Don’t Hate the Player: Michigan State at Northwestern Simulation

WNUR Sports Online Content Director Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger) uses EA Sports NCAA Football 14 to predict a winner for Saturday’s Northwestern-Michigan State matchup.

Not even EA Sports predicted that Northwestern would struggle as much as they struggled in real life through six Big Ten games. On the other side, Michigan State is not quite as good in the game as their one-loss record in real life suggests. This key Legends Division game was played in the snow, but little wind, so the weather only added to this game’s drama.

Key Players on Northwestern
SS Ibraheim Campbell (JR): 91 Overall, 88 speed
QB Kain Colter (SR): 91 Overall, 86 agility
K Jeff Budzien (SR): 88 Overall, 92 kick power

Key players on Michigan State
OLB Denicos Allen (SR): 95 Overall, 95 block shedding
DE Marcus Rush (JR): 92 Overall, 88 play recognition
MLB Max Bullough (SR): 91 Overall, 92 tackle

Northwestern: Overall: B, Offense: B, Defense: B
Michigan State: Overall: B+, Offense: B+, Defense: A

Look at that snow! Big Ten football!

Look at that snow! Big Ten football!

Northwestern Game Recap
Michigan State got the ball first and the Spartans’ offense put in work early, going 75 yards in 10 plays, capped by a short pass TD by Connor Cook. On Northwestern’s side, an early injury to Treyvon Green meant that Mike Trumpy would get the vast majority of carries at running back for Northwestern. The Wildcats had their first drive stall near midfield and punted, but forced a quick punt by Michigan State after just five plays.

Northwestern trailed 7-0 at the start of the second quarter, but a few big plays put the ‘Cats in the red zone. Unfortunately, back-to-back holding penalties pushed the ‘Cats out of field goal range. On 4th and 24, Northwestern tried a fake punt, which didn’t fool Michigan State at all. Four plays later, the Spartans were threatening inside the Northwestern 15 after some big plays of their own. The ‘Cats defense held and forced a Spartan field goal to make it 10-0. A Northwestern three-and-out ensued, and Michigan State again got into the red zone only to come away with a field goal. 13-0, Spartans. Northwestern couldn’t string together a last-minute drive before halftime, and found themselves shut out on the scoreboard at the intermission.

It was an ugly first half, thanks to the snow. Both defenses focused on the run, forcing each other to throw the ball. Michigan State had more success in that regard, breaking a few tackles after catches for long gains, while Northwestern receivers had a pair of drops on potential first-down gains.

Kain Colter looks for a running lane, but he would get stuffed on this run.

Kain Colter looks for a running lane, but he would get stuffed on this run.

Northwestern tried three passes on its opening second-half drive, and all were incomplete. Michigan State got the ball back and proceeded to jam the ball up the middle repeatedly with a power run game. Running back Nick Hill was key, showing the ability to find gaps inside and later turning a screen pass into a first down on third-and-long. A backbreaking 15-play drive spanned 75 yards, took about half of the third quarter, and ended with a short Connor Cook TD pass. 20-0, Michigan State. Northwestern drove into Spartan territory on the next drive, but Rashad Lawrence dropped a pass on fourth and six that would have kept the drive going.

A muddy Connor Cook throws an 8-yard touchdown pass.

A muddy Connor Cook throws an 8-yard touchdown pass.

The Wildcats would get the ball at the start of the fourth after a Michigan State three-and-out, but they faced a 20-point deficit. They couldn’t cross midfield, opting to punt, which gave Michigan State the opportunity to run a bunch of clock. The Spartans did that, running 13 plays and scoring a third touchdown on yet another short pass from Connor Cook. 27-0, Spartans. That wound up being the final score.

Final Thoughts
The Michigan State defense lived up to the hype, shutting out Kain Colter and the Wildcats on senior day at Ryan Field. In the snow, the run game becomes extra important, and the ‘Cats couldn’t get theirs going. Mike Trumpy led the way with a mere 47 rushing yards. Once Northwestern fell behind, they had to rely on Colter’s arm, but he completed just 54% of his passes. The receivers didn’t help much, dropping two passes in each half. Connor Cook finished with 211 yards passing and 3 TDs, more than enough for an easy Michigan State win.

Big Games This Week
Baylor 30, Oklahoma State 23
Texas A&M 27, LSU 26
UCLA 41, Arizona State 38
Kentucky 49, Georgia 45
Oregon 21, Arizona 17

Around the Big Ten
Ohio State 37, Indiana 20
Nebraska 41, Penn State 31
Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 14
Michigan 31, Iowa 28
Purdue 28, Illinois 10

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