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Wildcats don’t figure to have much fight vs. Spartans

Michigan linebacker James Ross III sacks Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian last Saturday. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

Michigan linebacker James Ross III sacks Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian last Saturday. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

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SATURDAY

NO. 13 MICHIGAN STATE AT NORTHWESTERN

The facts: 11 a.m., ESPN, 720-AM.

Updated: November 22, 2013 7:26PM



Each mounting loss has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for Northwestern.

The Wildcats’ effort shouldn’t be questioned. But after collapsing on a weekly basis, it’s difficult to believe there isn’t a déjà vu mentality when the players face adversity. It’s human nature.

When Northwestern (0-6. 4-6 Big Ten) hosts Michigan State (6-0, 9-1) on Saturday, things won’t go as planned. That’s what one of the country’s best defenses does to a game plan.

And when the Wildcats get knocked down, they won’t get up. Look at past weeks. Thinking otherwise would be like betting the field in craps. It just makes you look like a sucker.

Still, the players say they’re motivated.

“It comes from our coaches,” linebacker Collin Ellis said. “Coach Hank [Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz] is always keeping us motivated and stuff like that, and then you have to intrinsically motivate yourself as well. I’m always just thinking about how can I help get these seniors into the bowl game they deserve.”

That’s an admirable philosophy, but it seems somewhat unrealistic. Maybe not to Ellis and Northwestern, but to anyone who has suffered through the team’s disappointing conference season.

Yes, they are still motivated. That has shown itself in games and practices. But as motivated as they were before? Highly unlikely.

It has to be tough for a team with Rose Bowl aspirations to get excited about fighting to play a postseason game in Detroit. It’s like going from fine dining every night to fast food.

Northwestern needs to win Saturday and the following week at Illinois to become bowl-eligible. Michigan State would clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game with a victory.

Motivation is measured by what a team has to gain. The Spartans far outweigh the Wildcats in that department. They are where Northwestern thought it would be.

A Michigan State team with so much to gain won’t lie down Saturday. The Spartans are going to fight. After getting knocked down consistently this season, history has told us Northwestern might not have a lot of fight left.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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