Michigan State expert gives his take and prediction on Saturday's game
Nebraska will travel to Michigan State for the first time since 2014 on Saturday to take on the Spartans.
To get some more insight on MSU, we caught up with Spartan Nation's Hondo Carpenter to get his thoughts and prediction on Saturday's game in East Lansing.
It's hard to believe this will be Nebraska's first trip to East Lansing since 2014 and the first meeting since 2018.
"It's been way too long. That's not good, in my opinion, you want these teams playing a lot."
How high is the fan base after the 3-0 start and the impressive win at Miami this past Saturday?
"The people around it are pretty jacked up, as Mel Tucker's brought an SEC approach to Michigan State. Believe it or not, the players are not as jacked. He's just kept telling them, 'This is what you should expect to be doing at Michigan State.' This is a business, so he gave them 24 hours but told them, 'The moment you walk in the building on Sunday for treatment, it's going to be back to normal.'
"One thing that has been amazing to me is I don't think there's a team in the country that's gotten more players off of the transfer portal, and they were looking for specific guys. They took a lot of criticism from coaches around the country who made fun of them. They were looking for guys like Kenneth Walker, their running back from Wake Forest. This is a guy that they had watched and even wanted to recruit when they were at Colorado. They loved his straight-ahead speed. He's a lot like a lot of Nebraska backs, and they loved him and he wasn't happy at Wake Forest, so boom, they jumped on him and brought him here. Mark Dantonio really hurt this program.
"We had announced the year before that Dantonio's intention was to retire after the signing date. We were being told to try to force Michigan State's hand to hire Mike Tressel and the athletic director at the time, Bill Beekman, was not going to let that happen. Then when word got out that he had already hired a search firm to help them find Dantonio's successor, basically a day before signing day, Dantonio up and quit.
"Tucker comes in, he had no chance to recruit, and because of COVID, there was no spring. Last year was a throwaway season, they got no chances until fall practice to introduce a new system, no recruits of their own. They still somehow managed to beat Michigan, which was a good year. Coming into this year, this is year one, people didn't know what to think. So many transfers, along with he invited a lot of guys to leave the program, which is an SEC type of trait. They came in and they have looked exceptionally well-coached, and the coaching has been outstanding and they've gotten guys to perform at a very high level. I think outside people are very pleased. Inside, they're taking a real business approach. It's pretty fascinating to watch."
The Spartan offense also appears to be very impressive in just about every aspect. Break down what you have seen? It's more than just Kenneth Walker and Payton Thorne.
"They've got three legitimate NFL wide receivers, Tre Mosley and Jalen Nailer are the other ones. Then there are some guys who could develop into it. They've got a lot of talent on offense. Mel Tucker knew that his team was going to need to score points to win, and unlike Dantonio, who wanted to win a 3-0 battle, Mel Tucker wants to come in and he wants to be balanced.
"One thing that they have done that I think Mel Tucker deserves a lot of respect for is there are some things that he likes to do, he can't right now, he doesn't have those players. A lot of coaches are really arrogant. A lot of coaches are, 'Nope, this is my system,' and they've adjusted their system to the personnel that they have. Had they not done that, I think they would be sitting here today 1-2. But the fact that they were able to do it and they made some adjustments have been a big credit to them."
This is a very intriguing game on both sides heading into Saturday. What jumps out to you?
"Mel Tucker showed everybody that game, that Oklahoma game, and he said to them, 'These kids are playing for pride, they're playing for a lot, and right now the sharks are circling in the water with blood.' He goes, they went to Oklahoma and he showed them the tape and said they could have quit. He goes, 'One of the members of the staff told me, he said any idiot Michigan State fan or player that thinks that those Nebraska kids have quit on Scott Frost are morons, because they didn't quit in Oklahoma, and they fought hard. And they played hard, and he showed him.' He goes, 'You better believe back home and one of the most difficult environments in all of college football, they're out for blood, they're out to show everybody last week was not an exception, they're out to show everybody, hey, quit talking poorly about our coach, quit talking poorly about our program.'
Are they confident? Yes, they feel good about themselves, but they also watch that Oklahoma tape and they've also seen how this whole thing went down, and I don't think there's one guy in that program that just expects to show up and Nebraska is going to quit, there's nobody that expects they're just going to show up and Nebraska is going to be a laydown game, this is going to be a physical battle.
"I will tell you this, it's going to be interesting for me to watch the physicality. Michigan state's coming in wanting a street fight. They want to be able to just pound you and attack you, but now make no mistake, I am not claiming this as a team with the talent and caliber of what we saw from Coach Osborne, but they do have coach Osborne's team's mentality that they're coming in looking for a slugfest. If Nebraska, which I think we saw a lot of that in them, if they come in looking for a fight, I think the Huskers got a great chance to win here, but if they're not, if they're coming in trying to finesse the Spartans, I think it'll be a long day for them."
Do you expect Michigan State to spy on Martinez like Oklahoma did to limit his big runs?
"Oklahoma put the game plan out there and said, 'This is how you beat Nebraska.' I fully expect Michigan State to do that. I expect the eight men and they're going to basically let Adrian know if you want to run, we're going to spy you, but if you're going to beat us, you got to beat us with your arm, and I think that's exactly how Saturday is going to play out.
"I do think that you'll see some more blitzes, but I think you're going to see controlled blitzes, I think you're going to see them blitzing with Martinez having a spy, but only in a very, very limited fashion. They're going to try to say, 'Okay, we've got the defensive backs, and Adrian, go beat us with your arm.' We're not going to not blitz, it's just going to be when we want to."
Finally, what is your score prediction and breakdown for Saturday's game in East Lansing?
"I think this is going to be a battle. I do. I think this one's going to be a big one, but I am not a person that looks down on Scott Frost. I know things are difficult, I know it's not gone as smoothly as everyone wants, but I think you saw a lot from them with that Oklahoma fight and with the absolute best environment and college football being what Nebraska is. I think at the end of the day on a last-second field goal, the Huskers win in 20-17."