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Well, we got what we paid for. A team that we easily and thoroughly MACrificed to the God of Bowl Eligibility. A great cruise control win, that doesn't tell me nearly as much as I'd like it to about our big match-up next week. This was more or less what MSU should do to CMU year in and year out. Still, as someone who was around for the Crappening in 2009 (my second game as a student, in fact) it feels pretty good to clean that team's clock, and remind them who the boss is heading into next year's game in Mt. Pleasant.
|MSU 45, CMU 7|
|Close %||56.00%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Enemy Territory %||50.67%||19.61%||Success Rate||52.83%||29.63%|
|Close Success Rate||48.65%||18.52%||Success Rate||40.91%||12.50%|
|Close Success Rate||55.00%||22.22%||Points off turnovers||17||0|
|Close S&P||1.117||0.289||BY QUARTER|
|Close Success Rate||41.18%||16.67%||1st Down S&P||1.007||0.385|
|Close PPP||0.430||-0.004||2nd Down S&P||1.048||0.288|
|Close S&P||0.842||0.162||3rd Down S&P||0.737||0.283|
|Big Plays||10||2||Yards Per Point||10.69||16|
|Yards Per Play||6.25||2.07||Penalties||4 for 20||3 for 26|
Analysis after the jump...
So four interceptions is great obviously, especially considering that two of those (Robinson's and Drummond's) were very impressive, 'go up and get the ball' type picks. More importantly, these turnovers resulted in points (Yay), a welcome change from last week against Notre Dame. If that's something that continues, I will feel much better about MSU's offensive output. It's also nice that I think 3 out of 4 picks were a result of putting the quarterback under pressure.
The Cousins' pick was just... it is what it is at this point. Once every couple games, he's going to throw an awful pick, and as a fan base we need to accept that, along with all the great things he does (ex. that spot-on throw to Caper on the wheel route for a TD).
2. The Run Game
For all the moaning about the run game, that's a pretty solid performance. A 55% Success Rate is good, the PPP is way, way, up this week.
It seems so far in games that Baker been #1 and Bell has been #2:
Baker: 50 carries, 216 yards, 1 TD
Bell: 38 carries, 217 yards, 6 TDs
Is it time to start asking whether Bell should be getting 50 carries and Baker should be getting 38? I feel like our running backs keep getting hit three yards past the line of scrimmage, and Bell is fighting for two more yards and Baker is getting taken down. Furthermore, Bell has shown a willingness to bounce it outside that I haven't seen from Baker so far.
3. The O-Line?
God, I don't know anymore. There's so much variance from play-to-play, drive-to-drive, game-to-game. They could be good, they're probably just average. Are Travis Jackson, Fou Fonoti, and Dan France the answer? Is (holy crap) Micajah Reynolds gonna take over at LT? Will Chris McDonald and Joel Foreman start playing like the hyped guards they entered the season as? Is the rest of the offense good enough to play around this issue for periods of time? Shrug. We'll know at the end of the October. I don't feel overly confident.
I mean, here's the thing. The offense is still 'fine'. It's middle of the pack in the Big Ten. It's okay. It's good enough. If both units (offense and defense) play at these levels the rest of the year they'll end up with 8, 9 wins. But if we want MSU to crack double digit wins, the offense has to be able to engage another gear past this 1.0 or so S&P 'good' level up to a 'great' 1.4 or so S&P. The team hasn't done that yet, and they haven't done it against the weaker competition on our schedule (though Minnesota and Indiana might be just as bad as Central Michigan). I'm not sure if this team has that gear, especially consistently, unless the O-line improbably gels. Go prove me wrong guys.
In good news, despite Cousins sub-par day on Saturday (and really, 59%, 9 YPA, 1TD, 1 INT is a pretty decent 'bad day'), I'm fairly confident that they'll be able to pass their way by most of the Big Ten if need be (think 2009). I'm not sure they can do that against Nebraska, or Ohio State however.
4. Defense still ferocious
It's still a little early to be crowning this D, and they are certainly not the #1 team in the country, I don't care what the total defense stat says. We'll know very soon whether they are for real or just a September illusion.
