2013 Opponent Preview: Michigan State

Submitted by Heiko on July 15th, 2013 at 10:36 AM

The season so far in terms of defensive tackle size:

  • Aug. 31: 5-11, 290 lbs (Travonte Boles); 5-11, 284 lbs (Jabari Bothwell)
  • Sept. 7: 6-3, 326 lbs (Louis Nix)
  • Sept. 14: 6-2, 266 lbs (Nico Caponi); 5-11, 293 lbs (Cody Grice)
  • Sept. 21: 6-5, 323 lbs (Shamar Stephen); 6-3, 297 lbs (Angelo Pruitt)
  • Sept. 28: BYE
  • Oct. 5: 6-6, 311 lbs (Rashede Hageman); 6-5, 290 lbs (Cameron Botticelli)
  • Oct. 12: 6-3, 330 lbs (DaQuan Jones); 6-4, 310 lbs (Austin Johnson)
  • Oct. 17: 6-5, 312 lbs (Ralphael Green); 6-2, 300 lbs (Adarius Rayner)
  • Oct. 24: BYE

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Michigan STÄE

 

Highly metaphorical plot synopsis of Thor 1

Thor and Loki are brothers. Thor, the elder of the two, has been groomed to ascend to the throne of Asgard, while Loki has lived his life in the back seat. This state of affairs engenders bitterness and jealousy in Loki. To make matters worse Loki discovers he was adopted. He hatches a plot to banish his brother, kill his father, and do all sorts of bad things on his way to power.

Thor eventually figures out what’s going on, overcomes Loki’s plot, and fights Loki in a CGI-tastic battle sequence that may or may not actually be a Skittles commercial. That’s when Loki has a moment of candor: “I never wanted the throne. I only ever wanted to be your equal!” Moments later, he loses the fight and falls into a wormhole.

Whereupon Thor exclaims, “Loki, NOOOOOOO!”

The season of infinite Schadenfreude*

2012 was a great season to watch Michigan State football. Between LeVeon Bell’s disinterest in requiring an offensive line and the receivers’ disinterest in catching footballs, the Spartans offense was a season-long etude in one-man football. Throw in Andrew Maxwell’s live YPA stats and you had a pretty great drinking game.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan State’s defense probably found a lot of personal meaning in the tale of Sisyphus from Greek mythology. I’m totally kidding. Most of them are like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about / I got rid of mine with penicillin.”

Highlights of their season include trailing Eastern Michigan for three quarters, trailing Indiana for three quarters, blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Iowa, and blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

Michigan fans will remember that last part as the day it momentarily stopped being funny.

At season’s end, all fingers pointed to the offense, so offensive coordinator Dan Roushar got fired. I’m not sure if that was warranted. I didn’t watch them that closely, but I don’t think you can fault the OC too much when the offensive line is a lemon and Nike is coating their Pro-Combat receiver gloves with teflon. Add in the QB transition and losing most of their previous playmakers to the NFL … Whatever. A witch was required. They burned her.

This is where it gets hilarious. The results of a diligent coaching search turned up Dave Warner (MSU QB coach) and Jim Bollman (YTJB). Warner got promoted, maybe by mistake, so then Bollman got hired a few weeks later because -- who the hell knows. Synergy. Cross-platform initiatives. Verisimilitude.

The two are still figuring out how to split OC duties, since one guy alone couldn’t handle the neural load of the Spartans offensive Jaeger. They will enter a Drift this fall and become one, which means Warner will emerge at some point from the coordinator box shaking uncontrollably, with blown pupils, a bloody nose, and images of Joe Bauserman seared indelibly into his mind. This is a great and totally convincing premise for plot and character development. Michael Bay Guillermo del Toro is the best. 

*Except for the Nebraska game, where choking away the game to spite Michigan’s chances for a division title was the Spartiest thing ever. I bet the most common cause of diabetes in East Lansing is “UM fan wanted to borrow sugar.”

Offense

 

Nobody deserves a second chance like QB Andrew Maxwell. Poor guy put it on the money more often than not only to see the ball clang off his receivers’ facemasks. Maybe that arm strength thing really is overrated, because clearly Michigan State’s receivers much preferred the softness of Kirk Cousins’s balls.

