State News football reporters predict MSU victory over Minnesota on Senior Day
Ninety two days ago, the MSU football team kicked off the 2013 season at Spartan Stadium.
Today, the regular season comes to a close.
With a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game on the horizon, the No. 11 Spartans (10-1 overall, 7-0) host Minnesota (8-3, 4-3) in the regular season finale at Spartan Stadium (noon, Big Ten Network).
The Spartans also will celebrate Senior Day featuring the final home game for linebacker Max Bullough, linebacker Denicos Allen, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, tackle Blake Treadwell, tackle Fou Fonoti, guard Dan France and quarterback Andrew Maxwell, among others.
And although it will not be Jeremy Langford’s final game at Spartan Stadium, the junior running back will have the opportunity to eclipse 100 yards for his seventh consecutive game against the Golden Gophers, who currently rank seventh in the Big Ten is total rushing defense.
With kickoff upcoming, football reporters Dillon Davis and Stephen Brooks predict the action in East Lansing:
Prior to the season, I predicted the Spartans to finish 9-3 with losses to Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska.
Well, MSU swept all three of those teams — shows how much I know.
Nevertheless, it’s been a truly special season for the Spartans, who have been strong from start to finish on the defensive side of the ball while the offense gradually has been building toward a season ending crescendo. And they’ll have the chance to prove it against Ohio State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game.
But before that, the Spartans need to handle Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill and a surprisingly tough Golden Gophers team this afternoon.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook continues to grow under center, quickly becoming the unquestioned starter heading into the 2014 campaign — a luxury he was not afforded this season. As long as Langford keeps carrying the load of the running game while MSU’s wide receivers maintain the pace they’re on this year, the offense should do just fine.
Taking a look at the opponent, Minnesota is coming off a week where it was unable to score an offensive touchdown at home against Wisconsin. And while the Badgers are tough on defense, the road isn’t easier against MSU, who has been ranked nationally on defense all year long.
My prediction? I doubt the Golden Gophers have the firepower to top a consistently outstanding Spartan defensive attack.
MSU 35, Minnesota 14
The crowd won’t show up, but the Spartans will — eventually.
Between the emotions of senior day and a titanic championship matchup with Ohio State looming next weekend, I think MSU will get off to a slow start against Minnesota. Players and coaches have repeatedly stated how much they look forward to playing the Golden Gophers despite having the Legends Division title in hand, but you have to wonder how much of the Spartans’ attention has shifted to the Buckeyes.
Once the ball gets rolling though, MSU should cruise to a relatively stress-free victory. The prideful defense will play inspired football to send its seniors out on a high note.
If there’s a game within the game to keep an eye on, it’s Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman versus the MSU offensive line. The Spartans’ front line is playing as well as any under head coach Mark Dantonio, but Hageman is a disruptive force along the interior that’s effective both against the run and rushing the passer. He’s among the most talented defensive linemen MSU has faced this season, if not the best. Hageman should get his share of plays, but as long as he isn’t controlling the line of scrimmage MSU will be OK.
The highlight of the day comes on a late interception from senior safety Isaiah Lewis, returned to the red zone to set up an easy fade-route touchdown for senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler from quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who’s also a senior.
MSU 34 Minnesota 13