The Wildcats head to East Lansing this weekend to take on the Michigan State Spartans, looking to spoil their second straight homecoming matchup. The ‘Cats and Spartans kickoff at 2:30 CST and WNUR has you covered starting with the pregame show at 1:30, followed by the opening kick.
Here’s how our broadcasters think the Wildcats will fare against Michigan State:
Ryan Fish (@ryanmfish): Northwestern 20, Michigan State 16
The Spartans are in free fall right now. If there was ever a time for the ‘Cats to turn their season around, it’s now.
Player to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern. Michigan State may try a mix of Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry at quarterback, and the ‘Cats getting pressure should prevent either from getting comfortable. Let’s see if the senior can build on his monster game at Iowa.
Adam Braunstein (@braunstein_adam): Northwestern 27, Michigan State 20
Clayton Thorson will continue to show ‘Cats fans why he was so heavily recruited out of high school and put up another solid performance in East Lansing, leading Northwestern to victory.
Player to Watch: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern. It has been an up and down year for “The Franchise,” and slowing down the Spartans offense requires one of those “up” performances from Walker.
Austin Miller (@austin_james906): Northwestern 17, Michigan State: 13
The Wildcats win because the Spartans can’t quite stop Justin Jackson.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB Northwestern. If he has a good day, the ‘Cats will win. If he struggles, the ‘Cats will struggle.
Josh Burton (@josh_burton1): Michigan State 30, Northwestern 10
Michigan State has been a massive disappointment this season as life after Connor Cook has been much harder for the Spartans than expected. As a result, MSU has lost three straight games and is reeling as Northwestern comes to town. While all things may point toward another Wildcats’ upset, after NU’s win at Iowa before the bye, I think the Spartans finally get their running game on track and force a few Clayton Thorson turnovers en route to the win.
Player to Watch: LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State. Both Scott and Gerald Holmes are reliable running backs for the Spartans, but Scott – who’s just a sophomore – has overtaken his backfield counterpart for the No. 1 spot. On a per-yard basis, Scott is having a slightly worse season than he did as a freshman, when he ran for almost 700 yards and 11 touchdowns, but is still averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Other than weak performances the last two weeks against Indiana and BYU, Scott has been pretty consistent for the Spartans and could have a big day if the Northwestern defensive line struggles.
Matt Hacker Teper (@matthackerteper): Northwestern 20, Michigan State 16
Northwestern should be fresh after their bye week, and while offense has been hit-or-miss, both the running and passing game looked capable as they scored 38 points against Iowa two weeks ago. MSU comes into the game on a 2-game losing streak where they’ve been struggling to put up points. If Northwestern hold MSU to field goals, they win in a squeaker.
Player to Watch: Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern. Walker tackles a lot, and will be a key component of Northwestern’s red zone defense this Saturday.
Amit Mallik (@upper90shot): Northwestern 24, Michigan State 19
The ‘Cats grind out a tough midseason victory behind a dominant run game, and a defense up to the task.
Player to Watch: Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern. Austin Carr has been the man for the ‘Cats offense this season, and if Michigan State’s pass rush flounders again, the star wideout should have enough time to get open down the field and produce another outstanding performance.
Ben Krieger: Northwestern 23, Michigan State 17
The Wildcats win a defensive battle behind two touchdown runs from Justin Jackson. A missed extra point doesn’t come back to haunt the Cats as the they hold off the Spartans in a nail biter.
Zach Koons (@ZachKoons): Northwestern 24, Michigan State 21
Northwestern goes into East Lansing and faces a defensive battle against the Spartans. Justin Jackson scores a late touchdown to put the Cats ahead and the defense steps up with a big stop on Michigan State’s final drive.
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern. In the two games that the Wildcats have won this year, Thorson has thrown for 3 touchdowns and the offense scored 24 and a season-high 38 points in those two games. Also, if he can throw the ball well, the pressure will be taken off Justin Jackson, allowing him more room to shine.
Henrique DaMour (@henrydamour): Northwestern 27, Michigan State 26
The ‘Cats get it done in East Lansing against a floundering Michigan State team, but not before Clayton Thorson gets sacked in the end zone for a safety. Jack Mitchell will go 2/3 on FG tries, but one of them will be a game-winner, and Justin Jackson rushes for 150+ yards and 2 TDs. MSU’s offense finally gets going and almost completes the comeback against Northwestern.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. The games where Northwestern can diversify its offensive attack are the games where they’re put in a position to win. WMU, Duke (kind of), and Iowa are all games where Jackson was cut loose and spread the opposing defense thin for guys like Austin Carr and Flynn Nagel to make big breaks on deep balls.
Sam Brief (@sambrief): Northwestern 24, Michigan State 23
These are two teams headed in opposite directions: Michigan State has lost three straight and has averaged just over 13 points per game in the losses. Northwestern, fresh off a 38-point offensive effort in Iowa City and a bye week, has momentum. I have Northwestern in a close one.
Player to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern. Coming off a four-sack effort at Iowa, he’ll play a major role in keeping the pressure on a struggling Spartan offense.
Parker Johnson (@sportsbyparker): Northwestern 27, Michigan State 23
Northwestern builds on the momentum of a high-scoring win over Iowa as Sparty’s tailspin continues in East Lansing.
Player to watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern. It is hard to follow-up a 4-sack week, but if Odenigbo can lead the D-line, hold the edge on the outside, and even produce half of his sack total from the last game, Northwestern’s defense will thrive.