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Northwestern vs. Michigan State Predictions

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The Wildcats head to East Lansing for a key conference matchup

Michigan State v Northwestern Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Zach Pereles: Michigan St. 24, Northwestern 21

I really want to give this one to NU. I really do. And I think the Wildcats have a very good chance of bringing home the win. But Michigan State is at home for Homecoming, and Mark Dantonio’s decision to move Tyler O’Connor into a three-way QB competition with Damion Terry and Brian Lewerke will bring out the best in all three. Whoever wins the battle will find just enough success against a still-depleted NU secondary, and Northwestern falls a late field goal short.

Sam Brief: Northwestern 24, Michigan St. 23

I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum from Zach: I really want to give this one to Michigan State. They’ve lost three straight, and Mark Dantonio is a stellar coach. There’s no way Michigan State can lose four in a row, right? Wrong. I think Dantonio’s decision to implement a three-way QB competition could backfire: During a time of struggle and uncertainty in East Lansing, doubt at the QB position can implode into complete disarray. Point is, the Spartans have been unable to score (13.6 PPG in their last three), their rush defense has fallen apart (179.3 rush YPG in the last three), and Northwestern, coming off a bye week, is coming into form. This one will be a bruiser and a close one. Northwestern by a point.

Rob Schaefer: Michigan St. 31, Northwestern 17

It all makes sense. Northwestern, fresh off an upset road victory in Iowa (and a bye), marches into East Lansing, claims victory and pulls even at 3-3, another step on the slow crawl back to bowl eligibility. But I can’t see it happening. Granted, the Spartans come in with less momentum. After beginning their season 2-0, they’ve dropped three straight to fall to 2-3 including a particularly ugly home loss to BYU last weekend. Maybe it just makes a little too much sense for me. Northwestern’s secondary and offensive line remain unpredictable and you can’t expect performances like the ones Clayton Thorson (four total touchdowns), Justin Jackson (171 rush yards, one touchdown) and Austin Carr (three touchdowns) had against Iowa every week. It’ll be close early, but in the end, Michigan State makes fewer mistakes and wins comfortably at home this Saturday.

Josh Burton: Michigan St. 30, Northwestern 10

Sorry, I just don’t see Northwestern pulling off back-to-back major upsets on the road. I know Michigan State has struggled mightily this year and has lost three in a row, but the Spartans are an extremely desperate team that needs to stop the bleeding. The talent is still there for a team that was highly ranked before skidding off the tracks, especially on defense, and I’d be surprised if the Wildcats’ offensive line was able to give Clayton Thorson the time to effectively pick apart the MSU defense.

Ian McCafferty: Northwestern 21, Michigan St. 17

Honestly I really wanted to make this a Northwestern blowout, but then I remembered that this is still a 2-3 team. As good as the Wildcats looked against Iowa, it was only one game and Iowa might not be very good. Now saying all that, I still think Northwestern wins this week because Michigan St. isn’t very good either. The defense is still solid, but the offense is nonexistent. The passing attack is even less effective than usual and the running game has collapsed. I honestly find it hard to think MSU will even get to 17 points but I also don’t think Northwestern will blow out MSU on homecoming. It’ll be a close game, but the Spartans’ lack of offense is what does them in.

Caleb Friedman: Michigan St. 27, Northwestern 17

Northwestern looked fantastic against Iowa, but I still don’t trust this team at all. The offensive line is going to have trouble with Malik McDowell and the Spartan defensive line, especially without Connor Mahoney. Michigan State isn’t good enough to blow out Northwestern, but I don’t see the game being super close either. The Spartans will have a huge crowd this week, and they’re desperate for a win. I expect a big game from MSU running back L.J. Scott, and Tyler O’Connor, or whoever is starting at quarterback for MSU, could certainly have a productive day against a questionable Northwestern secondary. The Wildcats will have a chance in the fourth quarter, but the more talented Spartans will grind out a win.

Zach Wingrove: Northwestern 28, Michigan State 21

Northwestern has had an extra week to prepare for this game, and as we’ve witnessed this season, this is not your usual Michigan State team under Mark Dantonio. The Spartans’ defensive line has been awful in its last three games and I think this week they will continue to struggle getting pressure on Thorson, despite the loss of Connor Mahoney. On the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans’ passing attack is a mess right now and I don’t see any of Michigan State’s quarterbacks being able to exploit Northwestern’s secondary. I think Justin Jackson finds the end zone twice in this game, the Northwestern defense holds off a late Michigan State run and the Wildcats leave East Lansing with a victory.

Tristan Jung: Northwestern 37, Michigan State 23

I’m terrible at picking football games. I’m 2-3 this year straight-up for Northwestern and I don’t really have a feel for this team whatsoever. Northwestern has shown five distinct faces through its first five games: “competent but unlucky,” “just plain awful,” “good enough to win,” “bad and unlucky” and “actually good”. Which of these five teams will show up? Will there be an entirely different facet of Northwestern?

Michigan State has been even more difficult to predict, with its only quality performance coming against an awful Notre Dame team. There are a myriad of miniature tactical battles that will decide this game and I won’t pretend to be able to synthesize them into a coherent and accurate prediction. I just went to random.org and plugged in a random number generator to get the scores for this game. Go ‘Cats.

Will Ragatz: Michigan State 24, Northwestern 20

When simply focusing on the teams on the field, I have no idea who to take in this one. Both squads have been wildly inconsistent in falling to 2-3 records in 2016. So when picking this game, I had to go to coaching. I just can't see Dantonio not having his team ready for this game, a homecoming matchup and an attempt not to lose four straight. The Spartans hold off a late Northwestern rally to grab the victory.

Josh Rosenblat: Northwestern 41, Michigan State 38 (OT)

I really think Northwestern turned a corner in its win over Iowa. Putting up 38 points in Iowa City is nothing to scoff at. Plus, Michigan State isn’t “Michigan State” this year. The defense has some holes and the offense is sporadic.