With its dominant defense, No. 16 Michigan State has climbed atop the Big Ten Legends Division in convincing fashion. In order to remain there, the Spartans must address the one riddle they have been unable to solve on Saturday when they travel to Lincoln to face Nebraska. Michigan State has held its last three opponents to a combined nine points, but is 0-7 all-time against the Cornhuskers – including losses in each of the two-plus seasons Nebraska has been a member of the Big Ten.
The Spartans – who lead the country in total defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense – have cruised through conference play thus far, winning each game by at least 14 points. Michigan State savored a well-timed bye week following its home victory over Michigan on Nov. 2. Nebraska also enters this contest with a win over the Wolverines and can pull into a first-place tie atop the division if it can continue its mastery of the Spartans.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2. LINE: Michigan State -6.5.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten): The Spartans are one of only two teams (Louisville) in the FBS to rank in the top five nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass defense. Michigan State’s defense is allowing 3.47 yards per play and has yielded only 10 rushes of more than 10 yards – both of which are the lowest marks in the country. The stellar defensive effort has contributed to the Spartans’ conference-best time of possession (34:32 per game), which also ranks second in FBS.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (7-2, 4-1): The Cornhuskers held Michigan to minus-21 yards rushing and recorded a season-high seven sacks – including three by defensive end Randy Gregory – to boost their conference-leading total to 30. Gregory, who has notched seven of his Big Ten-best 7.5 sacks during league play, was named co-Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against the Wolverines. Coach Bo Pelini expressed doubt earlier this week when he was asked about injured quarterback Taylor Martinez (foot) returning to the field this season.
1. Michigan State has held four of its opponents without a touchdown, including each of the last three.
2. Nebraska is 9-1 in Big Ten home games since joining the conference in 2011 and has won four of its last five home games against ranked opponents.
3. The Spartans’ 28-24 loss to the Cornhuskers last season marked the first time they had scored more than 14 in seven all-time meetings.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 24, Nebraska 17