Looking to avoid a fourth straight loss, Michigan State football will hit the road for the second game in a row as they are set to battle Rutgers on Saturday.
The Spartans are looking to bounce back after suffering their closest loss of the season to Iowa on Sept. 30, falling 26-16. Heading to Rutgers, MSU will have an opportunity to pick up their first conference win as they are 0-2 and at the bottom of the Big Ten standings thus far.
There are some questions to be answered coming into the matchup for Michigan State like whether there would be a quarterback change heading into Saturday. Redshirt junior quarterback Noah Kim’s production has decreased in the last three games. Kim has thrown for just 519 yards and one touchdown to go with six interceptions in that span, including a 193 yard passing game with three interceptions in the last outing against Iowa.
Buzz has been created around redshirt freshman quarterback Katin Houser’s name to step into the starting role under center. Houser has seen small portions of action this season, as he has completed just nine passes to go along with an interception and one rushing touchdown.
Interim head coach Harlon Barnett continues to keep the starting quarterback name a secret, but it is a possibility that MSU shows change in order to create a new spark which could come as soon as Saturday.
“We’re still evaluating it,” Barnett said. “It’s a good competition going…It’s going to be good. Guys know where they stand and what’s going to happen and so we’ll just leave it at that for now.”
Rutgers come into the matchup sitting at 4-2. After winning their first three games, the Scarlet Knights have lost two out of their last three, falling to No. 2 Michigan 31-7 and Wisconsin 24-13, putting them at the bottom half of the Big Ten as well.
The passing game hasn’t been quite efficient for Rutgers either. Junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt has completed just 51.8% of his passes on the season for 914 yards and six touchdowns to two interceptions. Wimsatt’s threat is increased on the ground, however, as he has run for a total of 230 yards and four touchdowns on 50 attempts.
The Spartans defense has stepped up since the start of conference play. Their biggest struggles have come to pocket passers and MSU has done surprisingly well containing rushing quarterbacks.
The Scarlet Knights like to run the ball more often than most teams though. Junior running back Kyle Monangai has contributed to Rutgers success in the ground game with 96 carries for 487 yards and six touchdowns. Rutgers also average more rushing yards per game than in the air, with 173.3 yards on the ground per game compared to 161.2 passing yards per game.
Defense has been key for the Scarlet Knights as well. In the six games played, Rutgers have allowed just 81 points, including giving up just three against Wagner and seven versus Temple. A struggling MSU offense will have to introduce creativity into their game plan if they want to have success moving the ball down the field.
The scoreboard hasn’t shown much improvement for Michigan State’s defense, but the unit has stepped up in the past two weeks against Iowa and Maryland. The Spartans hung in the game against the Terrapins 21-9 until the fourth quarter where they gave up ten points. MSU generated an interception as well. Against Iowa, the Spartans were winning 16-13 heading into the fourth before giving up 13 points in the final period to lose the game. Nevertheless, Michigan State recorded another interception and redshirt junior linebacker Cal Haladay scooped up a fumble for the first defensive touchdown of the year.
MSU will have to rely on its offense if they want to steal a win away from the home team. The Spartans will continue to call redshirt sophomore running back Nate Carter’s name in the backfield, as he has recorded three games over 100 yards rushing so far this season.
Michigan State leads Rutgers in the all time series 10-4, and the Spartans have won eight of the last ten. MSU came out on top against the Scarlet Knights in the last meeting, winning 27-21 on Nov. 12, 2022.
Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Big Ten Network at SHI Stadium.
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