The Husker defense will look to contain MSU's Le'Veon Bell
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Travel to East Lansing for First Time Since '95

By NU Athletic Communications

EAST LANSING, MICH. | 2:30 p.m. (CT)

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Record: 6-2, 3-1 Big Ten
Rankings: Coaches-21; AP-21
Last Game: def. Michigan, 23-9
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 45-18/5th year 
vs. Michigan State: 2-0

Record: 5-4, 2-3 Big Ten
Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: def. Wisconsin, 16-13 (OT)
Coach: Mark Dantonio
Career/MSU Record: 67-43/9th year | 49-26/6th year
vs. Nebraska: 0-1

The Matchup
Nebraska returns to the road this Saturday when the Huskers travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a key Legends Division matchup against Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. Kickoff for the matchup is set for 2:30 p.m. CT (3:30 p.m. locally in East Lansing) with the game to be televised nationally on either ABC or ESPN2.

The Huskers enter the game with momentum following a 23-9 victory over 20th-ranked Michigan at Memorial Stadiium on Saturday night. Nebraska used a strong defensive performance from the Blackshirts in the victory, limiting the Wolverines to just three field goals and 188 yards of offense, a season-best for the Nebraska defense. The win improved the Huskers to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play, putting Nebraska into a tie atop the Legends Division with Michigan. Nebraska also re-entered the national rankings, sitting at No. 21 in both the Associated Press poll and the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 20 in the BCS rankings.

Michigan State is also coming off a key victory last Saturday, winning 16-13 in overtime at Wisconsin in a rematch of last year’s Big Ten Championship Game. The victory kept Michigan State alive in the Legends Division race and improved the Spartans to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten action. The Spartans are led by one of the nation’s top defenses, allowing just 15.0 points and 267.4 total yards per game to lead the Big Ten in both categories. MSU’s three losses in Big Ten action have come by a total of six points.

The Series
Saturday’s game is the seventh all-time matchup between the two schools, but just the second ever in East Lansing. Nebraska has won all six previous meetings, including a 24-3 victory last year in Lincoln in the first matchup as Big Ten foes. In NU’s only other trip to East Lansing, the No. 2 Huskers defeated Michigan State, 50-10, in 1995.

The Coaches

Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 45-18 record (.714) in his fifth season. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first four seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich in accomplishing that feat. Pelini is one of only six first-time head coaches in NCAA history to win at least nine games in each of his first four seasons at a BCS conference school.

Michigan State:
Mark Dantonio (South Carolina, ‘79) is in his sixth season as the head coach at Michigan State and his ninth season overall as a collegiate head coach. Dantonio has guided Michigan State to a 49-26 record during his time in East Lansing, including five consecutive bowl appearance and back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011. Dantonio guided MSU to a share of the 2010 Big Ten title and a trip to the league championship game in 2011.

Scouting Michigan State:
After starting the season 2-0, Michigan State has lost four of its last six games. Despite the rough stretch, the Spartans have been in a position to win most games. Outside of a 20-3 loss to then-No. 20 Notre Dame in the third game of the season, Michigan State’s other three losses have come by a combined six points.

MSU lost by one point to undefeated Ohio State to open Big Ten Conference play. Following a 31-27 come-from-behind victory at Indiana the next week, Michigan State fell to Iowa, 19-16, in overtime. Michigan then kicked a field goal as time experied to hand the Spartans their second straight loss, 12-10. MSU finally had a close game go its way last week, scoring a touchdown in overtime to earn a 16-13 win at Wisconsin.

Michigan State boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, leading the Big Ten in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. The Spartans are allowing only 15.0 points per game and have allowed only two opponents to score 20 points. MSU ranks fifth nationally in total defense (267.4) and seventh in rushing (91.2). The Spartans have allowed only 12 touchdowns.

Offensively, Le’Veon Bell has already run for more than 1,000 yards this season, and his average of 117.9 rushing yards per game ranks 14th nationally. Bell has rushed for all but 120 of Michigan State’s team yards this season, as MSU is last in the league in rushing. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell is completing 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,015 yards and nine scores. The Spartans average 360.3 yards of total offense per game, a total that ranks 10th in the Big Ten.

Series History
Nebraska has never lost to Michigan State, winning all six previous meetings. The series began with a 24-0 Husker victory in Lincoln in 1914 and NU claimed a 35-7 win in Lincoln six years later. The only time the teams met in East Lansing came in 1995, when the second-ranked Huskers posted a 50-10 win on their way to their second straight national championship. In 2003, the teams met at the Alamo Bowl, where Bo Pelini guided 22nd-ranked Nebraska to a 17-3 win as the Huskers’ interim head coach. In the first meeting as conference foes last season, Pelini guided No. 13 NU to a 24-3 upset of ninth-ranked Michigan State inside Memorial Stadium.

Michigan State has had trouble scoring in the series, totaling only 37 points in the six meetings, an average of 6.2 points per game. The Spartans have been held out of the end zone in each of the last two meetings and three of the six all-time matchups. Nebraska has held MSU out of the end zone for eight straight quarters dating back to 1996.

Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio is in his sixth season at Michigan State, where he owns a 49-26 record. Dantonio has taken the Spartans to a bowl game in each of his first five seasons, and MSU is one win away from becoming bowl eligible this season. Dantonio led Michigan State to back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, when the Spartans were co-Big Ten Conference champions in 2010 and lost in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in 2011. His Spartans lost only two regular-season conference games combined in 2010 and 2011, but Michigan State is just 2-3 in Big Ten action this season.

