The Minnesota Golden Gophers travel to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans to close out the 2013 regular season.
The Gophers (8-3 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) are coming off a home loss to the Wisconsin Badgers and the Spartans (10-1, 7-0) are coming off a road win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Spartans lead the all-time series with a record of 28-17, but the Gophers have won six of the last 11 contests. The Spartans have won the last three games, including twice at Spartan Stadium.
Spartans on Offense
The Spartans are a power-run offense that throws the ball to keep defenses honest. Quarterback Connor Cook is becoming a very good game-manager for the Spartan offense. He has completed 58.8 percent of his passes and averages 179.6 yards per game.
Running back Jeremy Langford is the star of the Spartan offense with 1,076 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Spartans on Defense
The Spartans have one of the best defenses in the nation. They are led by linebackers Max Bullough, Taiwan Jones and Denicos Allen and pass rushers Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush. The defensive line of the Spartans is more long than stout.
The playmakers on the Spartan defense go beyond the front seven with seniors Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis and junior Kurtis Drummond in the secondary. Dennard is one of, if not the, best cornerbacks in the country. He takes away half the field in the passing game.
Keys to a Gopher victory
No. 1 – Win on first and second down.
The Gophers need to stay in third-and-manageable situations on offense and force the Spartans offense to convert into third-and-long situations. The Spartans defense is as good as there is in the country and their rushing game is pretty good as well. The team that is in position to get first downs with either the run or pass will win the game.
No. 2 – Win the turnover battle.
Very rarely does the team that turns the ball over more win the game. During the team’s four conference wins, The Gophers forced eight turnovers while turning it over twice. In the three losses, the Gophers turned the ball over seven times while forcing two turnovers.
The Gophers need to play a perfect game and force the Spartans into mistakes to win the game. A win for either team will boost their bowl game location. The Spartans are trying to get a spot in the BCS and the Gophers are trying to get a January 1 bowl game in Florida. On paper, the Spartans are the far superior team, but the Gophers cannot be counted out. Spartans 20, Gophers 10.