Michigan State Spartans (0-0) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (0-0)
September 3, 2021 9:00 pm EDT
The Line: Northwestern Wildcats -4 / Michigan State Spartans +4; Over/Under: 45.5
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The Northwestern Wildcats meet the Michigan State Spartans and the in Big Ten conference week 1 2021 college football action from Ryan Field on Friday night.
The Michigan State Spartans will attempt to rebound from a disappointing 2020 campaign that saw Sparty finish with a 2-5 record in their second year under Mel Tucker. The good news is that despite the poor record, Michigan State showed signs of life with a win over rival Michigan and now have a new option at QB in temple grad transfer Anthony Russo in the event that Payton Thorne gets shifted to the back burner. Hampton Fay is also an option as a true freshman which could end up being the answer under center for Michigan State. Stranger things have happened let’s be honest. The Spartans’ strength on offense could and should be the receiving group, led by Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed who are NFL stars in the making. Tre Mosley also has professional skills at his disposal and Ricky White could be right there too after being an integral part in the win over Michigan. The offensive line has a nice sense of continuity as well with all five starters from last year’s group returning which will help a pair of transfer running backs in Kenneth Walker III from Wake Forest and Harold Joiner III from Auburn as they get acclimated to life in East Lansing. Defensively, the Spartans lost Naquan Jones to the pros, but the rest of the line is back, with Jacob Panasiuk being the leading man up fron while Drew Jordan transfers in from Duke to help aid the pass rush for the Spartans. The Spartans lost four players at their biggest weak point in the lineup at linebacker, but Itayvion Brown stayed in the Big Ten to come to Michigan State and Ben VanSumeren made the rare and polarizing move from one Michigan to another, leaving the Wolverines to join the Spartans. The secondary is questionable as well, but there are pieces there. Like Kalon Gervin at corner while Xavier Henderson and Michael Dowell are both experienced safeties. As a team, Michigan State averaged 18 PPG and allowed 35.1 PPG last season.
The Northwestern Wildcats will look to build on the massive step forward taken in 2020, finishing the year at 7-2 including a 6-2 mark in Big Ten play, winning their second conference title in three years and wiping out a 3-9 mark from 2019 that was clearly an apparition. The Wildcats finished with a fourth top-25 finish since 2015, including finishing 10th in both polls at the end of last season. Payton Ramsey is no longer a Wildcat after saving the program last season, but the Wildcats will likely turn to a notable transfer in 2021 after Ryan Hilinski came in from South Carolina after starting for the Gamecocks as a true freshman in 2019. One-time Clemson QB Hunter Johnson and senior Andrew Marty are also options under center, but Hilinski looks the most likely to assume the role under center. The receiving group took a hit with the departure of Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman but still has guys like Bryce Kirtz and Brekeley Holman in the fold whilst also getting back 2020 opt-out JJ Jefferson as well as Kansas transfer Stephan Robinson Jr. Running back looks to be Northwestern’s biggest strength on that side of the ball, with a solid one-two punch in the form of Cam Porter and Evan Hull looking to punch teams in the mouth on the ground. Defensively, the Wildcats need to retool areas to try to replicate one of the best defensive units in program history, and it starts with Adetomiwa Adebaware up front while Samdup Miller is back after also opting out last season. Jordan Butler, Trevor Kent and Joe Spivak will also bulk up the front line for Northwestern. Chris Bergin is back at linebacker but the Wildcats lose two key linebackers in Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher. But Gallagher’s younger brother Bryce steps in to fill his shoes as well as Peter McIntyre to fill out the group while the Wildcats’ recruiting may have helped the secondary more than anyone, led by all-American safety Brandon Joseph as well as Cameron Mitchell at the other corner spot. As a team, Northwestern averaged 24.7 PPG while allowing 15.9 PPG last season.
Michigan State is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall and 3-12 ATS in their last 15 conference games while the over is 5-1 in their last 6 September games. Northwestern is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games as a favorite while the under is 7-1 in their last 8 conference games.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of trepidation about backing Northwestern here, as the Wildcats struggled against the Spartans last season and Mel Tucker’s done a good job of bringing in his guys to put out the best Spartan team possible under his watch. However, I’m a Pat Fitzgerald fan and the guy can flat out coach. There are pieces moving in and out, but despite the changes as MSU, the story has been the same. High hopes to start the year and disappointment from the get go. I think Northwestern avenges their loss from last season by winning this one by at least a touchdown, so give me the Wildcats and lay the points here.