Gophers football vs. Michigan State: Keys to game, how to watch and who has edge


When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Bank Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: KFAN, 100.3 FM
Weather: 33 degrees, flurries, 6 mph south wind
Betting spread: Minnesota, -7

Records: Minnesota (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) got back into the Big Ten West race with a 12-10 win over Iowa last Saturday. Michigan State (2-5, 0-4) dropped its fifth straight game last weekend, a 49-0 beat down by No. 2 Michigan.

History: Before a 34-7 win in East Lansing in 2022, the Gophers had lost five straight games to the Spartans dating to 2010. Minnesota is 18-30 all-time against Michigan State.

Key matchup: Athan Kaliakmanis vs. Spartans secondary. The Gophers QB and his pass catchers have yet to fully click this season and this Michigan State’s secondary can be beat. With health concerns in the U backfield, Minnesota might need to rely more on an efficient passing game.

Who has the edge?

Gophers offense vs. Michigan State defense: The Spartans have lost all five games since head coach Mel Tucker was suspended Sept. 10. On Wednesday, Tucker was found responsible for violating the school’s sexual harassment policy. … Going into the season, an opposing Big Ten assistant told Athlon Sports: “You never know what you’re going to get when they actually line up against you.” … U tailbacks Darius Taylor and Zach Evans might be out with injuries suffered against Iowa, and Bryce Williams was ruled out for the rest of the season going into the Hawkeyes game. That might mean Minnesota has to turn to Sean Tyler and Jordan Nubin. Tyler opened the season as the starter, but the Western Michigan transfer took a back seat after fumbling issues in Week 2. Nubin, a former walk-on and younger brother of star safety Tyler Nubin, has six carries on the season. … The Spartans’ best defender, LB Jacoby Windmon, is out for the season, but LB Cal Haladay remains in middle and leads team with 48 tackles. … WR Daniel Jackson is coming off his second career 100-yard game vs. Iowa. He had two TDs against the Spartans last year.  … The Spartans secondary was bad over the last few years, but have been better at times this season. They still gave up at least three passing touchdowns in games against Maryland, Washington and Michigan. EDGE: Gophers 

Gophers defense vs. Michigan State offense: The Hawkeyes offense is atrocious, but the only thing they got in the rivalry game was given to them by Minnesota. The U allowed 10 points and only 127 total yards, a new Hawkeye low since 2017. … The Spartans lost their top QB (Payton Thorne to Auburn) and top two WRs (Keon Coleman to Florida State and Jayden Reed to the Green Bay Packers). They left a void. This season, they have turned to QB Katin Houser for the last two starts as Noah Kim, who might be hurt, has gone to the sideline. Houser has completed 58 percent of passes with two TDs and two INTs over six games. QB Sam Leavitt also has played. DC Joe Rossi said their offense doesn’t change much even if the quarterback might. … Edge rushers Jalen Logan-Redding made Pro Football Focus’s college defense of the week, while Michigan State’s starting right tackle, Spencer Brown, will be suspended for the first half Saturday. He is being punished for a flagrant personal foul against Michigan. … LBs Devon Williams and Maverick Baranowski put together their best games of the season against Iowa. … RB Jalen Berger, a Wisconsin transfer, has only 93 yards over five games. RB Nate Carter leads way with 565 yards, but only 4.3 average. The UConn transfer is “strong and a bruiser,” one NFL scout told Lindy’s. That same source said before the Tucker fiasco that “it’s getting harder to see the future here.” EDGE: Gophers 

Special teams: K Dragan Kesich made a career-high four field goals to carry the U to victory over Iowa. Kesich has made 87 percent of his 16 field goals this season. … The Gophers coverage units continue to show holes, even if Cooper DeJean’s 54-yard punt return was called back. … Jonathan Kim has made 78 percent of nine field goals. EDGE: Gophers

Prediction: Coming off the euphoria of their first win in the Iowa rivalry in nine years, Minnesota will need to guard against a letdown. Trailing by a field goal early will help them fully snap out of it. Gophers, 28-17

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