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3-2-1 Preview: 3 things we want to see, 2 key stats, 1 best bet for MSU football vs. Tulsa

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Michigan State at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Take a deep inhale.

You guys smell that?

FOLKS, that scent of grass clippings, beer and cinnamon whiskey you smell is Spartan football coming back in one day! OH MAN LIFE DOES NOT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS.

Welcome to our first 3-2-1 preview of the season where we start with a wish list, rattle off some key numbers and get a tad degenerate with some gambling.

Let’s jump straight into it.

3 Things We Want To See

Brian Lewerke rolling early

Sometimes the “things we want to see” is just so obvious. This is one of them. I don’t need to – nor do I want to – rehash Lewerke’s entire 2018 season that started with a shoulder injury and ended with a RedBox Bowl performance that was…something.

Seeing Lewerke use that field vision, the accuracy and the wheels he showed his sophomore year will be paramount on Friday night. There’s no way around it – we the fans want to see Lewerke start the season hot as much as he needs to do it. The last thing we need is a shaky Lewerke against a Group of Five opponent to get the Confidence Comeback Tour off to a bad start.

Part of this is on Lewerke himself, another part is on the re-done coaching staff and another major part is on…

The offensive line performing well

Again, another position that doesn’t need to be dragged for last season for the 5,000th time. We all know how touch-and-go the line was last year (partly due to injuries. Just partly). I’ll give them this – the pass protection was pretty solid last season especially in the latter half. With a new left tackle on opening night in AJ Arcuri (more on him later) a wrinkle has been put in the fold and we’ll see if it makes an impact on Lewerke, the offense and the game.

More importantly, we need – NEED – to see this line get a push in the run game. Especially against Tulsa – a team that gave up an abysmal 5.2 yards per carry last season. I know a lot of talk this offseason is on the running back group, but quite frankly, it doesn’t matter who’s running the ball if the offensive line can’t get a push this season. If they can get a push against the Golden Hurricane on Friday, nice. If they can’t? It might be time to hit the panic button early on.

Penn State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The cornerbacks playing quality (with depth)

Thanks to Tulsa’s hurry-up offense we will get a look at two storylines – how does MSU look without Justin Layne and how does the depth look?

Right off the top, a lot of focus will be on Josh Butler filling in for Justin Layne. Butler was more than solid in the RedBox Bowl (that’s two more reference to that game than I wanted to make today), but can he keep that going right off the jump?

What intrigues me more is how does MSU look behind Butler and Scott? With Tulsa’s quick offense, MSU will be working in a good deal of backups and likely early on. How will Kalon Gervin, Shakur Brown and maybe even Davion Williams and Chris Jackson look? That’s the biggest unknown on this year’s defense walking into the season.

2 Key Stats

22

That’s how many offensive snaps for junior AJ Arcuri has had…in his whole career. With Cole Chewins out with a back injury, Arcuri will be the man protecting Lewerke’s blindside. Luckily for MSU, Tulsa had one of the worst sack percentages last season with 4.36 percent of plays ending in a sack, good for 116th in the country.

I want to make this clear – I’m not saying Arcuri is bad. Heck, Dantonio said quite the opposite on Tuesday according to the Detroit Free Press.

Just a new left tackle to kickoff the season gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Starting the season with a new offensive tackle on an offense that, let’s be honest, really needs a strong showing on Friday for public confidence and self belief will be interesting. The offensive line struggled a bulk of last season, and this could be a hole in the armor that Tulsa can exploit.

10.4 percent

Let’s keep the offensive line talk going, but switch it to the other team. Tulsa gave up sacks on 10.4 percent of plays last season which was — HOO BOY — 122nd in the nation. YIKES. Well it’s a good thing they don’t have to face a front seven that includes two All-Americans and-OH MY GOD THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THEY’LL HAVE TO DO.

Even if Tulsa’s running back thinks 200-plus yards is a “reasonable” goal against Michigan State, something tells me it won’t happen easily. So MSU will have to get Tulsa’s fast-paced offense uncomfortable and they can do that by getting to the quarterback (man, I should be a coach. That’s genius and never thought of before.).

Tulsa returns just two starters off that offensive line last season, which is...good? Maybe we’ll see linemen somehow even shakier than Tulsa had last season? Or maybe it’s bad?! Maybe Tulsa has some diamonds in the rough ready to lock MSU down?? Doubtful, but who knows?

1 best bet

MSU -23; O/U 47.5

Last year’s best bets were a GREEN AND WHITE HOT 8-4 so we will try to keep that rolling this season.

There’s nothing — and I mean NOTHING — MSU loves more than making opening night games a little tighter than they should. I get that the offense will try to make a statement and put their foot on Tulsa’s throat for 60 minutes. I’m going to still take the points here and go with Tulsa +23.

Tulsa’s 3-3-5 defense will narrow down MSU’s big play potential. I can see Tulsa’s fast-paced offense keeping it close enough in the first half for everyone to sweat a little bit. Once their scripted plays are over the dust will settle and MSU will tack on a fourth quarter touchdown to give a cushion, but I still think Tulsa ultimately keeps it within three touchdowns on Friday.

Poll

What’s your best bet this Friday night?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    MSU -23
    (69 votes)
  • 28%
    Tulsa +23
    (92 votes)
  • 9%
    Over 47.5
    (31 votes)
  • 40%
    Under 47.5
    (128 votes)
320 votes total Vote Now

Go Green gang, hope you enjoy the kickoff to the season and Labor Day weekend.