Michigan State doesn't need to win today against Northwestern. The Spartans are going to the Big Ten title game regardless of the outcome.
But they would like to guarantee themselves a second straight 10-win season. Thanks to a couple of big momentum swings late in the first half, they're in position to do just that.
Northwestern was doing a great job moving the ball down the field in short chunks and converting manageable third downs late in the second quarter. A 15-play drive led the Wildcats inside the Michigan State 5. But Treyvon Green fumbled at the 3, and the Spartans capitalized with a 97-yard drive capped by a Le'Veon Bell touchdown run.
Then with 33 seconds left in the half, Keshawn Martin returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown. Martin has been on fire for the Spartans in the last few weeks, and his 46-yard reception helped set up Bell's touchdown run. Bell is also running hard and has 70 rushing yards already. When Michigan State can run the ball effectively, it is very difficult to beat.
Northwestern has to be kicking itself at halftime in a game it could very easily be leading. Remember that the Spartans trailed 17-0 in last year's game and came back to win, so perhaps the Wildcats can turn the tables this year. But it's a rainy day in Evanston that may make the passing game a bit more tough to keep going for Dan Persa & Co. Persa has completed nine throws but only has 50 passing yards as Northwestern has looked to dink and dunk against the Michigan State defense. The Wildcats will need their own big plays in the second half, or the Spartans will take some major momentum into Indianapolis.