Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Michigan State Players To Watch

It's Week 8, and the state championship is upon us once again. Personally, I don't think it could have come at a more opportune time. Michigan State has won the last 4 games, 3 in the RichRod era and last one was in the first year for Brady Hoke. Michigan comes into the game with the higher ranked defense, 3rd ranked pass defense, and a whole lot of demons to exorcise.

I wish I could say Michigan was ranked coming into the game but due to the inherent controversy that is the BCS, they are not. Winning this game could swing the difference towards that aspect. I have gone through a few message boards, and also comments from Spartan friends of mine, and they all are coming to one conclusion. This year will be the one that Michigan reasserts itself in their rightful place in the pecking order. So far MSU is ranked 104th in the nation in scoring points at 21.0 per game but also 14th in the nation at total defense, which is far behind of what I'm sure they want to be.  Don't be fooled by the 4-3 record that MSU has, but rather look deeper into the stats of some players:

Andrew Maxwell
Obviously, as in any game, things live and die with quarterback. Call Andrew Maxwell a zombie then because he has clutch, alive moments...and times when he looks dead on the field. Even with Sparty's run heavy offense, Maxwell has thrown for 6 TDs and 4 INTs, and 1607 yards, but that also comes at a 54.3 completion percentage rate. In short, Kirk Cousins he is not. Cousins had the ability to extend plays much longer than most QBs, and Maxwell doesn't seem to be able to. He doesn't carry that invisible "X" factor that his predecessor did. Michigan State also comes in with the 10th ranked Big Ten offense, and a lot of that can be placed squarely on Maxwell's shoulders. To have a good game against the Wolverines, He will have to complete his passes and be able to stand up in the pocket.

Le'Veon Bell
Another person to worry about, who can play hot or cold, is Le'Veon Bell. Bell has two straight 100+ rushing performances and needs only 84 more to reach 1,000 for the season. While he is not too much of a threat catching the ball, he doesn't really need to be. If MSU had a better record right now he might be low on the list for the Heisman trophy, but as of now he'll have to be even better to be in contention for the Doak Walker Award for the nation's best college running back. He is one if the surer pieces for the Spartan offense considering as his carry total gets higher, he runs harder and better. Right now, the Michigan defensive line is playing a lot better than they were earlier in the season, and they'll need to be on the top of their game in order to slow down Bell. Yes, they do have Larry Caper to come in and give Bell a breather, and Caper is the better pass catcher, but he's nowhere in the same league as Bell.

Dion Sims
Every now and then, I'll substitute a group of players for an individual. Same theory applies here as the receivers for Maxwell will need to step up big time. The status of reliable star tight end Dion Sims is still unknown and could be a gametime decision, and backup TE Paul Lang is a poor substitute. The only wide receiver that has really stood out from the rest is Aaron Burbridge. Don't forget about Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphrey...but there is one common trait that everyone seems to have--a case of the dropsies. I can't really find a stat that shows how many there are, but their 3rd down conversion rate is at a paltry 37 percent. That shows that either Maxwell isn't throwing the ball where it needs to be, or the receiver is dropping the ball a good share of the time. Michigan's pass defense has improved considerably even with the loss of Blake Countess so with a combination of Floyd, Avery, and Taylor...I don't see the stats of the receivers piling up that high.

William Gholston
Again, another whole unit to be wary of, and by that I mean the Spartan defense. I know they are 4-3, and that a decent part of it is due to the play of Gholston. Will he play as dirty against Michigan as he's been known to? I wouldn't be surprised. The defense has yet to surrender more than 27 points in a game so they are trying to make up for what the offense lacks. Gholston has 28 tackles on the season so far, but his teammate Max Bullough tops off the defense with 58 tackles. The defense also has a combined 35 tackles for loss, which is a big component of being able to shut down the offense. I could write a novel on this defense, but keep in mind it's not the defense that has to outscore the other team. The secondary with Allen and Dennard are just as good as the defensive ends and linebackers. No they're not an SEC defense, but it is the best one in the Big Ten. Can they stop Denard Robinson and all of Michigan's offensive weapons? This season I highly doubt it.

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