Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This week, The State News' football beat writer Nick Lundberg spoke with Ellis Gordon and Jake Rabenhorst of The Daily Targum ahead of Saturday's Michigan State-Rutgers game.
After losing its first road test of the season against Iowa, Michigan State football will head to New Jersey for its second straight road game of 2023 against Rutgers. MSU should be well rested after having its bye week this past weekend. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
Q: It seems Rutgers’ offense has done well against poor competition but has struggled against some of the better teams in the conference, what has been the issue there?
A: “We are very much trying to establish the run,” Gordon said. “If that doesn't work, then we're kind of at a loss. Wimsatt definitely made a lot of improvements. He's competent now, but he still struggles with accuracy issues, especially over the middle of the field. Against Michigan and Wisconsin, you saw Monangai, who’s been great, get really bottled up and you have to rely on the passing game, but it's just really not worked out for them. On top of that, our offensive line is much better than years past but that’s not saying that much.”
Q: The defense has been pretty stout for Rutgers this season, not giving up many points in any of their games. Who are some of the standouts on that side of the ball?
A: “Flip Dixon is sneakily one of the best,” Rabenhorst said. “He's a great tackler, almost all of his tackles are solo tackles. He's the kind of guy who's in the right place at the right time most of the time. He had an interception against Virginia Tech. That was huge in that one too. Robert Longerbeam is another great one. He's got an interception. Holding Michigan to 14 even though the second half was a bit more of a blowout was promising, but it didn't go our way. The Wisconsin game was pretty close. Defensively, they were holding Wisconsin down pretty much all game.”
Q: Most of the Big Ten teams you guys have played have been on the road and have all ended in losses, do you think being at home will make a difference this Saturday?
A: “It’s going to be pretty packed,” Gordon said. “Especially because of homecoming and because I think the program has a little bit of momentum compared to the last three seasons. They know this is a big game for them because we only need two more wins for our first six win season since 2014. I think a lot of fans are excited for this game. So I think it's gonna be a packrat crowd.”
Q: Do you think MSU’s QB controversy could provide issues because of the unknown factor?
A: “I do think it's gonna be an advantage for the defensive line to see a backup at least,” Rabenhorst said. “I think if they get a backup in there, they're probably going to know within the first quarter and see how he throws. Can you kind of read him? For Kim it's going to be an interesting one because he’s turned the ball over with his defense being as good as it has been. He doesn’t want to shoot himself in the foot with those stupid mistakes, but I think Rutgers is going to kind of know after the first half. They'll probably have his number.”
Q: Score prediction?
A: “I think Rutgers comes out with a big victory, any victory for this program is big to put them on the cusp of a bowl game,” Gordon said. “But because of homecoming and because of what's happened during MSU’s season, I think it's a 55-45 Rutgers advantage, so I'll say 24-16.”
“I’ll go 24-10,” Rabenhorst said. “I think MSU can’t drive down the field with the defense and they get stuffed.”
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