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Northwestern vs. Michigan State predictions

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Picks, picks, picks.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s how our staffers see Saturday’s contest playing out.

Caleb Friedman: Michigan State 24, Northwestern 20

I see another close game this week, and Northwestern covering as a road dog, but the close-game mojo Northwestern had last season isn’t there this year. Brian Lewerke hurts the NU defense just enough times with his legs, and a one-dimensional NU offense struggles to sustain drives against a tough MSU run defense.

Avery Zimmerman: Michigan State 20, Northwestern 14

As much as I do think we’ll see another close game, I just can’t trust Clayton Thorson and the NU offense to do enough in the second half to pull it out. This game plays out similarly to last week, and NU loses another tough one.

Lukas Stachtiaris: Michigan State, 27, Northwestern 17

I’m going to have a hard time picking in Northwestern’s favor until they prove that they can score in the second half of a football game. Northwestern has indicated that they can play with the best of ‘em, but has yet to demonstrate an ability to close out games. With only 7 total second half points on the season, I think Michigan State will be able to limit Northwestern’s offense below 20 points and consequently pull out a win.

Davis Rich: Michigan State 24, Northwestern 13

I originally had this a little bit closer, but I think the absences of Nate Hall and Greg Newsome II push the needle in the favor of Michigan State. The Spartan offense hasn’t proven itself special this year, but without arguably its best linebacker and its No. 2 corner, the NU defense has the odds stacked against it. Northwestern parlays an early turnover into easy points, but then struggles to get anything going against a stout Spartan defense. The Spartans cover, barely.

Matthew Albert: Northwestern 20, Michigan State 13

Both teams have been underachieving so far this season, however I saw many bright spots in the Michigan game. The injuries to Nate Hall and Greg Newsome II are very unfortunate, yet the severely depleted Michigan State wide receiving corps will not burn Northwestern’s secondary like a team like Michigan did. While Michigan State is very successful in combating the run, fortunately enough for the Wildcats, they’ve had limited successes with it. I see the Wildcats going with a shorter distance approach, making use of screen passes, and getting an upset victory.

Lia Assimakopoulos: Michigan State 23, Northwestern 17

I know Michigan State is underachieving this season but so is Northwestern. We are both coming off great seasons and have let injuries or other team disasters affect our play. Ultimately, MSU’s run defense is too good, and while the discussion a few weeks ago may have been different, at this point, I see little hope for our run game this weekend. That being said, I see another close game, but the Spartans will pull away at the very end like many others have against Northwestern this season.

Joe Weinberg: Northwestern 21, Michigan State 16

Northwestern’s defense forces a few crucial turnovers and Clayton Thorson finds his groove as he always seems to do against the Spartans. Cam Green and Flynn Nagel both have 60+ yard games and the ‘Cats squeak out an ugly win for a third victory in three years against Michigan State.

Noah Coffman: Michigan State 19, Northwestern 10

Northwestern’s defensive front should dominate, but without Greg Newsome and Nate Hall Michigan State will find a way to extend their drives long enough to get points. After abandoning the screen game after two drives, the Wildcat offense will be stymied by Michigan State’s impenetrable run defense. No points will be scored in the second half, and after seeming within reach, another close contest will slip from Northwestern’s grasp.

Martin Oppegaard: Michigan State 23, Northwestern 14

Last year, Nate Hall sealed an improbable triple overtime win over Michigan State with an interception in the end zone. The Spartans are banged up as well, but the absence of an impact player like Hall against a mobile quarterback like Brian Lewerke is hard to overlook. I hope I’m wrong.

Spencer Levitt: Northwestern 26, Michigan State 14

Clayton Thorson and the ‘Cats teased us all last week against Michigan. Thorson showed what the offense is capable of early on, but put up a doughnut on the scoreboard in the second half, posting yet another L on the young season. The loss of Nate Hall and Greg Newsome will be hard to overcome, but MSU isn’t without injuries, too. Looking ahead, Northwestern emphasizes the short passing game—reminiscent of last year’s win against MSU in Evanston—the Spartans’ run game continues to struggle, and the ‘Cats actually score in the second half to top MSU.

Season standings

Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman: 3-1

Lukas Stachtiaris, Lia Assimakopoulos, Matthew Albert, Joe Weinberg: 2-2

Avery Zimmerman, Noah Coffman, Martin Oppegaard: 1-3

Brett Haensel: 1-0