Expert Cappers Picks
College Football
Preview
Michigan State at Northwestern
When: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 21, 2019
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois

Michigan State and Northwestern play their Big Ten opener in Evanston on Saturday, with both teams hoping to right their ships with the beginning of conference play. The Spartans are coming off a disappointing 10-7 loss to Arizona State last weekend, while the Wildcats earned their first win of the season last Saturday, topping non-conference foe UNLV 30-14.

Michigan State had another difficult offensive game against the Sun Devils, following up a 51-point explosion the previous week against Western Michigan with just one score and having a potential game-tying field goal get wiped off the board in the final seconds due to a penalty. Defensively, the Spartans are as good as they've ever been, ranking No. 2 in the country in rushing defense (23.3 yards), third in total defense (216.0) and 12th in scoring defense (11.3 points). Sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson seemed more comfortable for the Wildcats in his second game than he did in the opener, throwing for 165 yards and a touchdown in the victory over UNLV. Northwestern's defense is stout as always under coach Pat Fitzgerald, forcing five turnovers and recording seven sacks in its first two games.

TV: Noon ET, ABC. LINE: Michigan State -9.5

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten): The frustration around the Michigan State program had to do with more than just the officiating in the loss to Arizona State after the Spartans nearly doubled up the Sun Devils in total offense, 404-216. Ten penalties and three missed field-goal attempts hurt the Spartans, but so did execution in critical points of the game. Quarterback Brian Lewerke was solid, passing for 291 yards, but the senior co-captain has to step up his leadership to get the MSU offense in sync at the most crucial times going forward.

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (1-1, 0-0): The Wildcats are going to be in a quandry this week, with the running game coming off a season-high 276 yards on the ground against UNLV but facing a staunch MSU run defense. Redshirt freshman running back Drake Anderson had a career-high 141 yards and sophomore Jesse Brown a career-best 79 last week, but the Spartans have yet to allow more than 100 yards rushing this season. The key for Northwestern will be the play of Johnson, who must establish the passing game to try to set up the ground attack, especially after Wildcats have averaged 340 passing yards in their last three meetings with MSU.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Michigan State LB Antjuan Simmons recorded a career-high nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, against Arizona State.

2. Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against UNLV.

3. As good as Michigan State has been over the last few seasons, Northwestern has won three straight meetings, averaging 40.7 points in those victories.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 31, Northwestern 17
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Michigan State 2-1 L1 28.7 11.3 2-1 0-0 2-1 0-0 0-0
Northwestern 1-1 W1 18.5 15.5 1-0 0-1 1-1 0-0 0-0
Last Meeting
Michigan State Northwestern
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
10/6/18 NW 29 MSU 19 425 96 329 381 8 373
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Michigan State B. Lewerke 60.8 329 1 1
Northwestern C. Thorson 66.0 373 3 2
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Michigan State F. Davis III 2 50 25.0 1
Northwestern D. Anderson 5 12 2.4 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Michigan State F. Davis III 7 96 13.7 1
Northwestern F. Nagel 10 111 11.1 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Michigan State F. Davis III 2
Northwestern C. Green 1
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Michigan State B. Lewerke 63.6 797 4 1
Northwestern H. Johnson 42.9 220 1 3
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Michigan State E. Collins 44 281 6.4 1
Northwestern D. Anderson 28 146 5.2 1
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Michigan State D. Stewart Jr. 25 362 14.5 1
Northwestern B. Skowronek 9 110 12.2 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Michigan State L. Jefferson 2
Northwestern D. Anderson 1
Quickchart Matchup
Michigan State Michigan State Off vs  Northwestern Northwestern Def
Michigan State 429.7 yards
Northwestern 347.5 yards
Michigan State 4.3 yards/rush
Northwestern 4.6 yards/rush
Michigan State 7.4 yards/attempt
Northwestern 5.9 yards/attempt
Northwestern Northwestern Off vs  Michigan State Michigan State Def
Northwestern 325.5 yards
Michigan State 216 yards
Northwestern 4.4 yards/rush
Michigan State 0.9 yards/rush
Northwestern 5.4 yards/attempt
Michigan State 6.1 yards/attempt