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November 06, 2010

Minnesota GameDay (plus some hoops)

Everything you need to know about the Big Ten race and what the Spartans need to do to stay on top if it can be found here. Also, some lopsided matchups, the updated Talkin' Spartans, and here's the rail with prediction:

    Today’s game
No. 16 MSU (8-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (1-8, 0-5)
Spartan Stadium
When: Noon
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WJIM 1240-AM, WMMQ 94.9-FM
 

Coaches
MSU: Mark Dantonio is 30-18 (.625) in his fourth season with the Spartans, and 48-35 (.578) in his seventh as a head coach.
   
Minnesota: Interim coach Jeff Horton is 0-2 since replacing fired head coach Tim Brewster and 20-50 (.286) in his seventh season overall.


The numbers
3
Consecutive victories for the Golden Gophers in the series, including last season’s 42-34 win on Halloween night in Minneapolis. The Spartans still lead the all-time series 25-17, including a 14-6 record in East Lansing.

14
MSU’s BCS ranking, down from No. 5 a week ago, and the number of MSU seasons that have seen the Spartans win at least eight of their first nine games. The others were 1904, 1905, 1909, 1934, 1937, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1965 and 1966.

16
Consecutive games in which Kirk Cousins has thrown a touchdown pass, which ties Drew Stanton’s MSU record. Also in last week’s loss at Iowa, Cousins passed 5,000 career passing yards. He is seventh in MSU history with 5,136.

 
Quotable
“I can tell you that offensively, they are not a 1-8 football team.”
Dantonio on Minnesota
 
 
THE BOTTOM LINE
Gameday buzz
In 2007, Minnesota and Michigan State embarked on new coaching regimes with the usual high hopes and talk of building something special. The programs were in similar condition. Look how far apart they are now. Brewster and his JUCO-heavy recruiting and revolving-door staff did not get it done in Minneapolis. This is a bad and broken team – but it has enough players to pose at least faint danger to the rebounding Spartans.
 

Key matchup
MSU senior cornerback Chris L. Rucker vs. Minnesota junior receiver Da’Jon McKnight
Now that the controversy has faded and Rucker is back in the starting lineup, it’s time for him to knock off some rust. Today he’ll see a lot of a guy who can make that difficult. The 6-3 McKnight has become a polished receiver and one of few bright spots for the Gophers this season. He has 578 yards and nine touchdowns receiving – two shy of Minnesota’s single-season record. If MSU can halt McKnight, Minnesota has little chance.


Prediction
How MSU wins: The Spartans respond emotionally to a painful loss in much the same way Iowa did against them last week. Kirk Cousins gets back to playing efficient, smart football. And the defense stuffs a decent rush game and gets after Adam Weber like it couldn’t do in last season’s loss at Minnesota.

How Minnesota wins: The Gophers capitalize on an emotionally down opponent by jumping to an early lead. Minnesota gambles to stop the run and get after Cousins, in hopes he’ll keep making mistakes. And Weber gets at least 75 percent of the way to the 416 passing yards he put on MSU last season.

     Make it: MSU 41, Minnesota 17
The Spartans rediscover their running game after three off weeks, and head into a long-awaited week off with a 9-1 record.

    Now some quick hoops items from Friday's practice:

    * Garrick Sherman is back doing non-contact stuff and was hoping to participate fully in a practice this morning that should be in full swing as we speak. His latest concussion test went well, but Tom Izzo still isn't sure if or how much Sherman will play in Monday's exhibition (7 p.m. vs. Nebraska-Omaha).

    * Very interesting stuff from Izzo on MSU's new "drag" offense, which will involve spreading the floor and dribble penetration to complement the usual sets. All four coaches fanned out to NBA training camps this fall -- Izzo to Washington, Mike Garland to New York, Mark Montgomery to Detroit and Dwayne Stephens to Milwaukee -- to get some ideas and affirm some of their own ideas about spacing to help the offense. If you're going to pick an offensive brain, Mike D'Antoni would seem like a good place to go.

    * Looking back at the first exhibition, Izzo may have been as impressed with Keith Appling's defense as anything.

    * Interviewing Durrell Summers on Friday, I was struck by the fact that he has grown. I swear, we used to be close to eye level (I'm 6-3) and now he's easily a couple inches taller. He said he was measured at 6-6 this summer but still thinks he's around 6-5. I say he's at least 6-5. Also, if he missed a shot in practice Friday, I missed that.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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