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Rutgers vs Michigan State: Opponent Preview

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers is on the road, traveling to East Lansing, Michigan to take on the Spartans of Michigan State. Rutgers is coming off yet another second half swoon, losing against Indiana after taking the lead into halftime, while the Spartans have dropped seven in a row, the most recent last week to the Illini, who beat the Scarlet Knights last month. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s opposition:

Brief Overview

Ranking: 87, to view click here

Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (89-40, tenth season at MSU)

2016 Record: 2-7 (0-6)

Current Streak: L7

SB Nation Site: The Only Colors

One Big Thing

Michigan State is suffering through their worst season since the arrival of Mark Dantonio in 2007. With their seventh loss last week against Illinois, they have reached the same dismal milestone as Rutgers, being eliminated from bowl contention in 2016. They see Saturday as their last big chance for a win this season.

Opponent Depth Chart

Key Offensive Information

With the loss of redshirt freshman quarterback Brian Lewerke with a broken leg and O’Connor dealing with yet another injury, the only QB left to take the field on Saturday is Damion Terry. Even if O’Connor is able to play, he has struggled this season even when healthy. That leaves little-used Damion Terry to take first-team reps if O’Connor can’t go.

Injuries have plagued the Spartans this year, with offensive linemen David Beedle and Brian Allen, tight end Josiah Price and receivers R.J. Shelton and Felton Davis III all injured and possibly unable to take the field this week. Even if they do, they will not be playing at 100%. As a result, their ability to move the ball has been severely limited this season.

Key Defensive Information

Michigan State amassed 10 penalties last week. Two pass interference calls in the final minute of play enabled Illinois to sneak by Sparty to steal a victory. Injuries have also had its impact, with defensive lineman Malik McDowell, cornerback Darian Hicks, and linebacker Riley Bullough probably unable to play this week. As a result there are thin spots in the depth chart. The stats show some important deficits, such as sacks per game dropping from 2.64 to .78 sacks per game last season to this year.

Why They Are Better Than Rutgers

While injuries have impacted the Spartans’ ability to win this season, Michigan State still carries a stronger roster than Rutgers. Add to that a home game, and the skill of head coach Mark Dantonio, and you understand why Vegas has them as 14.5 point favorites over a team with the same record visiting this Saturday. Passing yards per game has actually increased over last year, as well as its rushing offense, where L.J. Scott will carry the load against the Scarlet Knights.

Why Rutgers is Better Than Them

Rutgers has been able to move the ball well against both Indiana and Minnesota, and both of those squads had strong run defenses. Michigan State is currently 125th in red zone defense, and its offense is ranked 117th. Added to their seeming inability to get turnovers, there will never be a better time for Rutgers to steal one away from the Spartans. With the right game plan, this is a winnable game.