In addition to tying the school record with 11 victories in both 2010 and 2011, Dantonio has led Michigan State to a final national ranking in three of the last four years. The Spartans appeared in the USA Today Coaches poll a record 34 consecutive weeks before falling out of the poll following a 17-16 loss to then-No. 14 Ohio State on Sept. 29.

Dantonio has 33 years of collegiate coaching experience, including nine years as a head coach. Before taking the Michigan State job, Dantonio guided Cincinnati to an 18-17 record in three seasons. He took the Bearcats to a pair of bowls before leaving for East Lansing.
Dantonio made assistant coaching stops at Ohio State (2001-03), Michigan State (1995-2000), Kansas (1991-94), Youngstown State (1986-990) and Akron (1985).

Dantonio is 0-1 against Nebraska as a head coach and 0-7 against the Huskers in his coaching career.

Four Straight Nine-Win Seasons

Nebraska finished 9-4 in 2011 to secure its fourth straight nine-win season under Head Coach Bo Pelini. The current streak of four straight nine-win seasons puts Nebraska in an elite class nationally.

- The four straight years of nine wins marks the first time NU has accomplished that since its NCAA record streak of 33 straight nine-win seasons from 1969 to 2001.

- Nebraska is one of eight schools with nine wins or more each season from 2008 to 2011, joining TCU, Oregon, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Alabama and West Virginia.

- Nebraska has 46 nine-win seasons in school history, including 39 since 1969.

Husker Players Fill National Award Watch Lists
Several Huskers earned preseason recognition entering the 2012 season. Highlighting the list of honorees are seniors Rex Burkhead and Brett Maher, who both earned preseason All-America honors from Athlon. Burkhead was a second-team running back selection, while Maher was a second-team kicker. Burkhead also earned second-team preseason All-America honors from Sports Illustrated.

Burkhead earned recognition as one of 50 players on the Walter Camp Award watch list and one of 65 players on the Doak Walker Award and Maxwell Award watch lists. The Walter Camp and Maxwell awards are presented annually to the nation’s player of the year, while the Doak Walker Award honors the nation’s top running back.

In addition to his preseason All-America recognition, Maher was named to the watch lists for the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards. A native of Kearney, Neb., Maher was one of only two kickers nationally to be named to the watch list for both the Guy and Groza awards, which honor the nation’s top punter and place-kicker, respectively.

Other NU offensive players earning preseason recognition were sophomore Ameer Abdullah, juniors Spencer Long and Taylor Martinez and senior Kyler Reed. Abdullah was on the watch list for “The Jet” award, which recognizes the nation’s top returner and is named in honor of former Husker Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers. He has since been named one of 12 semifinalists for that award. Abdullah also earned a spot on the Paul Hornung Award watch list, an award given to the most versatile player in college football.

Long is considered as one of the nation’s top linemen with his inclusions on the watch list for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, while Martinez earned preseason recognition on a pair of watch lists for two of the top quarterback honors, the Manning and Davey O’Brien awards. Reed wrapped up the list of offensive honorees by earning his second straight selection to the Mackey Award watch list, awarded to the nation’s top tight end.

Defensive end Cameron Meredith earned a spot on the Ted Hendricks Award watch list for the second straight year, an award given to the nation’s best defensive end. Baker Steinkuhler earned a trio of preseason honors, including spots on the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. He was also considered among the nation’s best overall defenders, as he was one of 42 national candidates for the Lott IMPACT Tophy.

Huskers Hoping for November to Remember
The 23-9 victory over Michigan in the final weekend of October, put Nebraska in position for late-season success. The Huskers will now be looking for a strong November. Under Head Coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska has had a solid track record in November, posting a 12-4 record in the month, with three of the losses on the road against ranked opponents.

Nebraska posted a nine-game November winning streak from the 2008 to 2010 seasons, its longest winning streak in the month since winning 19 straight from 1992 to 1998.

Nebraska Looks to Keep Rushing Attack on Track vs. Spartans
Nebraska features one of the nation’s most powerful rushing attacks in 2012. The Huskers are averaging 264.1 rushing yards per game to rank first in the Big Ten and seventh nationally. Nebraska topped 200 yards on the ground in each of its first seven games, before churning out 160 rushing yards against a tough Michigan defense on Saturday. The Huskers average a Big Ten-best 5.7 yards per carry, and have 21 rushing touchdowns this season, the third-most in the conference. Nebraska also has a streak of seven straight games with a 100-yard rusher, the Huskers’ longest streak since a 20-game streak spanning the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Michigan State will provide a stern test for the Huskers on Saturday in East Lansing. The Spartans are allowing just 91.2 rushing yards per game to lead the Big Ten and rank seventh nationally. MSU is holding opponents to 3.0 yards per rush, which is best in the Big Ten. Last Saturday, Michigan State held Wisconsin’s strong rushing attack to just 19 yards on 37 rushes.

The Spartans also rank in the top 15 nationally in total defense (5th), scoring defense (10th), pass defense (14th) and pass efficiency defense (14th).

Click on the "Game Notes" link in the related links section at the top of this page for more notes on this weekend's game.


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