No. 16 Michigan State seeks to complete record reversal

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- In the words of head coach Mark Dantonio, No. 16 Michigan State has a chance to "flip it" when it meets Rutgers in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.

With a win, the Spartans (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten) would mean a record reversal from last season, when Michigan State finished 3-9.

"It's rewarding to flip it," Dantonio said.

"Right now, we've flipped 3-8 to 8-3. It's rewarding to see that, to see there's something that all your hard work comes to fruition and all the things you talk about and go through as a group, you see that sort of move forward. I think that's exciting for any program at any point in time.

"The expectations are there. Our players believed that they can flip this back. It's been 10 weeks since our bye week, so we've been going at it for 10 straight weeks, sort of grinding. But I think our football team is ready to play its final game. We're looking forward to it."

A win over the Scarlet Knights (4-7, 3-5) would secure at least a tie for second place in the Big Ten East division and enhance Michigan State's bowl profile.

Junior running back L.J. Scott moved into 12th place on Michigan State's career rushing yards list last week after collecting 147 yards on a career-high 29 carries in the win over Maryland. Scott has 2,424 rushing yards. He is tied for 13th in school history in rushing touchdowns (24) and is 14th in carries (494).

The Michigan State offense doesn't look like much statistically, but the team has played four of its games in nasty weather, including during last week's 17-7 win over the Terrapins. The Spartans' backbone is defense, allowing only 109.2 yards per game on ground.

"Michigan State is a very good team. They have done a great job this year. They have got good players, good coaches, playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Rutgers coach Chris Ash.

"They play good defense, play good special teams, they run the ball well on offense. It's a very good formula for success, and they have been able to do it this year and get back on track to the way Michigan State has been playing for quite some time."

The Scarlet Knights have three Big Ten victories this season (Illinois, Purdue, Maryland) to match the team-high for a campaign since joining the conference for the 2014 season. Rutgers posted an 0-9 conference season in 2016.

"It's going to be a huge challenge, huge test and another great opportunity for us to go out and finish," Ash said.

"We're still trying to get another Big Ten win. If we were to win this game, it would be four Big Ten wins. It hasn't happened since Rutgers has been in the Big Ten. Looking to build positive momentum going into the offseason, which is huge, also."

Rutgers has progressed statistically in the national rankings in numerous categories, including sacks allowed (an improvement of 79 spots), net punting (plus 78), passes interceptions (plus 66), rushing defense (plus 46), third down defense (plus 34) and turnover margin (plus 20).

The team also has improved its point differential by nearly two touchdowns (13.5 points per game).

The main issue has been at quarterback. The Scarlet Knights have used two starting quarterbacks, with senior Kyle Bolin making five starts in playing in seven games, passing for 711 yards with six interceptions and three touchdowns.

Gio Rescigno has played in eight games with six starts and is 47 of 97 for 517 yards. Freshman Jonathan Lewis hasn't started but has played in six games, with 8-of-22 passing for 69 yards.

Senior running back Gus Edwards leads the Rutgers rushing attack with 160 carries for 703 yards, with six touchdowns.

"The quarterback situation is the same," Ash said. "The last couple weeks, we have had conversations about the quarterback position a lot. We'll go through the week and evaluate it, and we'll play the person that gives us the best chance to win.

"And if that's Johnathan, great; if it's Gio, someone else, whatever, but we'll manage that through the week, evaluate that through the week, and make a decision later on who gives us the best chance to go out and play our best game."

The Spartans lead the series, 5-3, including a 3-0 mark in Big Ten play.

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