Michigan State has never beaten Nebraska in football...ever.
Seven games, seven losses.
Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The fans may be friendly, but the results for Michigan State have been most unpleasant.
Streaks can't last forever, can they? The Spartans, without a doubt, have a better team than the Cornhuskers this year, I'm sure they remember all too well last year's hearbreaking loss, the stakes are higher in this year's game, and I have a feeling that the Spartans come away with a hard-fought win.
But I'm sure you all know me too well at this point to think I'm coming into this game with too much bravado. As a lifelong Spartan fan, I must have contingency plans in the event of defeat. Lincoln is a difficult place to win for opposing teams, and Nebraska seems to be living a charmed life in recent weeks with their miracle win over Northwestern and last week's come-from-behind sniping of the Wolverines.
But Michigan State, just to reiterate, is the better team, and Nebraska's squad is a M*A*S*H* unit. Taylor Martinez is out for the season, the Huskers' offensive line is beat up, and wide receiver Kenny Bell has been banged up in recent weeks. It may come down to Ameer Abdullah to carry the load for Nebraska, and he is one of the best running backs in the Big Ten. If the Spartans can at least contain Abdullah by holding him under 100 yards rushing, and prevent quarterbacks Ron Kellogg or Tommy Armstrong, Jr. from pulling any miracle plays out their hats (helmets?), then MSU should win.
The victory could be more comfortable if MSU's sometimes erratic offense can play well and avoid mistakes. Nebraska's defense can, when they want to, play quite well. But Nebraska's defense tends to be as unpredictable as MSU's offense, and in fairness, the Spartan offense has improved drastically since the first month of the season.
If all goes well for the Spartans, I can see them winning something like 24-14. But I wouldn't be shocked if the game ended up as a 13-10 slog. It's just really hard to predict. Heck, if the Spartan Dawgs dominate on defense and the MSU offense revs up, then MSU could win by three touchdowns. It's a difficult game to gauge.
Whatever happens, I don't think I can stomach the disasterous result of the 2011 game, in which the Spartans looked they we were wearing concrete shoes en route to a 24-3 shellacking. But I don't think this will happen again. MSU's defense is way too good for that to happen, and Nebraska is a damaged team that may be hanging on for dear life. My only reason for not believing MSU will win in a rout is that this game is in Lincoln. The red-clad home crowd at Memorial Stadium will probably keep the Huskers in the game.
I'm looking at this game much as I did MSU's 2010 game against Penn State. As you may recall, the Spartans were playing for a share of the conference title, but in a place where they hadn't won since 1965 (well before any of the players were born and maybe before many of the players' parents were born). It was not a stellar Penn State team, and it was a game in which the Spartans were clearly the better team entering the game, but still there was that lingering doubt (at least from yours truly) that they would succeed in a stadium that had been so unforgiving in the past. As it turned out, the Spartans did win the game, though they blew a big lead in the fourth quarter and the final wasn't decided until MSU recovered a Penn State onside kick. But the Spartans got it done and exorcised the Happy Valley demon.
Tomorrow, it's time for the Nebraska demon to receive the same fate.