I just like using these photos. (Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE)
The Spartans look to get back on track after last week's disaster against Notre Dame. The struggling 0-3 Eastern Michigan Eagles come to town, and this one isn't expected to be very close, especially since Mike Hart won't be suiting up. Most importantly, the hope is MSU will sort out its problems on offense and gain some confidence before Big Ten play begins with Ohio State coming to East Lansing. But first, let's take a look at the Eagles and the keys to the game.
EMU's season to date (0-3): L 37-26 at Ball State, L 31-14 vs. Illinois State, L 54-16 at Purdue
By the numbers:
312.3: Rushing yards per game Eastern Michigan is allowing this season
4.1: Le'Veon Bell's yards per carry against Notre Dame
4: Sacks allowed by MSU's offensive line against the Irish. Also the number of sacks EMU has this season
9: EMU turnovers this season
23.08: EMU's third-down conversion percentage on the year. MSU is allowing 27 percent by opponents, including 1-for-14 by Notre Dame
100: Dan Conroy's field goal percentage from 50 yards this season. He's 2-for-5 from less than 50 yards.
150.7: EMU's rushing yards per game on offense. Quarterback Alex Gillett leads the team with 51 yards per game.
Three keys for MSU:
Offense line improves all around: Simply put, they were pushed around by Notre Dame. MSU couldn't run the ball very well early, and then couldn't pass block when the Spartans were passing every time. It was supposed to be a strength entering the season, but with Fou Fonoti out for a bit, Skyler Burkland is back in the starting role he lost last year (due to injury). Hopefully he'll be better knowing he's the starter this week, compared to being rushed into duty a few days before the game.
Some receivers step up: Again, a major problem against the Irish. Maxwell has been OK this year, but he hasn't had much help. Bennie Fowler is supposed to be the veteran, but he dropped a touchdown last week. Frankly, no receiver has made enough strides in games to be declared the No. 1. MSU can't be playing eight receivers a game. The redshirts for Macgarrett Kings and Aaron Burbridge may be burned, but MSU has been that desperate for someone to step up. If the Spartans go into Big Ten play with no faith in anyone on the outside, it could mean big problems.
Defense doesn't allow big plays: Both Irish touchdowns last week were either on a big play or set up by one. Notre Dame did a great job of getting the mobile quarterback Everett Golson out of the pocket and MSU's defensive ends didn't do a good job of containing. EMU's Gillett is a big runner, so the line needs to make sure he doesn't bounce any runs outside for a big gain.
Three keys for EMU:
Win the turnover battle: As shown in the numbers above, turnovers have absolutely killed EMU's offense this season. Carter Adler from Eagle Totem said it has also been a factor in the defense's poor numbers this year. Andrew Maxwell hasn't turned the ball over since the first half against Boise State, but a interception or two could keep the Eagles around longer than comfortable.
Find success running the ball outside: I never thought I'd see MSU's rushing defense beat to the outside, but it happened quite a few times against Notre Dame. Some misdirection runs caught the defensive ends overly agressive for some big gains.
Get to the quarterback: I've mentioned how the offensive line struggled plenty last week. If the Eagles can disguise some blitzes and put consistent pressure on Andrew Maxwell, it could keep things interesting.
Prediction: MSU 48-3
I don't think anyone expects this game to be close. MSU will look to get the offensive line and the receivers back on track. I wouldn't be surprised to see the starters stay in a little longer than normal just to get the kinks out (and maybe stick it to Hart). I don't expect the student section to be very full for this one, based on what I've seen online, and that's a shame. Although this really is the only bad home game of the year, you only get seven. /end mini-rant /end preview.