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The 3-2-1 Preview: 3 things we want to see, 2 key stats and 1 best bet vs. Rutgers

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Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

OH MY GOODNESS IT’S FINALLY HERE.

IT’S NEARLY GAME TIME.

MSU takes on the mighty Rutgers Scarlet Knights (just six years removed from their Quick Lane Bowl win, people forget that) on Saturday and we’ve got the first “3-2-1 Preview” of the season.

If it’s your first time here in this preview, welcome! The premise is simple — you get three things we want to see (not counting the obvious stuff like “no injuries” or “a Spartan victory!”), two key stats, and one best bet (we went 8-4-1 last year and 8-4 the year prior).

3 Things We Want To See

The emergence of an alpha dog at QB1

Why wait to start discussing the biggest position battle heading into the season?

It’s no secret a). MSU will be looking for a quarterback and b). it will maybe take a few weeks to solve. Heck, offensive coordinator Jay Johnson even said so himself that this could play out into the season.

So against a defense like Rutgers? Yeah, we would be absolutely JAZZED to see a quarterback or two show signs of being “That Dude.” We’re not looking for 20-24 passing and 370 yards — we just want to see average-to-above average quarterback play. The bar isn’t set all that high to begin this season in a new offense, so can we please get someone to jump it out of the gate so QB1 gets resolved rather quickly?

A smooth start to cross-field moves

What I mean by that is guys changing up positions from one side of the field to another. For example, Julian Barnett. The true sophomore that was a solid receiver option last year who is now going to live on defense in the cornerback position. That position has yet to be solidified and, like the quarterback position, can take a hot minute to sort out. Barnett will likely be getting a good chunk of reps with Kalon Gervin and Shakur Brown, and that’s a position group that needs to find a replacement of what Josiah Scott brought to the table.

As for offense, there’s one position group that has a gaggle of players trying to give it a crack — tight end. Behind Trenton Gillison and maybe Matt Dotson (coming off a late-season Achilles injury) we’ve got Adam Berghorst and Parks Gissinger vying for reps. Those are two guys that came to East Lansing as defensive ends that are now plugging a void left in the tight end rooms.

A spark on offense

I won’t even ask for fireworks. Not even a bonfire. Just a spark of something to get us all excited for the offensive side of the ball.

Last season the Spartans had eight games where the offense scored one touchdown or less. Eight games. One touchdown. OR LESS.

There’s a myriad of reasons why that was the way it was — injuries, coaching, execution, blah, blah and blah. Starting a season with a spark — regardless of the new faces at positions — should not be a problem with the Scarlet Knights on the other sideline. Tre Mosley, Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed have the speed to create downfield threats. Elijah Collins will have the pleasure of running behind a healthy offensive line.

It should not be difficult to score three, four touchdowns against Rutgers. We’re not asking a lot here, but even just a little bit of offense can be a big, lovely sight to see on Saturday.

— Matt

2 Key Stats

206

That is the number of points the Spartans have put up against the Scarlet Knights since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014. Meanwhile, Michigan State has allowed just 44 points — including two shutouts — to Rutgers in that span. On a per game average, MSU has outscored Rutgers 34.3 to 7.3 in this series since the Scarlet Knights joined the conference.

Seven

That is the largest margin of victory Rutgers has over Michigan State in any game the two programs have played against each other. As mentioned, the Spartans are undefeated in Big Ten Conference play against the Scarlet Knights, however, prior to Rutgers joining the Big Ten in 2014, the Scarlet Knights have actually won three games in the series overall (the all-time series record is 8-3 in favor of MSU). Even in those three victories for Rutgers, none of the games were decided by more than a touchdown (and an extra point). Rutgers won by four points in 1988, seven points in 1991 and five points in 2004 — which happened to be under Greg Schiano as head coach that year, who is now back at the helm for Rutgers in 2020.

— Ryan

1 Best Bet

under 44.5

Obviously 44.5 is a low number, but I think I would have to be a clinically insane person to look at Michigan State vs. Rutgers and think anything close to fireworks will happen. It’s not necessarily that I think either defense is stout – oh no, I am MUCH more negative of a person than that. I just don’t trust either offense yet, and for good reason. Lets go to Unders-Town, baby.

— Matt

What do you want to see from the game on Saturday? Let us know in the comments section.