Previewing MSU vs. Youngstown State

Dave Reginek

Sorry it's a bit late.

Game time: 2 p.m. ET, Saturday
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
TV: BTN (Likely an alternate BTN. Check here)
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online Streaming: BTN2Go

Game Week Q&A: Here
Pete's EL Visitors Guide: Here
Forecast: 64 degrees, sunny - A Beautiful Day For Football!
Line: MSU -24

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Third time the charm? MSU looks to get the offense on track when it hosts FCS Youngstown State on Saturday (note the 2 p.m. start time). How bipolar is MSU? According to Football Outsiders, MSU's offense has been No. 125 out of 126, while the defense has been No. 1. (The volatility of early-season ratings puts MSU at No. 3 overall. Positive!).

Connor Cook will be making the start. He hasn't done much with his arm, but his ability to move is what gives him the blessing of the coaches. Youngstown State has put up some impressive offensive numbers and is ranked in the FCS top 25, but they've played two non-scholarship teams. Still, most of us will believe MSU can take care of a lesser opponent when they see it. The Penguins played MSU tough in 2011 and defeated Pitt last year, so don't overlook them.

By the numbers:

3.4 - Yards per attempt for MSU, which is dead last nationally.

4.4 - Yards per carry for MSU, which is No. 62 nationally.

2.6 - Yard per play allowed by MSU's defense, which is No. 1 nationally.

2 - Losses to FCS opponents by Western Michigan and South Florida this season.

579.0 - Yards per game for Youngstown State this season.

363.0 - Rushing yards per game for Youngstown State.

5 - Red zone attempts for MSU offense.

2- Red zone touchdowns for MSU

12.0 - Points per game directly scored by the MSU defense, which is more than six whole teams.

Three keys for MSU:

Big plays on offense - MSU can't rely on dinking and dunking down the field for a touchdown. MSU has just five plays of more than 20 yards this year, with three of them being runs. if you can't stretch the field, you're dead, and that has been the case for more than a year with this team.

Fast start - The best way to ease the tension in Spartan Stadium would be to take the first offensive series to the end zone. Of course, simply getting in the end zone has been a tall task.

Don't allow points on defense - Simple enough.

Three keys for YSU:

Use MSU's aggressive D against itself - The one thing South Florida was able to do a few times on offense was hit MSU with a gash on draw plays. MSU loves to blitz, so screens, reverses and draws are one way to counter.

Turnovers - I keep saying this, but it's the key to every upset. And if MSU is going with Connor Cook, turnovers could be there to be had.

Load the box - Opponents are daring MSU to pass the ball, and MSU is failing at that. Prove that they can complete a pass downfield.

Prediction: MSU 28-10

Based on going with Connor Cook and the coaches' comments about his legs, part of me wonders if MSU would go with a Tim Tebow/Broncos type of offense, relying on defense and running the ball and winning close games. It's similar to the run-heavy approach Heck suggested. While I'm on the record being for Maxwell and a sped-up offense, at least this would be a change.

Of course, this is just me trying to read into everything. Maybe MSU will keep passing it too much with a quarterback who can't throw well. Who knows. Worth noting that streak of MSU scoring 26 points or fewer is up to nine games.

(Watch this to the end)

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