CM – Preview: MSU football wants three straight wins against Northwestern

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Redshirt freshman running back Elijah Collins (24) is tackled during the game against Northwestern at Ryan Field on September 21, 2019. MSU defeated Northwestern 31-10.

For the first time since the 2019 Pinstripe Bowl against Wake Forest, the Michigan State football team will play in front of a crowded stadium Friday night as they set off to mark the 2021-22 season to open at Northwestern.

The big question any MSU fan will ask themselves at this matchup: Who will be the quarterback on game day? Will it be PhD student Anthony Russo or sophomore Redshirt student Payton Thorne? Just a few days before the go-ahead, the answer remains the same; we’re just not sure.

However, Michigan state head coach Mel Tucker said the players might know, which means the decision may have already been made but not disclosed and may not be until the offense trots on the field. Tucker believes having an element of surprise this weekend could be an advantage.

« You don’t want to do anything to give your opponent any advantage, » said Tucker. “You don’t want to put your team at a disadvantage with the information you communicate and disseminate. Everything we do is about our team. What’s best for our players, our team, our organization. ”

The Spartans used the transfer portal aggressively to change the squad, bringing in 20 transfers, some of which are likely to receive significant playing time. Linebackers Quavaris Crouch and cornerbacks Ronald Williams and Chester Kimbrough are expected to keep the field strong on the defensive. On the offensive, if the position is awarded, Kenneth Walker III and Anthony Russo should influence this game.

However, that doesn’t take into account the 15 others who joined MSU this year in hopes of new opportunities and possibly more playing time. Tucker has emphasized since taking office that regardless of his tenure, he will play against anyone who is available and plays well.

« We’re going to play as many guys as possible and those roles are yet to be determined. » said Tucker. “We have guys who can play in several positions. We have depth in linebacker and secondary, and we just have to see how it comes out at the end of the week. ”

Last year Northwestern had one of the best seasons in a while, with a 7-2 record and 10th place in the last AP poll. The reigning Big Ten West champions fell 22:10 in the Big Ten championship against Ohio State, a game in which they led 10-6 at halftime. They ended the season with a commanding 35:19 win over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl on New Years Day.

So Northwestern is not a piece of cake like it has been in previous seasons. Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald had played the Wildcats very well last year; this may be similar this year.

Nevertheless, one of the two victories of the MSU in 2020 came against exactly these Wildcats. Last November, MSU defeated Northwestern at Spartan Stadium 29:20 in one of their best performances of the year.

They ran the ball well, 195 yards in total, handled the football with just one turnover, and had a strong one Defensive performance that forced four Northwestern Turnovers. All three of these aspects rarely occurred in 2020. Even if they did, it was never in the same game. While it was nice to beat the Wildcats last year, Tucker believes there is only so much you can take away from this game.

« This is a new year and we have a new team, and so do they », said Tucker. “The past doesn’t necessarily predict the future. We just have to play the games. « 

Like MSU, Northwestern had a lot of revenue on their roster, especially quarterback. Peyton Ramsey is out, leading to Senior Hunter Johnson being named a week one starter after beating second Ryan Hilinski in a position battle.

In addition, Northwestern lost three players to the NFL Draft. Offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, who retired from the 2020 season, finished 13th overall Los Angeles Chargers selected. Defensive back Greg Newsome II was selected 26th overall for the Cleveland Browns and defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round.

Northwestern also took advantage of the opportunities in the transfer portal, with some players are likely to have an effect on Friday night. Graduate student Stephon Robinson Jr., a Kansas transfer, hatches after a stellar 2019 and injury-ridden 20th 20 immediately into the top wide receiver role of the Wildcats.

Northwestern’s identity remains the same, however, and it all starts with the team’s defense. Jim O’Neil is the new defensive coordinator, but the Wildcats defense is still expected to be a strong point.

On the field they are led by Safety Brandon Joseph, who could very well be the best in the nation in this position. He was a consensus All-American last season, grabbing six interceptions – tied for most in the country – and not allowing touchdowns while reporting. He was selected for the AP First Team Preseason All-America starting this season and is on several watch lists.

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Keywords:

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