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

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Saturday’s game will be a bigger one than we anticipated

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

And just like that, we’re back. We are so back it hurts.

Another Group of Five team comes strolling into Spartan Stadium on Saturday, and this game is getting a closer look under the microscope than we all anticipated.

How will the offense look? Also, how will the offense look? And another forgotten about storyline is how will the offense look?

Let’s go through our wish list, key stats and pray we keep the money train rolling.

3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE

Offensive line push in the run game

Michigan State’s offensive line was bad in week one. I know it. You know it. Mark Dantonio knows it. MSU has one more Group of Five team to tune up against before the season really gets rolling, and a second game in a row where MSU can’t get a push in the run game will be alarming. It will cause people to go from drinking at a tailgate to have a good time to drinking at a tailgate to bear with watching this team 10 more times this year.

MSU had zero running backs average more than three yards per carry last week against a pedestrian Tulsa team. In the midst of Western’s 48-13 dismantling of Monmouth last week, the Broncos still gave up 128 yards on 39 carries. Not great for Monmouth, but if a Big South program can get something going, Michigan State better be able to.

Some of this falls on the running backs, and most of it falls on the offensive line.

Offensive line strong in the pass game

We can’t have another week of a right tackle setting up velvet rope and a red carpet into the backfield every single passing play. We can’t have Brian Lewerke so paranoid of a pass rush that, even when there is a rare moment of no pressure, he scrambles anyway just figuring the pocket is collapsing.

This is a big night for the offensive line to a) give us fans some assurance that they will be fine, b) for the players themselves to get some confidence rolling and c) most importantly, give the coaching staff a unit of five that works together.

Touchdowns. Plural.

Yeah, this is an obvious one, but sometimes what we want to see is so f***ing obvious that we just have to point it out.

I ranted and ranted and ranted about the offense in “The Good, The Bad, The Random” but one of the points was this – last week didn’t seem like a week one game. It felt like a week 14 game that was a continuation of last week with the same dominant defense but the same inept offense.

We don’t need 2015 Oregon – but we can’t have a one touchdown performance again. I’m going to set the bar at a generous four touchdowns for this Friday – anything less than that will be concerning. This is Western Michigan. It’s not, well, our own defense we’re going against.

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

2 KEY STATS

269.6

That’s the passer rating of the top quarterback in the nation after week one in Western Michigan’s Jon Wassink, who has been playing for seemingly 12 years. Look, it was one game and against Monmouth, but the point here is that Wassink is a solid quarterback. He’s smart with the ball and has playmakers he can dish it out to.

Western Michigan, if I had to guess, won’t break 100 yards on the ground and I think they know that. I mean, they couldn’t even crack 100 yards on 33 carries last week. Running the ball against MSU would essentially just be kneeing the ball and burning up a down. I imagine the Broncos coaching staff will know that and become pass-heavy on Saturday. Now it’s up to MSU to shut that down.

4

That’s the number of returning starters on the offensive line for Western Michigan. Most notably returning All-MAC First Team center in Luke Juriga, who could very well be playing on Sundays in a year or two. MSU’s front seven should still have a strong showing in this game, but it will be a slight increase in challenge compared to last week where Kenny Willekes was basically getting his personal mail sent to Tulsa’s backfield. Getting to the passer can end this game before it even starts, and MSU will have to crack this experienced offensive line early and often.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Western Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

1 BEST BET

MSU -16, O/U 46.5

We started the season with a win last week thanks to MSU’s offense being just abysmal enough for Tulsa to cover +23. And that’s just about the only bright point of that performance on that side of the ball.

I’m going to upset you guys and go against the Spartans again this game – give me the +16 points and the Broncos to make this a little more snug than we want.

Wassink’s experience and his playmakers scare me a little bit. What scares me even more is MSU’s inability to do anything on offense against Tulsa. Western will be a better team than Tulsa, so I expect this one to be in the “never in danger, but never comfortable” range.

Pick: WMU +16

Record: 1-0