Here we are, as the final game of the season is upon us. #21 Michigan State (8-3; 6-2) is currently a 14 point favorite against Rutgers (4-7; 3-5) for Saturday’s nationally televised game on FOX. It’s senior day for the Scarlet Knights and the graduating class deserves to be honored. The best way to celebrate of course, is by Chris Ash’s team pulling out the upset victory in front of the home faithful. It will be a very difficult thing to do, but hopefully this team puts together a much more encouraging performance than they did last week at Indiana. Here is what our writers think on the eve before the regular season finale.
T.J. Jurkiewicz: Man, I really wanted this game to truly mean something. I wanted to experience that thrill at High Point Solutions Stadium of a bowl game bid being on the line for a 4 o’clock kickoff versus a ranked opponent. Unfortunately, the Scarlet Knights (aside from Ryan Anderson) didn’t even get off the plane in Bloomington last week. This doesn’t mean that all is lost for 2017 however, as the team has exceeded expectations (Las Vegas had our line at 3 wins) and can end the season on a very high note here if they can bag a win as a 14-point home dog. The Spartans should lack motivation in this one as they have nothing much to play for but they are too well coached to be caught sleepwalking in my opinion so Rutgers is going to have to play very well to have a chance in this one. The Rutgers offense has looked…offensive lately as they have been outscored 76-6 over the last two games and have only scored 14 points once in the last five games. That isn’t going to cut it against a very solid Michigan State defense that can focus all of their attention of stopping the run as Rutgers is completing way under 50% of their passes over the past three weeks. For Rutgers to win this game they have to play absolutely mistake free, find success on the ground, someone find a way to pass the ball downfield, and hope they get lucky and force a Michigan State mistake at some point. The line looks about right to me and I think the under is pretty safe here. Michigan State 24 Rutgers 10
Dave White: This is a weird game for me. Not because I expect a Rutgers upset... Michigan State is too good. But the choice whether Johnathan Lewis or Gio Rescigno starts affects my choice for the final score. Gio clearly is a ball control guy. He'll tuck it and run even when he has some passing options. Usually (though not last week) that's a pretty good recipe to keep the game close. If Lewis starts, I'd still expect it to be a run first type game, but I believe Lewis is supposed to have the stronger arm. That's a good recipe for a shootout if he's on or a lot of turnovers. I'm going to guess Ash's conservative philosophy gets the better of him, and Gio starts. Michigan State 35 Rutgers 10
David Brown: This is the final game for the seniors and it might be the last time many of them will ever play the best game in the world. Kyle Bolin, Janarion Grant, Gus Edwards, Duwop Mitchell, and others will never wear the Scarlet Knight uniform again after this game. However, their efforts will be remembered and shall be appreciated by the good fans of Rutgers.
With that said, I don’t think Rutgers will win this game. MSU is a gritty and physical team that plays solid defense. They defeated Penn State and Michigan, which means they are formidable opponent that rises to the ocassion against top competition. I don’t think it will be a shutout like the Indiana game, but it will be a slobber knocker in all four quarters. I see a defensive struggle in the first half, but MSU ultimately pulls away. Rutgers offense is pedestrian and not made for high scoring. The only shot they have is having success in the run game. However, I don’t see it this weekend. RU will be 4-8. MSU 27 RU 10
David Anderson: Seniors come out juiced for their final game. I almost feel like Kyle Bolin deserves the first series for how much abuse he took this year while being a good soldier the whole time. That may be pushing it, but the rest of the seniors, perhaps even some of the redshirt juniors will come out firing. I expect Michigan State to let the storm pass much like they tried to do in 2015, but this time they will simply beat Rutgers at their own game. Both teams will try to grind it out with occasional downfield throws, leaning heavily on their defense. Michigan State is simply better at those things than Rutgers is right now. Someone predicted 4-8 at the beginning of the year, and also that Michigan State wouldn’t be as bad as last year. MSU 31 RU 13
Jim Hoffman: I’m sure the seniors will do whatever they can to make this game a winner. However, I don’t think the team has enough mojo to pull it off. The lack of a passing game is just too much to overcome. Whether the QB is Rescigno, Bolin, or Lewis, they all have a sub-par passing game, and so must rely on the run. That makes it more difficult, since the defense knows they can key on the run and stop any real movement.
Our only hope is the Rutgers defense can keep the Spartans out of the end zone. I think they will do their best, but it won’t be enough. Michigan State 17 Rutgers 7
Bob Cancro: Can Rutgers win this game? Yes. Will they? Not likely. Would I be surprised if they won? No. Okay, the reality is that MSU is a good team and Mark Dantonio is a good coach. All those experts who had Dantonio on the hot seat are tripping over themselves to explain what they meant. As stated above, the seniors will want to go out in a blaze of glory. And hopefully the underclassmen will want to do whatever they can to help. It just isn’t enough. To continue the theme of some of my colleagues, the QB situation is interesting; a part of me thinks we see everybody in there at some point. It won’t be enough to overcome Sparty. Michigan State 28 Rutgers 13
Namrita Singh: I got a little emotional trying to formulate my thoughts about this game as I'll be attending my last game as a Rutgers student and I'll be celebrating Senior Day right alongside the players. As mentioned already, they'll come out firing. They'll play with passion and emotion and drive but it won't be enough. As has been a common theme, I think they'll keep the game close during the first half but they'll fall apart after halftime. We still don't know who's in tomorrow at QB but that decision ultimately won't make a major difference. A glimpse of the future would be nice as Rutgers is no longer playing for bowl eligibility. Even last season, when the Spartans went 3-9 (and have a very good chance of flipping that record this season), they defeated the Scarlet Knights, 49-0, at Spartan Stadium. I don't think Rutgers will be shut out at home, amidst what will hopefully be a great atmosphere, but it doesn't matter what I think. I'm just ready for one final hurrah. Michigan State 31, Rutgers 14
Aaron Breitman: It’s been a season filled with some depressing lows, but also with some encouraging highs. After last week’s debacle, it would be a positive sign if Rutgers can respond with a strong effort against Michigan State and I think they will. Rutgers is modeled in a similar way to the Spartans, but just don’t have the talent and depth to be as competitive in Big Ten play. However, because both teams have similar approaches, I do think this can be a close game. The Spartans struggle in the pass game, so if Rutgers can defend the run well, it should be a low scoring game. The biggest concern is the Rutgers offense, after they were shut out by Indiana. Michigan State has the 6th ranked defense in the country per S&P+, so it could be a real struggle. This is where freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis becomes the x-factor and I really hope he starts and/or plays the majority of the game. We know what Gio can or cannot do and so does Michigan State. No one truly knows what to expect with Lewis, including Michigan State. Every great quarterback got their shot at some point and broke out with a big performance when it wasn’t expected. Tomorrow might not be that day for Lewis, but why not give him the chance to do just that? Overall, I think Rutgers plays hard and competes, making it a close game, but fall just short down the stretch. Michigan State 20 Rutgers 13
Overall, the consensus is Rutgers will play much better than last week, but ultimately fall short against a superior team. What do you think will happen on Saturday? Sound off in the comment section and thanks for reading.