Of course, after suffering through a season of awful receiving and crappy pass protection, nothing says “thanks for taking things in stride” like a good old-fashioned QB controversy. Maxwell (52.5%, 2606 yards, 5.8 ypa, 13 TD, 9 INT) has to fend off Connor Cook, a dual-threat guy who makes up with size and spunk what he lacks in arm. In the spring game Cook went 10-26 for a little over 200 yards and a score. Yeah, had the receivers not been wearing their Teflon-coated gloves, Cook’s completion rate would have been higher. Had the DBs not borrowed gloves from the receivers, though, his INT rate would also have been higher, too.

I think Maxwell holds onto his job, but it’s not going to be easy. Bollman loves him some noodle-armed scramblers, so it’s likely that Cook will be auditioned as a “change-of-pace” player until Bollman gives up on reincarnating Troy Smith.

On the receiving end, WR Aaron Burbridge is the primary argument for having a QB who can actually throw. A late-emerging star last season, Burbridge is a guy you may remember as the borderline five-star recruit Michigan was after in a bad way until academics became an issue. As a Spartan, he lived up to his billing, making a bunch of highlight-reel catches over a three-game stretch in October. His production waned in November for some reason, but he came back strong in the spring game with five catches for 113 yards. He’s the preseason favorite to be MSU’s offensive MVP.

If Maxwell loses his job, however, Burbridge will probably be relegated to blocking duties, where he will join fellow returning starters Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett, and Bennie Fowler. Their lead hands will.

Michigan State’s run game will go from firing depleted uranium shells (Bell) from a BB gun (2012 OL) to shooting frozen chickens (whoever the RB is this year) from a cannon (2013 OL). Yeah, I rocked the SAT analogies back when the SAT had analogies. The injured offensive linemen, RT Fou Fonoti and C Travis Jackson, are doing dandy these days, so things are looking good up front. In the backfield, not so much. As of the last time I read about MSU’s running backs, I’m pretty sure the guy getting the most hype was a RS freshman linebacker (Riley Bullough). Nothing has happened since spring ball, so I’m guessing that’s still accurate.

There’s a lot of suck written all over the Spartans offense, which is ironic because all Michigan State is asking from that side of the ball is to not suck. It’s a very reasonable request. Like, don’t go three and out every drive. Find the end zone every once in a while. Try to cross the 50 yard line.

Because if they can improve even a tiny bit, the team will be in good shape. After all, last year they lost five games by a combined 13 points thanks to their murderous

Defense

Spartan Pride -- operationally defined by flexing when you're down 49-7 to Alabama.

Things sure look a lot different over here. Where did all the suck go? Is this a different team?

It definitely deserves to be on a different team, and I bet Pat Narduzzi has been quietly fomenting ideas of secession within his ranks last September. When civil war breaks out, his defense would win easily (Narduzzi vs. Bollman, is there even a question?), and then they could join Northwestern and rule the B1G as a dual hegemony comprised exclusively of two-star recruits, scouting services be damned.

Back to reality, which is clearly not as cool as the alternate one in my head, I think what we’re going to see from Michigan State’s defense is more of the same. Since 2010, Narduzzi has proven his success to be completely sustainable. For Michigan fans, this is all very unfortunate. If he is interested I would be happy to write him a letter of recommendation for whichever head coach position opens up next. Likely Illinois.

The Spartans return everyone on defense except for DE Will Gholston and CB Johnny Adams. I know, right? OMG, 10 starters returning from a top-10 defense! It gets worse. Although Adams was a really good player -- three-time All B1G -- and will probably be missed to an extent, Michigan State has no lack for corners, and the other guy, Darqueze Dennard (52 tackles, 7 PBUs, 3 INTs), was better anyway. Meanwhile Gholston had the pass rush ability of Jordan Kovacs. That almost sounds like a knock on Kovacs. Five bucks says whoever Narduzzi finds as the new WDE will be more productive than Gholston.

Anyway, let’s just get the horrible part of the preview over with. A-gap extraordinaire LB Max Bullough (111 tackles, 12.5 TFLs) will continue to hang out in opponent backfields and make blocking schemes look silly; he is everything we hope Joe Bolden will be someday. Surface-to-Air Missile Denicos Allen (79 tackles, 10 TFLs, 3 sacks) will latch onto anything with a heat signal, which means on any given play he’ll either blow a guy up or run himself out of the play. WLB Taiwan Jones, who won the job from incumbent Chris Norman (38 tackles, 5.5 TFLs) halfway through last season, will be there to mop up the remains.

