Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thoughts on MSU's win vs. Northwestern

Outright champs. At 10-2 (7-1), the Spartans will not be sharing the Legends division with anyone. It is the first time in school history that MSU has won 10+ games in back-to-back seasons. This season has proved that last year's 11-2 year was not a fluke, especially given the October schedule the Spartans faced. After the Notre Dame loss, it appeared this would be a struggle of a season, but the Spartans won three straight against Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin before falling to Nebraska at the end of the month. After that stretch, it was clear MSU could do something special.

They have gone 4-0 in back-to-back Novembers as well. This year's senior class is 24-8 in Big Ten play, which is tied with Ohio State for best in the conference over that span. Saturday's win also was Northwestern's first Senior Day loss since 2003. That's pretty amazing.

Everyone stayed healthy it appears. That really was the most important thing. William Gholston and Marcus Rush both got dinged up, but stayed in the game. Darqueze Dennard was on the dress list, but didn't play. He hasn't played the last two weeks with an ankle injury so the hope is he'll be good to go in the championship game next week.

The rushing game was strong. MSU rushed for 166 yards and averaged 4.6 per carry (according to Gametracker). Le'Veon Bell had 86 yards on 16 carries and many, many broken tackles. He ran harder than I've ever seen him before. He is clearly MSU's No. 1 back. Even Kirk Cousins has 25 yards and took advantage of the holes Northwestern gave him. Nebraska's defense turned their backs and dared him to run in Lincoln, and Cousins didn't. He hesitated early in Evanston, but found his step and took advantage of some opportunities.

Cousins, Cunningham set more records. Cousins now is the career leader in touchdown passes and Cunningham moved up to third in touchdown catches, behind Charles Rogers and Kirk Gibson. Congrats to both. Cousins has most of the passing records, but I think a Rose Bowl berth would cement him as the greatest quarterback in school history.

Looking ahead. Spartan fans should be donning their Penn State gear, as a matchup with the Nittany Lions appears much more favorable than with the Badgers again. Nevertheless Wisconsin rolled, as everyone expected, bringing a Part 2 to what it becoming a rivalry between MSU and the Badgers (and is part of the #borderbattle between the states). Gholston will surely have a chip on his shoulder, as he missed the first meeting due to a suspension.

The Spartans have one game to P4RB. All the goals that were set at the beginning of the year come down to this one game. If the Spartans lose, they won't be going to a BCS game (which is unfair in my opinion, but nothing anyone can do about it). It's Rose Bowl or bust. It all comes down to one game.

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