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

Come for the stats. Stay for the best bet.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Arizona State at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re back, and let’s not act like we’re feeling great coming into Saturday.

This is a game where a win would be kind of cool, but a loss would all about spell disaster. So, WHO ELSE IS READY?!

Other than “touchdowns” and “no injuries” here are three things we want to see tomorrow, as well as a few key stats and a best bet I spent about .3 seconds debating.

3 Things We Want To See

Collins getting 20+ touches

Enough of the Mickey Mouse “let every running back play” BS like this is youth football. The sample size with every running back not named “Elijah Collins” or “Anthony Williams Jr.” has been seen.

You have a natural running back with vision, agility, speed and tackle-breaking ability. His name is Elijah Collins. Use him like a bell cow back and feed him 20-plus touches. You have another running back that’s shown bursts of speed and cuts in his limited touches. His name is Anthony Williams Jr. Get him the ball when Collins isn’t getting it.

Northwestern gives up 4.6 yards per running attempt, which isn’t great. With MSU being down to its fourth left tackle this season, this is a good game to get a heavy running routine going. Get Collins going early and often, sprinkle Williams into the mix so he can grow and let’s start getting serious about the way the running game is handled.

Matt Coghlin getting his mojo back

Kicking is 50 percent physical and 99 percent mental. I just made that up, but it seems right.

Coghlin has been Mr. Reliable for MSU before a tough outing last week (really, the 31-yarder was the only “bad” miss). The last time Coghlin missed two field goals in a game before last week was…oh my…at Northwestern in 2017. McMuffin getting rolling on his early kicks would bring a sign of confidence to everyone watching at home, and I can’t imagine the wonders that would do for his confidence to get back on the Making Field Goals Train.

With Northwestern’s solid defense and MSU’s scoring issues, a handful of field goal attempts could be coming down the pipeline for Coghlin on Saturday.

Limiting Hunter Johnson’s legs

Half of pointing this out is because Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson made noise with his legs in last week’s win over UNLV, averaging 5.0 yards per go. The other half is the PTSD that’s still present thanks to 4th and 13.

Johnson has had a rough start to the season through the air, connecting passes at a 42 percent clip and throwing three interceptions and one touchdown. Northwestern will have to get creative to make big plays, and Johnson improvising on the run could be a way they get there.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Arizona State at Michigan State Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2 Key Stats

10.5 percent

That’s Northwestern’s sack rate, which is solid enough to stick them in the top 20 nationally. The Wildcats have seven sacks on the season, two coming against Stanford and five coming against a brutal UNLV team. The Spartans are now one injury at left tackle away from putting Jim Bollman there as Tyler Higby will get the start. That means the Spartans are on their fourth left tackle of the season if you’ve been keeping count or have already lost count.

This predicament is far from making sure the blocking is good enough to be effective in the passing game – it’s now to the point where we have to start worrying about Brian Lewerke. MSU is now on its fourth option protecting Lewerke’s blindside. The Wildcats pass rush will be tough to fend off, and the importance of this area is only magnified with every key injury.


That’s yards per punt attempt for Northwestern punter Daniel Kubiuk, which lands him 113th in the nation and 14th in the Big Ten (behind two separate Maryland punters to boot, pun intended). That’s on eight punts throughout the season, and he does have a long of 53 yards.

I think at this point we are all pretty well-versed on how much field position matters in football games-turned-to-rock fights. That’s how a punting statistic makes its way into a “Two Key Stats” piece.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

1 Best Bet

MSU -9.5, over/under 38.5

Under. Under under under. Under under. Under under under under under.

Unless both teams get to play with 15 players on offense, go under. Northwestern’s offense is simply not good. Dantonio’s defense will keep the Wildcats away from the end zone. Everyone knows the Spartans scoring struggles. Really, I would be surprised if either team gets to 20 points – I’ll be downright shocked if both teams reach that number.

Under under. Under. Under under under under under under. Under. Under under under.

Pick: I think I’ll be taking the under here.

Record: 2-1 (don’t think MSU covered -14 last week)


What’s your best bet for Saturday?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    MSU -9
    (24 votes)
  • 27%
    Northwestern +9
    (44 votes)
  • 6%
    Over 38.5
    (10 votes)
  • 51%
    Under 38.5
    (84 votes)
162 votes total Vote Now