I’m watching these guys against Wisconsin, and it’s like Wisconsin’s offensive line forgets how to block properly:

The other thing to take away from the Wisconsin video is that the defensive line doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot on its own, but it does a good job of occupying blockers long enough for the linebackers to make plays. I think ever since Jerel Worthy left, the line’s production has lost the snap-jumping edge that made them elite.

They are still pretty good. With the return of strongside end Marcus Rush (38 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and tackles James Kittredge (14 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and Tyler Hoover (missed a chunk of 2012 with an injury), holding steady, last year’s production should be the bottom line. Ramping up the pass rush will be the item No. 1 in a short bucket list of things to improve. Otherwise, it ain’t broke. There’s no need to fix anything, not with the linebackers they have and Narduzzi’s penchant for blitzing them until your backfield is broken.

Even if QB pressure doesn’t always hit home, the coverage should hold up. Opposite Dennard will likely be newcomer Trae Waynes, another member of the two-star mafia likely to end up on an all-conference list somewhere just to spite everyone. At safety, Michigan State will feature multi-year starters Isaiah Lewis (80 tackles, 6 PBUs, 2 INTs) and Kurtis Drummond (53 tackles, 4 PBUs, 2 INTs).

Happy little ray of hope: their offense.

This team is kind of like: Sisyphus and his rock.

Vs. Michigan: The game is in East Lansing this year, which is the opposite of ideal for everyone involved except for Dantonio and Narduzzi, who figure a home game is when they can tell their players to do whatever they want, like so:

State had about 56 or 57 yards per game to penalties last year, a [Ed-H: Hey Seth, did you have a stroke?]

Extracurriculars aside, gameplanning against Michigan State’s defense should involve a lot of heavy sighing with regard to the ground game. Running between the tackles will be a lot like buying a lottery ticket the day after someone hits the jackpot: it should be done only to remind ourselves that downs are valuable and we are stupid. I know, I know, “the winner in this rivalry game always has more yards on the ground. Hurr durrr.” Did I mention that MSU’s best tailback is a linebacker?

Where Michigan can succeed is through the air. The OL should be pretty good at keeping the pocket clean, and Devin seems poised to pick apart defenses provided that he’s not scrambling for his life. As good as the Spartans DBs are, I think they’re lacking a touch of athleticism, and they don’t seem to stick to receivers as well as they should.

Defensively, coverage will be key. The passing game has a lot of potential, and as much as the receivers hate catching passes most of the time, I’m pretty sure they caught every single one last year against Michigan. Giving up big plays in road games can be devastating, and in the absence of Kovacs, the Wolverines will have to do everything they can to ensure that Burbridge and co. don’t get the crowd going.

Schedule:

  • Western Michigan
  • South Florida
  • Youngstown State
  • @Notre Dame
  • BYE
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Purdue
  • @Illinois
  • Michigan
  • BYE
  • @Nebraska
  • @Northwestern
  • Minnesota

Outlook: 9-3 overall, 6-2 B1G

  • Wins: WMU, USF, YSU, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, @Illinois, Minnesota
  • Losses: @Notre Dame
  • Random Number Generator: Michigan, @Nebraska, @Northwestern

Comments

wildbackdunesman

July 15th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

MSU is the only one of the 4 teams (UM, Neb, NW) to have a chance to win the division to not play any of the big 3 in the other division of OSU, PSU and Wisc.  That gives them a slight edge in winning the division...making it even more imperative that we beat them in the head to head match up.

Fuzzy Dunlop

July 15th, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

I like to think myself above the obviousness of "That's what she said" jokes, and certainly above homophobic/gay jokes, so I hope nobody takes this the wrong way.  But did this line jump out at anybody else?

Michigan State’s receivers much preferred the softness of Kirk Cousins’s balls.

Edited:  I should have realized the very first poster would beat me to this one.

EGD

July 15th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

I have been trying to grasp that joke for years, and still did't understand it when I read your remark.  So, I just Googled it.

According to Wikipedia, the joke was the go-to one-liner of a late comedian by the name of Henny Youngman:

"Henny explained the origin of his classic line 'Take my wife, please' as a misinterpretation: in the mid-1930s he took his wife to a show and asked the usher to escort his wife to a seat. But his request was taken as a joke, and Youngman used the line countless times ever after."