But this is another data point that they're top 25, maybe top 15. I'm also pretty confident based off the first four weeks that this is a top 2 unit in the Big Ten. CMU ran 27 plays while the game was close and was successful on only 5 of them. That's good.
And the weak schedule is something to take into account, but only to a point. Consider:
|Youngstown State Offense|
|YSU's other 3 games avg.
|v. Michigan State||7||254|
|Florida Atlantic Offense|
|FAU's other 2 games avg.
|v. Michigan State||0||48|
|Notre Dame Offense|
|ND's other 3 games avg.
|v. Michigan State||31*||275|
|Central Michigan Offense|
|CMU's other 3 games avg.
|v. Michigan State||7||112|
*For all intents and purposes, that might as well be a 21 under Notre Dame's point column, the defense was at less than zero fault for 10 of those points.
These teams might be bad, but it doesn't change the fact that MSU is outperforming, sometimes vastly outperforming, the other defenses these teams have faced, including average to good teams in Florida, Pitt, Kentucky, South Florida, Western Michigan, and Michigan.
I'm like, 90% sure that what I'm seeing is for real. This defense can carry MSU through some shaky offensive performances if need be, provided special teams holds up its end of the bargain. I gotta say though, I'm still a little worried about all that youth having a game or two where they make silly mistakes and undermine their talent. The margin for error is not very big.
5. Oh yeah
Speaking of special teams, hey guys! What a painfully mixed bag. I don't even know whether to call our special teams bad or good.
Kick-off distance, Kick-off Coverage (the other half the time), Net Punt yardage, Punt blocking, dumb coaching decisions.
I don't know why coach D punted with 4 minutes left against Notre Dame. I don't know why he called that fake field goal. And I don't know why he won't go for it on 4th and 2 at his opponent's 41. But these things all happened and are not good decisions from a tactical stand point.
If there is one shining light of hope among the constant special teams errors, it's that each breakdown has been different and then seemingly corrected. After Youngstown State, the field goal holds seem fine. Keshawn (or Nick Hill) hasn't muffed another punt. Kick-off return defense has been shaky, but has only allowed that one TD at least. A punt blocked when up by 31 on CMU isn't the worst thing in the world.
This would seem to indicate that the staff is fixing these problems as they occur.. But if we keep moving down the list of mistakes we're due to what, flub an onside kick, kick a kick-off out of bounds against OSU next week?
It's gotta be better, or Michigan State is going to lose more games in that crappy fashion like against Notre Dame, where the team should've been within a score at the end, but wasn't.
Ho-Hum, another non-conference cupcake quickly devoured by a team that has shown little willingness to mess around with the dregs of the NCAA. I enjoy these performances, I really, really, do. But there's this big ol' prize sitting in Columbus next weekend, and boy, do I want to get my hands on that.
Is what is probably the top defense in the Big Ten and basically the 6th best offense good enough to beat a good, but not great, OSU team, at OSU? Yes. Is it maybe even good enough to get to the big ten title game in what appears to be a crappy big ten? Yes. Would I bet on either of these outcomes, particularly after the way the team came out flat against Notre Dame? No, I would not. Not yet.
The team spoke about these big road games as being tests. Well, they earned about a C- on their first test at Notre Dame. MSU looks past the days where we slip up in games we should win. In fact, in his career Dantonio has been remarkably good at beating the teams we should beat. The next step to the top tier in the Big Ten is to be able to go on the road and beat a good team who is missing a few key players. I've watched both these teams play quite a bit and I think we're on level ground with OSU, something I haven't been able to say for a decade (though Jordan Hall scares the hell out of me). This is a gift wrapped chance for a big program win. It should be a heck of a game. Let's go do this please.
I'm up on twitter. Username: HeckAtTOC
I'll try and throw out some statistical tidbits, thoughts, and banter that don't make it up here, to make it worth your follow.
Look for a post around midweek or so, that is sort of a roundup of these new math posts for MSU's non-conference schedule, with some pretty graphs and graphics on how the team has done from week to week.