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Sunny outlook for Spartans' Swenson

Big Ten weather hasn't stopped Brett Swenson from becoming one of the nation's elite kickers.

In fact, the conditions have only made him better.

"It provides an advantage knowing that you’ve handled different situations before, the cold weather, the wind," Swenson said. "I don’t think it can do anything but help you, really. If you can do it in the cold weather, it'll be a little easier to do in the warmer weather."

Swenson tested his theory last week when he and his Michigan State teammates visited Purdue. The date read Nov. 14, but the weather felt more like Sept. 14, as the temperature showed 61 degrees at kickoff.

The unseasonably warm conditions suited Swenson, who had his best game as a Spartan. He tied his career high with four field goals, including the game-winner with 1:51 left. And he not only kicked a 52-yard field goal, which marked a career high. He did it twice, perfectly judging the wind that carried the ball from right to left.

Swenson's clutch kicks lifted Michigan State to a 40-37 win, making the Spartans bowl eligible. The senior was the obvious choice for Big Ten Player of the Week.

"We got lucky in November to have weather like that," Swenson said. "The kicks went through and it was a good day."

Swenson has had quite a few good days at Michigan State. He's the team's all-time leader in scoring (368 points), field goals (70) and extra points (158) and ranks second in field-goal percentage (.787). He ranks among the Big Ten's top five kickers in career kick scoring (second), field goals (fourth) and total scoring (fifth).

He leads all active FBS players in career points. And he's done it all in the upper Midwest.

Not bad for a Florida native. Swenson hails from Pompano Beach, which is 1,165 miles from East Lansing and seems even farther away.

Last year, Swenson was snubbed from being a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. The selection committee cited a poor performance against Michigan as a reason for Swenson's omission.

How did Swenson respond to being left off the list? By going 4-for-4 on field goal attempts the following game against Wisconsin, including the game-winning 44-yarder.

There's no such snub this year, as Swenson finds himself among the 20 Groza Award semifinalists.

"It's about every kicker’s dream or goal to get invited to something like that," said Swenson, who is 18-for-20 on field goal attempts this fall. "Hopefully, I have a chance to be a finalist. That would be a big step."

The Big Ten hasn't had a Groza Award winner since 2004, when Ohio State's Mike Nugent took home the honor. Nugent's clutch kicks are legendary, and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who coached at Ohio State during Nugent's time there, sees similarities with Swenson.

Former Michigan State star Paul Edinger also reminds Dantonio of Swenson.

"Nothing intimidated [Edinger], he was a gamer," said Dantonio, an assistant at Michigan State during Edinger's career. "He was going to step out there and kick the football, regardless of the situation, and do very well. ... [Swenson] also reminds me of Mike Nugent at Ohio State. Very competitive, always looked at the game very technique-oriented, very astute at how he went about his business."

Swenson could be a major factor as Michigan State wraps up the regular season Saturday against No. 14 Penn State. With the Spartans likely headed somewhere warm for a bowl, Saturday could mark Swenson's final chance to kick in cold weather.

Then again, he could get drafted by the Bills in April.

"I like the warm weather, to be honest," Swenson said, "but I'll take what I can get."