Well, there is one Trivial Pursuit question I'll always get right.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 11:02 AM ^

Rush is the WDE and Gholston was SDE. Calhaun is likely replacing Gholston at SDE and likely will be MSU's best pass rusher. The question is: can he defend the run? It's a bit interesting that Rush's skill set is more in line with your typical SDE while Calhaun is much more like a WDE, but that's the way it appears they are piecing it together next season.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 12:55 PM ^

In that they line up strength to the boundary. Watch this highlight film (this film is the clearest) and look for Gholston, he's always lined up toward the boundary. This is because in their defense they want someone stronger at the point of attack there (because they don't have a LB or corner setting the edge toward the boundary) and they want the weakside guy to be a little quicker. Even in the highlights from 2012 against Michigan you'll actually see this.

It's nomenclature more than anything, but technically Gholston was a strongside guy. If the ball is in the middle of the field they'll try to line up Gholston with the TE. This method prevents confusion on the D-line as well.

 

Decatur Jack

July 15th, 2013 at 11:05 AM ^

Connor Cook, a dual-threat guy who makes up with size and spunk what he lacks in arm.

Bollman loves him some noodle-armed scramblers, so it’s likely that Cook will be auditioned as a “change-of-pace” player until Bollman gives up on reincarnating Troy Smith.

I think you're confusing Cook for incoming freshman Damion Terry, who is regarded as a running QB. Cook only had 4 rushing attempts in 2012 and ended up a total of -3 yards.

He might be "more mobile" than Maxwell, but a dual threat? Someone who Jim Bollman will attempt to make into another Troy Smith? Not a chance.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

Connor Cook is a dual-threat kind of like how anyone not named John Navarre looked like a dual-threat to Michigan fans. He's not a great runner, but if you completely forget about him he's a good enough athlete where he can pick up some yards; or, if they were to run some more spread concepts, you could run a lot of zone reads and he would be good enough to pick up yards if the DE went straight for the RB, and the defense will never scrape exchange because he's not keeping it unless it's absolutely wide open.

Decatur Jack

July 15th, 2013 at 12:00 PM ^

He may be more mobile than Maxwell or obviously Navarre, but that doesn't necessarily make him a dual threat.

I don't think it's fair to defend Heiko's statement based on what Michigan fans may or may not be familiar with. That's like saying "Well, this guy is a pocket passer kind of like how anyone not named Denard Robinson is a pocket passer."

The stats show that Cook rushed 4 times for -3 yards. Yeah, he's a dual threat.

Decatur Jack

July 15th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

He scrambles a lot, and he had a bunch of designed QB runs towards the end of last season.

What end of last season were you watching??

He had four rushes. FOUR.

And he ended up getting -3 yards. You can argue those -3 were on scrambles, but either way you're loosely defining the terms "a lot" and "a bunch." He's not a poor man's Colin Klein. Not even close.

If Jim Bollman is going to attempt to make anyone into Troy Smith 2.0 it's going to be Damion Terry, not Connor Cook. If anything, they're going to try to make Cook into Cousins 2.0.

Heiko

July 15th, 2013 at 1:00 PM ^

Yeah, Damion Terry is way more dual threat. I don't think he's going to play this season, so I left him out of the conversation.

As far as Cook is concerned, he had positive yardage vs. TCU. In fact he converted on 3rd-and-7 with his legs. Also, just watch his high school highlights.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ldTfqM648

Dude likes to truck people. 

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

I was actually agreeing with you. I probably should have had an ellipses or something after my subject line, but I was agreeing that he isn't a true dual threat in my post, only in as much that he can run if given the clear opportunity (I thought the context of my post was clear in this regard: "He's not a great runner, but if you completely forget about him he's a good enough athlete where he can pick up some yards"). He isn't Robinson, he isn't even Tate. He's likely something between Tate and someone like Henne. He can run a bit, he can scramble and escape a bit, but he'll never threaten defenses with his legs alone.

My comment about Navarre was to give Michigan an idea of how relative "dual-threat" meant in the context of things. It's like saying Gardner is a pocket passer relative to Robinson. Gardner is very much a dual-threat, but he's capable of being a pocket passer, though someone would be hard pressed to claim he is more of a pocket passer than a dual-threat.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 11:07 AM ^

I'll have a post on my blog about it eventually (the post has been about 2/3 written for two weeks now), but to sum it up:

The key to beating MSU's defense is to get the #2 or #3 receivers open on out routes and hit that pass consistently. Doing this will likley cause MSU to switch up their scheme a bit. They won't leave their cover 4, so either they will make adjustments with their corners and their depth (read: how they defend the flats) which will cause some discomfort in the secondary, as well as opening up some deep balls, or, perhaps more likely, adjust their LB play to reach the flats quicker. Number 1 will leave some passes open, especially more easy passes such as slants, but all some verts. Number 2 will begin opening run lanes and prevent the LBs from playing so fast.

