Coming into the year, both Nebraska and Michigan State were expected to compete for the Big Ten Title. At this point of the season, one team is in much better shape than the other.
Nebraska recovered from a few stumbles earlier in the season to have a 6-2 record, with only one loss in the conference. The Cornhuskers got a huge win over Michigan last week that put the team in first place in the Legends Division.
Meanwhile, Michigan State stayed alive with a much-needed overtime win over Wisconsin. The Spartans have three conference losses by a combined six points, but will likely need to win out to reach the Big Ten Championship Game.
These are two very talented teams and there is no doubt that the game will be an exciting battle from beginning to end.
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
When: November 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ABC/ESPN2 (Regional)
Live Stream: ESPN3
Spread: Nebraska (-1.5) via Vegas Insider
Nebraska has stumbled on the road this season. The team has a 1-2 record away from home, and the only win was a one-point victory over Northwestern.
While Spartan Stadium has not been as intimidating as in years past, the crowd can still cause issues for opponents.
The Huskers might come out victorious, but it is a risky bet to take.
Over/Under: 44.5 via Vegas Insider
Only two of Michigan State's nine games have reached a total of 45 points this season. The Spartans are in the Top 10 in the nation in points allowed, but the offense has struggled all year.
Both teams are likely to run the ball for most of the game. This will keep the clock moving and reduce the total scoring. A smart gambler would take the under.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
RB Braylon Heard (Groin) Probable
QB Taylor Martinez (Ankle) Probable
WR Taariq Allen (Knee) Questionable
RB Rex Burkhead (Knee) Doubtful
FB Mike Marrow (Knee) Out
FB Niko Palazeti (Ankle) Questionable
S Jairus Jones (Achilles) Questionable
What's At Stake?
Nebraska only has an outside chance of an at-large berth in the BCS, so the best-case scenario is to win the Big Ten Championship.
Both teams are still alive in the Legends Division, but they would each likely need win out to reach the title game. Even though the Cornhuskers are currently in first place, the teams are too closely packed together to be able to afford a loss.
The good news is that both Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for the postseason. That means it will be easier to win the Big Ten Championship if either team reaches the final game.
Key to Nebraska Victory: Get Taylor Martinez Going on the Ground
The junior quarterback has improved tremendously as a passer since last season, but his biggest weapons are his legs.
Martinez has been held relatively in check over the past few games, and the entire team has struggled.
Ameer Abdullah has performed well filling in for Rex Burkhead, but the quarterback is not holding up his end of the bargain.
If Martinez does not run the ball with better efficiency, Nebraska's offense will be too easy to defend on Saturday.
Key to Michigan State Victory: Balanced Offense
Le'Veon Bell is one of the best running backs in the country, but he cannot do everything on his own. Defenses are starting to stack the box against him and it is slowing down the entire offense.
Over the last five games, Bell has been getting his yards, but he is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
Quarterback Andrew Maxwell needs to be able to keep the defenses honest by throwing over the top when there is an opening. The team is 5-1 when the junior completes over 55 percent of his passes and 4-1 when he throws for over 200 yards.
Bell is the best player on that side of the football, but the Spartans will not win without a passing game.
Prediction: Michigan State 17, Nebraska 16
This will be an incredibly close game from beginning to end. Michigan State should be able to slow Nebraska on offense, but the question will be how well the Spartans are able to move the football.
The crowd will certainly play a factor late in the game, and kicker Dan Conroy will make the go-ahead field goal as time expires.
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