The Michigan State Spartans earned an enormous victory last week on the road against Penn State. To get the job done, the offense needed to put together a 76-yard drive in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. But despite the late game heroics, the MSU offense still isn’t playing at a high level.
As they prepare for Michigan, the offense will need to carry their own weight if they want a chance to pull a second upset in as many weeks. A task made that much harder by the ever-mounting injuries.
Brian Lewerke had his worst game of the season against Penn State. The junior completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, only averaging five yards per completion with an interception. Making matters worse, this was far from Lewerke’s first bad game on the young season.
The quarterback will be under plenty of pressure against Michigan. After a rough start against Notre Dame, they have been one of the stingiest defenses in the Big Ten. Last week they turned Alex Hornibrok into a subpar quarterback.
Lewerke and the offense need to hit on quick passes to spread the defense without putting Lewerke in too big of a risk for interceptions. If he can supply a chunk of the running game himself, it would do wonders to open throwing lanes.
Early success is key for the Spartans quarterback. Michigan has shown they get better as the game goes on, making it significantly less likely to put together another fourth quarter game-winning drive.
The Spartans injury report looks more like a depth chart than anything else. Cody White is expected to miss another game with his hand injury, with nearly every other wide receiver listed as questionable, including Felton Davis III who briefly left last week’s game with a hip injury.
Davis may have played the best game of his career last week, and the Spartans may need him to put on a repeat performance. He was the only receiver who could be depended on to get open and make the big catches. Laress Nelson and Cam Chambers played well, but both struggled with injuries of their own. Hopefully the Spartans will see Darrell Stewart Jr. and Jalen Nailor return to the field.
The MSU running game was nearly non-existent against Penn State. La’Darius Jefferson has clearly taken over the role of every-down-back while LJ Scott recovers from his leg injury. The freshman doesn’t have the running power Scott has and has struggled with fumbles.
Scott is listed as questionable for the game, but he’s been in this position the last few weeks and there is no sign that anything has changed this week. Expect Scott to dress, to at least make Michigan prepare for him, but relying on Scott is a bad plan for the Spartans.
At this point, what is there to say about the Michigan State offensive line that hasn’t already been said. The Spartans have put out six different offensive line combinations in as many games and allowed three more sacks last week.
Looking for a silver-lining, the line did manage to create a few big holes in the running game. The lack of success on the ground may have more to do with who is running than the holes created.
Michigan is going to tax the MSU line. Even at their best, it’s hard to make an argument that the Spartans line is better than the UM front seven. However, creativity and game-planning can neutralize the attack and spread them thin enough to put up enough points for a win.