The difference between Denard and Gardner is that Gardner has the arm to hit that throw, but he has to do it consistently and he has to make sure to read the defense properly so that defenses don't start jumping it (which has been his biggest problem to date, albeit due mostly to inexperience). In terms of MSU, I think DG gives Michigan a better chance of winning because of the matchups.

dragonchild

July 15th, 2013 at 12:44 PM ^

I generally agree in that the pass will have to set up the run, but I don't think we need to worry too much about breaking their Cover-4.  Scheme aside, STAEE has a tendency to overplay as they're coached to be aggressive.  If Amarah can draw safety help and Devin can so much as hit a few TE or RB screens over the heads of blitzing linebackers, consider them exploited.

The big questions:

1) What will 2013 Borges look like?  Now that we no longer have to suffer through a 30-year WCO veteran OC trying to squeeze his square peg brain into a round hole that is a Denard-run spread-n'-shred, can we finally see some sets where the counters, fakes and play actions actually have something to do with the base plays?  One major problem with MSU is that they had Michigan's offense all figured out.  If the LBs know what to do before the ball is snapped, we might go another UM-MSU game without a TD.  That said, Devin is actually quite compatible with Borges' style, and this late in the season we'll see what Borges is really like well before this game.

2) How good is Devin Gardner?  One thing that's impressing me to the point of scaring me is how hard Gardner's working.  This guy is really dead-set on being a great QB.  We've seen him raw, we've seen him called up for duty, but this is the first season where there's no question he's not only a QB, but the starting QB and numerous sources indicate he is working his ass off.  I expect a breakout season from this guy.

3) How good are our lines?  For yet another season since the Molk-Martin era, the DL and interior OL are question marks, but we're starting to see some of Hoke's touted recruits come off redshirts and push for PT.

The point is that scheme may not even matter.  If Borges telegraphs his plays again it won't matter what those plays are.  If Devin goes nuts and the OL is reborn as Ents, MSU's vaunted front 7 might meet their maker.  I'm usually not an optimistic guy but the latter seem far more likely than the former this time around.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 1:04 PM ^

But MSU doesn't blitz most teams like they blitzed Denard. On normal downs their blitzes tend to come from the secondary (typically the boundary corner) rather than the LBs. They are actually a pretty good screen defense generally speaking because the way their LBs react on normal downs. The key is to call the screens on 3rd downs or 2nd and longs when MSU goes to their delta formation or starts bringing the LB pressure.

I think, in most cases (and this is a generalization), the short passing game to the outside with the #2 receiver is the easiest way to attack MSU. Take a couple of shots with fades (use the #2 to occupy the safety) and loosen the LBs up sideline-to-sideline and then you make them hesitate on passing downs by utilizing the screen game.

I do think counters can work to an extent, but MSU utilizes their safeties well in run support  and counters get snuffed out pretty well. I personally think draws are better because it gets the LBs flaring out and the safeties have time to react forward initially before retreating.

dragonchild

July 15th, 2013 at 2:07 PM ^

I might still be stuck in 2011, and 2012's squeaker didn't quite wash off the stink.  It's always a bad idea to fight the previous battle, which is precisely what I'm doing, but that game was traumatic.

The good news is that we have a pretty exciting short passing game.  Gallon, Dileo and Funchess can all consistently make those catches, and Gardner's arm accuracy extends out well beyond that.  The main concern is a mis-read resulting in a pick-six; the out route is probably the most dangerous route to get jumped and Devin's weakness (that -- to be fair -- he's working out of his system like whoah) is. . . bad reads.  Argh, 2011 is worming back into my head!  Stay positive, Dragonchild; you can do this.

The interior game is more intriguing.  I have no idea how our new OL will hold up, and it's rather odd to contemplate.  Typically it's easier to find inside brawlers (quick is a godsend but you can get by if they're big and well-coached a la Wisconsin) whereas tackles are at a premium; we have two of the best tackles in the conference and a grove of entings between them.  Between that and Devin's progression, I'm inclined to think we're now a full-fledged pass-first offense now BUT if the interior OL and our battalion of RBs gets any sort of push, MSU's defense is going to have a very long day -- and that's not even assuming Darboh morphs into a legitimate deep threat.

