Isn’t it crazy waiting a whole offseason for a single home game? And then we get three back-to-back-to-back?
It’s a little overwhelming, but hey, I’m totally here for it.
And we’re also here back for our 3-2-1 breakdown, and thank you for dropping by and reading.
Obviously there’s two big things we want to see — no injuries and Mark Dantonio sitting on top of the all-time wins record come Saturday night. Now it’s time to look at what else we want to see along with key stats and a stab at a best bet (and redemption).
3 Things We Want To See
Getting to the quarterback early
Needless to say, this will be the toughest environment true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels has played in. I’m going to take this bold guess even a step further and assume he’s not particularly tickled about facing that MSU front seven either.
What also doesn’t help Daniels’ cause is his offensive line – while the season is still young, the Sun Devils have one of the nation’s worst sack percentages with 17.24 percent of his drop backs ending in sacks. That was against Kent State and Sacramento State – how will the gang of monsters on MSU’s pass rush do? Well...probably alright. If that can get done early and shake up the true freshman (who is backed up by another true freshman), MSU can feast all day long on defense.
Bottling up Eno Benjamin
This is Arizona State’s playmaker, who is a running back that’s also a catching threat out of the backfield. MSU did a solid job keeping him at bay in the running game last season, holding him to 2.1 yards per carry on 13 attempts. I suspect that will be the case again, considering ASU’s run game has a stuff rate (running plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) of 23.9 percent this season. That’s good (or bad enough, really) for 116th in the nation. On the flip side, to no surprise, MSU’s defensive line has a stuff rate of 34.5 percent, which lands them seventh nationally.
Benjamin’s main threat will likely be coming catching the ball out of the backfield. That means staying disciplined on screens, assignments and yada yada ya – all stuff that this experienced defense already knows.
Cracking another 3-3-5 defense
Arizona State runs a similar scheme to Tulsa – if you forgot, that did not go so well. HOWEVA, things are already a tad different since week one. We have a running back. Darrell Stewart is back in the slot. The offensive line took a huge step forward…but that could get tricky going back to facing a 3-3-5 defense.
With a 3-3-5, catching where the pressure is coming from can be a bit wonkier. It also makes jailbreaking huge plays more difficult, so don’t expect to have Stewart go for 185 yards on seemingly three thousand 20-plus yard receptions. The Sun Devils have a solid defense, and it will certainly level set where we are with this offense between the lows of the Tulsa game and highs of the Western game.
2 Key Stats
That’s Arizona State’s opposing completion percentage, which is so solid it lands them in the top 10 early on in the season. Again, that’s after games against Kent State and Sacramento State, but this 3-3-5 defense will by far be the toughest competition MSU has played thus far. Those two games against Kent State and Sacramento State were two different tales as the Golden Flashes threw 9-of-16 with the Hornets dialing up a 32-of-50 performance.
After last week’s 51-point explosion from MSU we all walked away happy, but at the same time we are saying “alright, let’s see something like that again.” If MSU can crack this solid Sun Devils defense, that would give this team a world of confidence rolling into the conference season.
POP QUIZ: That’s the field goals attempted and made stat of which kicker on Saturday? HA, GOTCHA, it’s both MSU’s Matt Coghlin and Arizona State’s Christian Zendejas. That ties the two for most field goals made without a miss amongst Power Five conference teams, making them the two most reliable legs thus far in the young season. With two strong defenses meeting up this Saturday there will be some drives that bottom out before reaching the end zone. Both kickers should get their opportunities to shine this week, and it looks like they’re both dialed in to start the season.
ALSO (going to sneak this in here) Arizona State also has the best punter in the nation so far as Michael Turk averages 55.3 yards per punt. Hope y’all like great special teams.
1 Best Bet
MSU -14.5, over/under 41.5
I took one completely on the chin last week as the Spartans covered -16 by the end of the first quarter. Big whoops on that one.
Full disclosure, I hate both the line and the over/under this game. But this “best bet” thing is my bit I created...so here goes nothing.
I’m going right back to the well and picking the spread. I promise I’ll pick an over/under eventually, but I still want to see MSU’s offense one more time – especially with a total so low against a solid defense.
I like what we saw last week from MSU’s offense, but I also didn’t like what we saw two weeks ago against a 3-3-5 defense. Somewhere in the middle is where I’m going to play, thinking MSU wins this game by 8-12 points. That leads me to pick against MSU for the third straight week, and as bad as that makes me feel, that’s what I’m going with.
Pick: Arizona State +14.5
What’s your best bet for Saturday?
This poll is closed