The Call: Gophers vs. Michigan State

  • Updated: November 23, 2012 - 9:37 PM

THE OPPONENT A popular preseason Rose Bowl pick, the Spartans, who have lost five games by a total of 11 points, need a victory to qualify for a bowl game.

GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. SPARTANS DEFENSE

It's a statistical mismatch, considering Michigan State has allowed the fewest points and yards of any Big Ten team, ranks second in rushing defense and third in passing defense and has allowed only nine touchdowns when opponents reach the end zone, fewest in the league. The Spartans don't sack the quarterback much, though, so the Gophers hope they can buy time for Philip Nelson and revive their passing game. Advantage: Michigan State

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. SPARTANS DEFENSE

Junior tailback Le'Veon Bell trails Wisconsin's Montee Ball by only 35 yards for the Big Ten rushing title, and against a Gophers defense that gives up 4.4 yards per carry, expect Michigan State to feed Bell often. The Gophers have cut down on the huge gains that plagued them early in the Big Ten season, but Bell will test that improvement. Advantage: Michigan State

SPECIAL TEAMS

Spartans senior Dan Conroy is 3-for-3 on 50-yard field goals but only 8-for-16 on kicks between 30 and 49 yards. Punter Mike Sadler ranks second in the Big Ten in punting. The Gophers' punting has gradually dropped to near the bottom of the league, averaging less than 35 yards per kick. Advantage: Michigan State

INTANGIBLES

The Spartans seem to have motivation, with a bowl game at stake, but as the Gophers learned last year, it's hard to predict how hard teams will play on the season's final day. The Gophers are at home, where they are 4-2, but MSU is 3-1 on the road. Advantage: Even

PREDICTION

All seven of Michigan State's Big Ten games have been decided by four points or fewer, and the Gophers should make it eight. Watch for Nelson to bounce back, and for MarQueis Gray to take a few snaps. But a close game comes down to third-down stops, and the Spartans specialize in them.

Michigan State 17

Gophers 10

NUMBERS TO KNOW

3-0

Gophers' record in season finales at TCF Bank Stadium.

127

Points scored in Big Ten games by Minnesota, fewer than every team but Illinois (80).

DON'T FORGET ABOUT

MarQueis Gray

Though never the superstar Gophers fans hoped, he's the undoubted leader of his team.

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