Preview: No. 13 Spartans visit Northwestern

Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:28:02 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 23 2013 10:06:12 AM EST
Dantonio Michigan State

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, right, talks to quarterback Connor Cook (18) during warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

EVANSTON, Ill. -

Michigan State can punch its ticket to the Big Ten championship game with a victory Saturday at Northwestern.

The No. 13 Spartans appear to be clicking on all cylinders after winning six straight games, while the Wildcats have dropped six in a row. Jeremy Langford has rushed for at least 100 rushing yards in five consecutive contests, the first Michigan State player to accomplish that feat since Blake Ezor in 1989.

Connor Cook continues to win over Michigan State fans. He has averaged twice as many passing yards in Big Ten games as he did in non-conference play, while limiting his interceptions (three) and sacks (eight). The most dangerous player for Northwestern might be kicker Jeff Budzien, who was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts in Saturday’s triple-overtime loss to Michigan and entered the week tied for fifth in the nation with 18 field goals in 20 tries.

TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Michigan State -7.

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten): Aaron Burbridge is healthy but it appears he’ll have to earn his way back into the rotation of what has become a deep group of wide receivers. Burbridge was on the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list but got off to a slow start and then a hamstring injury Oct. 19 put him on the shelf the last three games. Wide receivers Bennie Fowler and Tony Lippett have stepped up their production and contributed to the winning streak.

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (4-6, 0-6): A closer look at the six-game losing streak shows that the Wildcats have dropped two contests in overtime and two others by three points. They still have a shot at becoming bowl eligible for a seventh straight season, but need to start with a mistake-free game against the Spartans. Northwestern has been pretty good at taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes, leading the Big Ten in forcing turnovers (22).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah is the only player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Spartans, who own the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense (57.3).

2. Budzien needs one point to tie former K Brian Gowins as Northwestern’s career scoring leader (261).

3. The Spartans are 6-0 in Big Ten play for the third time in program history.

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