in 5 of those games (all by double digits) and behind at the end of the 3rd in 6 (all by double digits).