Nebraska and Michigan State face off on Saturday to conclude the Huskers’ 2018 home schedule. Nebraska will honor 19 seniors before Saturday’s matchup, which includes 12 fifth-year seniors, six players in their fourth year and one first-year graduate transfer.
The Huskers and Spartans last met in 2015. Nebraska won that meeting in the final 30 seconds of the game with a game-winning touchdown catch by Brandon Reilly.
Saturday’s meeting will be the 11th between the two programs. Nebraka currently holds an 8-2 lead in the series over Michigan State. The Huskers’ two losses came in 2013 and 2014.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost has also faced Michigan State as the quarterback for the Huskers. He led Nebraska to a 55-14 win over the Spartans on Sept. 7, 1996. It was his first start at quarterback for Nebraska.
Nebraska-Michigan State football TV channel, time, live stream
TV channel: FOX (Brian Custer, Ben Leber)
Time: 11 a.m. CT
Date: Saturday, Nov. 17
Live stream: FOX Sports GO
Radio: Huskers fans can listen to the Nebraska vs. Michigan State game on IMG Husker Sports Network, as well as on Sirius Channel 113 and XM 201. Internet radio will be available at Huskers.com.
Location: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Weather: Cloudy. Gusty winds in the morning. A few flurries or snow showers possible. High 32 degrees. Winds NNE at 20 to 30 mph.
Nebraska-Michigan State football picks, odds
The line: Nebraska +1, per OddsShark
Nebraska-Michigan State preview
Nebraska comes into Saturday’s matchup at 3-7 overall and 2-5 in Big Ten play. The Huskers defeated Illinois last Saturday, marking their third straight home victory. Nebraska also topped 45 points in each of those home wins.
The Huskers racked up 606 yards of offense against Illinois, which inluced 316 rushing yards. The performance against Illinois also meant Nebraska has scored at least 30 points in five straight games, as well as gained 450 yards or more in seven straight contests.
As for the Spartans, we thought we were going to find out whether Michigan State could get off the pendulum it has been riding the last three years. There was more returning production than any other team in the country. Things looked to be set up nicely.
Then injuries happened.
Nine of the team’s 11 starters have missed time with an injury. Starting running back LJ Scott played four games and was lost for the season due to an ankle injury. Star wideout Felton Davis III only made it six games before an Achilles cost him the season. Quarterback Brian Lewerke suffered a shoulder injury in Game 6 against Penn State and hasn’t looked the same since.
Lewerke has entered into this back-and-forth dance with backup redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi (All-Name First Team lock) since and the team has gone 2-2. Lewerke looks hurt but keeps playing. Lombardi is healthy but inexperienced.
Given that lack of clean health and a generally poor season from Lewerke even before the injury, Michigan State’s offense has yet to ignite this season. The Spartans have scored 30 points once in Big Ten play (35 against a bad Indiana team on Sept. 22) and haven’t topped 24 since.
Head coach Mark Dantonio’s group is bad when throwing the ball (81st in passing S&P+; 114th in completion rate), worse running the ball (99th in rushing S&P+; 107th in stuff rate; 120th in opportunity rate) and struggles to produce big plays (97th in big play rate, plays that gain 20 yards).
There are currently 18 qualified Big Ten runners averaging at least 5 yards a carry, Michigan State doesn't have one. The only guy who hasn't fumbled the ball this season is Scott, who can't play. Davis still leads the team in catches and receiving yards and he's missed the last four games.
Fortunately for Sparty, the defense has been strong enough to keep things afloat, because Michigan State has one of the best units in the country on the other side of the ball. MSU is fourth in defensive S&P+ and 103rd in offensive S&P+. (That ranking is explained here for anyone that might not know what it is.)
The entire M.O. is punishing you up front and taking the run game out of the equation, then attacking on passing downs and making you pay for mistakes. Sparty is second nationally in yards per carry allowed (2.55) and have more run stuffs (plays made at or behind the line) than any team in the country. They limit the big plays, keep the third-down percentage low for opposing offenses and cause a good deal of havoc.
The recipe has worked for six wins this year and failed in four losses. Against top-50 offenses by S&P+, Michigan State has three of its four losses. Against top-60 defenses, it also has three of those four losses.
Nebraska fits both billings.
For a full look at Michigan State, visit Derek Peterson's opponent preview on the Spartans.