Football Media Center: Northwestern
Oct. 22, 2010
The No. 8/8 Michigan State football team (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) looks to remain undefeated on Saturday as it faces Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) at 12 p.m. ET at Ryan Field. The game will be televised on ESPN.
RADIO: The Spartan Sports Network, featuring veteran play-by-play announcer George Blaha, color analyst Jim Miller, sideline reporter Jason Strayhorn and broadcast host Will Tieman, will broadcast the game to 32 affiliates throughout the state. Michigan State football broadcasts can be heard on flagship stations WJIM (AM 1240)/WMMQ (FM 94.9) in Lansing and WJR Radio (AM 760) in Detroit.
FIRST-AND-10 (what you need to know about the MSU-Northwestern matchup) -
With its 26-6 Homecoming victory over Illinois, Michigan State improved to 7-0 for the first time since 1966 when the Spartans won their first nine game en route to a 9-0-1 record (10-10 tie against Notre Dame in the "Game of the Century") and a share of the National Championship. It marks the sixth time in school history MSU has started the season 7-0 (1913, 1951, 1952, 1965, 1966 and 2010).
Michigan State is ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press and USA TODAY Polls. It marks MSU's first appearance in the Top 10 since Oct. 26, 2003 (AP No. 9, USA Today No. 10).
The Spartans are ranked No. 7 in the first Bowl Championship Series Standings, released Sunday, Oct. 17. It marks MSU's highest ranking ever in the BCS Standings (No. 9 in 1999 Final BCS Standings).
Michigan State ranks among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in takeaways (tied for seventh with 18), turnover margin (ninth at +1.14 per game), pass efficiency defense (No. 17 with a 107.2 rating), scoring defense (No. 17 allowing 16.6 points per game) and total defense (No. 28 allowing 325.0 yards per game). The Spartans totaled only 14 takeaways during the entire 2009 season.
Michigan State's secondary has recorded three interceptions in each of the last two games (Michigan and Illinois). After intercepting six passes all of last season, the Spartan defense has picked off 12 passes in the first seven games of 2010. The 12 interceptions are tied for third in the NCAA FBS.
Michigan State senior linebacker Greg Jones, who posted a season-high 14 stops in a 26-6 Homecoming victory over Illinois, has been named National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation as well as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Jones recorded double-figure tackles for the second time this season and for the 20th time his career. He also was credited with a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. Jones has led the team in tackles in 27 of the last 33 games. MSU limited the Illini to 114 rushing yards - 103 yards below its season average. Trailing 6-3 at halftime, the Spartan defense shut out the Illini in the second half while forcing three turnovers (four takeaways in the game). It marked the first time since a 31-3 win over Indiana on Oct. 4, 2003, that MSU didn't allow a touchdown in a Big Ten game.
Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten and No. 26 in the NCAA FBS in rushing offense, averaging 206.1 yards per game. Sophomore Edwin Baker (100.9 yards per game) and freshman Le'Veon Bell (80.3 ypg.) rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Big Ten in rushing). Baker FIRST-AND-10 (continued) - and Bell have combined to rush for 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010 while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Under head coach Mark Dantonio, MSU is 13-2 in games it gains 200-plus yards rushing, including a perfect 5-0 in 2010.
Sophomore Dan Conroy, who accounted for a career-best 14 points against Illinois, has been selected as National Placekicker of the Week by College Football Performance Awards. The 5-10, 185-pound Conroy made a career-best four field goals, hitting from 37, 34, 32 and 18 yards. In addition, he has been named as one of the Lou Groza Award's Top Three Stars of the Week. Conroy remains perfect on the season, hitting his first 13 field-goal attempts. That's the best start by a placekicker in MSU history, breaking the mark previously held by Paul Edinger who made his first 10 field-goal attempts in 1999. Conroy, who hit his only field-goal attempt of the 2009 season in the opener against Montana State, is 14-for-14 in his career (school record for consecutive field goals: 15 by Brett Swenson in 2008).
Red-shirt freshman Kevin Muma, who averaged 68.6 yards on seven kickoffs including a career-best four touchbacks, has been named CFPA National Kickoff Specialist of the Week.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW -
Michigan State scored at least 30 points in its first six games for the first time in school history. In addition, the Spartans have scored at least 26 points in each of their first seven games for the first time ever.
Senior linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon have combined for 704 career tackles - the most by any active linebacker duo in the NCAA FBS (Connecticut's Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus rank second with 683 combined stops).
Junior quarterback Kirk Cousins recorded his fifth-straight 200-yard passing game, completing 13-of-24 passes for 201 yards and one score in MSU's 26-6 Homecoming victory over Illinois. His 48-yard touchdown strike to B.J. Cunningham gave MSU its first lead at 13-6 with 8:26 left in the third quarter. Over the last five games, he has completed 69 percent (90-of-131) of his passes for 1,289 yards, nine scores and three interceptions. Cousins has recorded at least one TD pass in 14 consecutive games (school record: 16 by Drew Stanton, 2005-06).
Michigan State's receiving corps features two career 1,000-yard receivers: senior Mark Dell (104 for 1,759) and junior B.J. Cunningham (114 for 1,507). That duo has combined for 218 receptions, 3,266 yards and 16 career touchdowns. Dell's career 16.9 yards per catch ranks fifth among all active NCAA FBS receivers.
Senior Aaron Bates currently ranks second in the Big Ten and No. 11 in the NCAA in punting with his 45.5-yard average. Bates is listed among MSU's all-time leaders in punting yards (fourth at 9,526), punts (fourth at 229) and punting average (seventh at 41.6). He has placed 74 of his 229 career punts (32 percent) inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Bates ranks second in punts and third in punting yards among all active NCAA FBS punters.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS -
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten and No. 12 (tied) in the NCAA FBS in red-zone defense, allowing opponents score on 72.7 percent of their trips inside the Spartan 20-yard line (16-of-22, including 11 touchdowns and five field goals).
Michigan State's defense has allowed only six gains of 30-plus yards from scrimmage (combined rushing and passing plays plus kickoff and punt returns) this season. That total ranks among the fewest allowed in the Big Ten (second behind Ohio State - 3) and the NCAA FBS (tied for seventh).
On the flip side, Michigan State's offense and special teams have generated six gains of 50-plus yards (four rushes, one pass and one punt return). That total ranks 11th (tied) among all NCAA FBS teams.
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