MSU expects big fan base at Northwestern

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State got used to hitting the road a couple of weeks ago when it traveled to Minnesota, preparing it for its final three road games of the season.

But heading to Northwestern is different for the Spartans, who play the Wildcats at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

The Michigan State student section dons sunglasses on a beautiful fall afternoon in East Lansing on Saturday.

That’s because when Michigan State comes to town, Spartans fans tend to take over the stadium that seats a little more than 47,000 thanks to a large alumni base in the Chicago area as well as the fact the area provides a convenient weekend trip for fans based in Michigan.

“It’s going to be a lot different than Minnesota, because there will be maybe half, maybe not half, but 30 percent, 40 percent is what I’ve seen up there,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “So, you’ve got 10 to 15,000, 20,000 Spartan fans up there. And that makes it exciting. Spartan Nation will be here.

“I know a lot of people will come from here to Chicago, make it a weekend. I know a lot of Spartans are in Chicago. Makes it exciting for our football team. We have a number of players, not a lot, but five, six, seven, guys from Illinois that are playing a lot for us and that will be exciting for them to go back.”

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No. 16 Michigan State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) has had its share of success at Northwestern, and in the series, for that matter. The last road loss came in 2001, but since then, the Spartans have lost four overall in the series, all at home — including last year, 54-40.

So, hitting the road isn’t the worst thing for the Spartans.

“(We have) not been up to Northwestern since 2013,” Dantonio said. “So, we’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge up there.”