At worst, I'd say their defense might have a slightly better day (if only because they have a more solid secondary), but our offense >> MSU offense.  MSU has one legit receiver going against a Mattison defense.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 2:14 PM ^

And people can note how Dileo had a big game last year as the #2 slot receiver, despite Denard being somewhat limited to hitting him inside between LBs. Gallon I think may be more valuable because of his ability to go up and get the ball over top of corners, with Dileo and Funchess inside you have a size/quickness advantage over the LBs, and a limited number of defenders covering quite a large range. Expect to see that again this year, but with a system and personnel to better exploit it.

I do agree that Michigan will lean heavily on the pass game this year, but they will not abandon the run game and will remain balanced regardless because the threat of the run is actually a big part of their success passing. Obviously, the more success they have running the more it opens up the pass, but the threat of the run needs to be maintained and cannot be abandoned. Play action will greatly help with the #2 receiver as it will keep LBs playing the run so they can't get out into coverage (and when they do they have to turn and sprint rather than find the ball). I wouldn't worry about pick 6s, MSU hasn't had one in I believe 2 years now and doesn't have a system (outside corners don't undercut routes, they turn and run in their system) to get many.

dragonchild

July 15th, 2013 at 3:02 PM ^

Natch, they can't abandon the run and while I'm bullish on the pass offense they're not quite so good that they can afford to be one-dimensional (not that any team can afford it, but whatevs).  Goes without saying in my book.  BTW it doesn't need to be a pick-six per se; my point was more that Gardner's picks more tended to come from bad reads than lack of accuracy, though that could be my 2011 trauma speaking again.  Anyway, if there's a pick it'll more likely come from the outside linebacker beating Dileo to his spot in the flat (i.e., Borges getting RPS-ed), and in a close defensive game a couple turnovers will be killer.

My point that I'm not quite meshing well is how the outside passing game and interior run game can work together.  Having two awesome tackles is great for the passing game but -- as if I need to bring up 2012 -- it's really hard to run the ball without good interior blocking.  The most obvious way the two parts will complement each other is that Dileo and Funchess will put tremendous pressure on the LBs to cover the flats while Gallon and Darboh push the safeties and corners back, basically turning the running game into our interior O-line vs. their D-line and a very busy middle linebacker.

But that's the problem, or at least what makes this interesting.  I have no idea which way that's going to go, and if I was a betting man I'd want Borges to do something more about that than rely on execution.  So I go back to thinking that it'll be Gardner and the Geckos* that opens up the running game, rather than the other way around.  If we can get some sort of short pass to running game to screen/counter cycle going. . . eh, we'll see.

*not the name of a band yet, to my knowledge, but I think it'd be a soul/funk group

imafreak1

July 15th, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^

For the second time in a row, Bollman has an OC gig where everyone is assuring everyone else that he will not be calling the plays.

How fun is that?

MGoStrength

July 15th, 2013 at 11:28 AM ^

From the sounds of their record prediction we pretty much have to beat them to win the division and it doesn't sound like that is a gurantee.  How many teams in our division can be predicted to go 9-3? (UM, MSU, Neb, NW)???  Someone has to win the division right?

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 11:37 AM ^

Is pretty much a throw your hands in the air and guess something. MSU should go 3-1 OOC, then in conference it could be anything like last year (or worse) to 2011. I think MSU is the highest variance team in the B1G this year because their defense is good enough to keep them in almost every game, but their offense could potentially be horrific or just good enough to win.

MGoStrength

July 15th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

With the offensive line in better shape this year, I don't think the RB position should make as much as a difference as the OP thinks.  And, I think they have some talent at WR with Burbridge and Arnett which should significantly improve.  Maxwell seems capable enough to be a game manager with that defense.  I personally think they will match up well with the other strong teams in our conference.  I see them losing to ND and possibly UM.  I think they beat Nebraska and I think they match up well against NW.  They don't play OSU. So, if for arguments sake the only games they lose are to UM and ND, that would mean we can only drop one conference game in order to win the division, and it probably can't be to NW in the off chance they also only lose one game. November should will be exciting this year!

