The Big Ten East has been full of teams leaving some really good first impressions early on this season, but some may still have been sleeping on Michigan State. The Spartans (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) have already won two games away from home and moved their way up into the Top 25 rankings after last weekend's victory at Miami. This week, Michigan State plays their first home game as a Top 25 team since late September 2019.
Michigan State's opponent, Nebraska, is sitting at .500 and in need of a win in Big Ten play to remain in the running for a possible postseason bowl game. Although the Cornhuskers (2-2, 0-1) lost last week at Oklahoma, the effort offered a bit of hope moving forward. This is not exactly the easiest back-to-back road situation Nebraska could have asked for, and that is even more accurate given how well the Spartans have played so far.
Nebraska at No. 20 Michigan State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan State -5
When Nebraska Has the Ball
Even though Nebraska came up short last week against Oklahoma, quarterback Adrian Martinez had a decent performance. Martinez completed 76 percent of his pass attempts against the Sooners, and the only interception he tossed may just be the top highlight-reel play of the 2021 college football season, so it probably shouldn't be held too hard against him. Nebraska currently sits second in the Big Ten in total offense (326.8 ypg) as he's played well after a somewhat rough opener against Illinois.
Martinez will still be a threat to take off and run with the football. He already has two games with more than 100 rushing yards, but Nebraska would prefer to not have to rely on that too much. The Huskers are also facing a Michigan State defense that just allowed 2.17 rushing yards per attempt last week at Miami.
When Michigan State Has the Ball
Michigan State's offense has looked pretty good early on this season. Receiver Jayden Reed is among the Big Ten leaders with 277 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Expect to hear Reed's name all game long as quarterback Payton Thorne looks for open receivers, but the Spartans can establish the advantage in this game on the ground.
Kenneth Walker III has been racking up rushing yards and touchdowns at will this season, leading the country with 493 yards to go along with five touchdowns in the first three games of the season. Nebraska's run defense isn't great either (156.3 ypg allowed, 11th in Big Ten), so it is widely expected Walker could be lining up for another big game on the ground.
Michigan State has been one of the more pleasant surprises early on this season among Big Ten teams, and that should carry over into their first game as a Top 25 team. Michigan State's poise on the ground is what will set the tone and pace for this game as Michigan State will defend home turf and move to 4-0 for the first time since 2015.
Prediction: Michigan State 30, Nebraska 26
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