The message Michigan State sent out via Facebook this week from football coach Mark Dantonio regarding Saturday's game with Nebraska was painful to read.
Dear Spartan Faithful:
Nebraska visits Spartan Stadium for the first time as a Big Ten member. Your football team NEEDS you in your seat with your “game face on'' to be a difference-maker in this important game.
Life is not easy. Football and sports in general are not easy. Many times the game is won or lost by the smallest of margins, and usually at the end. Football is a game of inches and emotions. STAY STRONG!
What makes this sad is Michigan State isn't some stumblebum program with a long string of losing seasons. The Spartans have won 11 games each of the past two years, and under Dantonio are 49-26 (.653).
MSU (5-4, 2-3) has played the sixth most-difficult schedule in the country. Of the four losses, one was by one point (Ohio State), one by two points (Michigan) and one by three points in double overtime.
Hardly seems like a team to give up on.
Yet the school essentially is begging its “faithful'' to show up for a key Legends Division game against Nebraska (6-2, 3-1).
Other Big Ten schools have learned quickly how well NU's “Sea of Red'' can infiltrate an opponent's stadium. Clearly, the Facebook message was intended to try to keep the red out.
That won't be easy after checking some ticket-broker sites.
As of mid-day Friday, StubHub! had MSU-NU tickets as low as $6. That's right, a single digit. Hundreds of others were between $12 and $25. More than 1,100 tickets were available on that site alone.
All of which reminds us once again that Nebraska fans should stop and give themselves a big round of applause.
Just a week after the Huskers marked 50 years of consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium, the Michigan State situation gives everyone in major-college athletics a reality check as to how fragile their support systems can be.
Nebraska's fan loyalty and passion is the school's No. 1 athletic resource. Don't ever forget that, and woe be to the coach who doesn't embrace that.
It's also the reason a low-population state that had no reason to become a “name'' in football has become a national brand — and why opponents have to resort to unusual tactics to counter it.
As for the game, think demolition derby.
|MORE BIG TEN NEWS|
|Get the latest Big Ten headlines from The World-Herald and from beat writers around the nation.|
Michigan State's defense is the real deal. It knocked Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller out of the game twice with injuries and kept Michigan and quarterback Denard Robinson out of the end zone.
Nebraska's depth of offensive weapons and recent defensive improvement tip the game to the Huskers. If NU fans want something to worry about, the Spartans have yet to score a defensive touchdown. They are way overdue.
The pick: Nebraska 20, Michigan State 10.
Ľ Michigan (5-3, 3-1) at Minnesota (5-3, 1-3), 11 a.m., BTN: Michigan hasn't scored an offensive touchdown since Oct. 13. Minnesota has recharged itself the past two weeks behind precocious freshman quarterback Philip Nelson. Do we ring the upset bell? Not quite, but this game will be worth a long look deep into the fourth quarter.
The pick: Michigan 20, Minnesota 16.
Ľ Iowa (4-4, 2-2) at Indiana (3-5, 1-3), 2:30 p.m., BTN: In this year of weirdness in Big Ten football, the strangest development of all is Indiana's emergence as a Leaders Division threat after winning one game. If the Hoosiers can handle Iowa and Wisconsin at home in the next two weeks, they would be in charge. Iowa has played poorly lately, and can't afford to dump games like this.
The pick: Indiana 28, Iowa 23.
Ľ Illinois (2-6, 0-4) at No. 6 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0), 2:30 p.m., ESPN: The Illini's hope to avoid maximum embarrassment is that Ohio State gets bored by halftime and lifts its foot off the gas.
The pick: Ohio State 49, Illinois 14.
Ľ Penn State (5-3, 3-1) at Purdue (3-5, 0-4), 2:30 p.m., ESPNU: The hot-seat talk surrounding Purdue coach Danny Hope can't help the Boilermakers' focus. And playing at home has been worse than going on the road.
The pick: PSU 34, Purdue 13.
Contact the writer:
* * *
>> Video: See this week's edition of "The Big Ten Preview Show":