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

Because I don't think their O-line situatin can get any worse. I don't think they have back the playmakers they did from last year, but I do believe almost entirely due to some even marginal improvement from O-line play they can easily make up for that. RB play takes a step back, but is only looks like a small step due to the O-line, and WR play should improve based off improved O-line and some improving WR. I don't think they'll be world beaters, but I think they can show some improvement and MSU fans will continue to talk about how their last OC was a complete idiot when, well, I think he was only partially inept. A bigger thing than people realize is just how poor and inexperienced they are at TE, which is an important component of that offense. We'll see if Bollman can do anything there.

However, with that said, even a small step back from their defense, which can't be ruled out with still considering them very good, could essentially end up in a similar season. We'll see. I think MSU needs it this year as they lose some very important pieces after this year and then defense isn't as sure of a thing (they'll likely still be good, but I don't think they replace their LB core so easily).

MGoStrength

July 15th, 2013 at 4:00 PM ^

I agree they are in trouble in 2014.  But, with their schedule next year it makes me a little nervous.  They don't play OSU.  And, although I don't expect Wisconsin or PSU to be great next year, they also don't play either of them.  We play 2/3 of those.  Although they do play UM, Nebraska, and NW in back to back to back weeks.  So, November for sure will be big for one of us (UM, MSU, NW, or Neb).

WolvinLA2

July 15th, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

I don't know. I think their O will be every bit as bad, and maybe worse. Sure, their OL should improve, but by much? I don't see why. However, their QB won't be much better and although they bring back all WRs, they lose their most reliable target in Sims.

But losing Bell (not to mention Caper too) is enormous. That guy carried MSU's offense for the last two years and played very well against us. Maxwell looked better than he was because every opponent needed to play to stop Bell first, and second.

Even if their OL is a full step better, it won't be good enough to make those RBs any good and their passing game won't be good enough to carry their team.

WolvinLA2

July 15th, 2013 at 3:20 PM ^

That's what I was thinking too, and I think this is significant. The weakness of this D will be the DL where they lost 2 starters and haven't recruited well at all over the last four years. If Lawrence Thomas can live up at all, things could be a little different, but that's a unit that will be untalented and winded which will make the job of those LBs a lot harder.

CR7

July 15th, 2013 at 4:11 PM ^

Rush is quality but nobody else on that D-line worries me. Your LB's can be as good as you like but, as we've seen, if they are eating lineman down field, it won't matter a lick. State have to sort that out because whilst ARW wasn't a superstar, he was a space-eater and at times required 2 blockers. If Staee's line is gettin single blocked effectively, that's bad news bears.

I see at least 4 losses for them. The 3 away games are definite and Michigan is likely. A fifth could be there in form of IU/Purdue/USF/Iowa. Their defense is good but lost a lot more than people think in ARW, Gholston and Adams. They no longer have a running game to lean on and the teams that beat them last year return a lot.

Space Coyote

July 15th, 2013 at 4:22 PM ^

He's a nice solid player that has pretty good technique, holds up pretty well at the point of attack, but doesn't really have the athleticism to have a much higher ceiling. I think with Rush, like with Roh, you'll see a lot of people already talk about him and then you won't see a great deal of improvement over the next couple years while people are waiting for him to take that next step.

One difference between the two though: at least Rush has been able to actually stay at a position.

Eastside Maize

July 15th, 2013 at 11:53 AM ^

Staee has a good defense but late in games they faltered because they were on the field so much. I see their offense mastering the 3 & out and hanging their defense out to dry again.

ATLalumni

July 15th, 2013 at 12:11 PM ^

but for what it's worth, Scout listed "Athleticism" and "Running" as strengths for Connor Cook in their recruiting profile.  So he might've be regarded as a decent athlete coming out of high school.

bronxblue

July 15th, 2013 at 12:21 PM ^

I remain unimpressed by MSU on offense, sufficiently terrified on defense, but with the unfounded belief that they are due for a fall.  I know the defense looks good on paper, but those Wisconsin highlights were for a team that struggled to move the ball against non-crappy (read: IU, Illinois, apparently Nebraska that one day) defenses.

MSU now has an identity as a scrappy defensive outfit with limited offensive growth.  They'll be a fine 7-8 win team, but I'm much more worried about teams like NW, Nebraska and Wisconsin than MSU going forward

 

dahblue

July 15th, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

Terrified?  I'm certainly not terrified.  They were able to lock us down because our QB greatly limited our offensive options.  Now, we should have a well-rounded offense with an accurate QB and a RB (please).  Different story than what State has grown accustomed to.