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The 3-2-1 Preview: 3 Key Stats, 2 Things We Want To See and 1 Best Bet for MSU vs. Northwestern

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How do the Spartans take down this top-10 team?

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

All right, so it just took me five games to bend the rules.

Yes, usually it’s “three things we want to see” but, hey, sometimes you get to call an audible on your own blog post. And, folks, that’s what I’m doing here today.

THREE KEY STATS

-2.2 and +1.6

Both teams have strong defenses and average-on-a-good-day offenses, but this stats is a big reason why both teams are where they are today.

The -2.2 is the average turnover margin per game for MSU — that’s good for third worst in the nation. YIKES.

The +1.6 is Northwestern’s average turnover margin — that’s good for fourth best in the nation. YIKES.

The Spartans absolutely need to take care of the ball on Saturday against a defense that’s solid at grabbing turnovers. That’s proven to be wildly easier said than done as we’ve seen so far this season.

The Spartans also absolutely need to generate a turnover or two on the Wildcats side of the field because, quite frankly, the only way MSU scores is with good starting field position.

4.9

You’ve probably heard this one by now, but it’s worth reiterating — 4.9 yards per pass attempt is what Northwestern’s defense holds opponents to. That’s good for (drum roll please) THE BEST IN THE NATION.

You, quite literally, hate to see that. Especially if your offense is being manned by one of two quarterbacks that hasn’t really moved the offense in the last two weeks.

Listen, call it negative if you want, but the facts are this — our Spartans are going to have a very, very hard time moving the ball on Saturday. They don’t have an inside run game. The quarterbacks have left a little to be desired the last two weeks. And, also, they scored just seven combined points the last two weeks.

3.4

OK, TIME TO PUT ON MY POSITIVE PANTS.

So, 3.4 yards per carry is what Northwestern’s offense produces, which is just simply not good. Against MSU’s solid run defense, it will be tough for the Wildcats to move the ball on the ground, too.

Through the air? The Wildcats are decent with Peyton Ramsey completing passes at a 61.9 percent clip with 6.0 yards per completion.

Ever since their 43-point explosion against Maryland in Week One, Northwestern has scored 21 points, 21 points, 27 points and 17 points. They’ve won all those games which means a) yes they’re defense is incredible and b) also...that offense is nothing special at all.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE

Find the outside on offense

If I see another game where MSU attempts 17 inside runs with a total of 22 yards, I will launch my recliner through the television.

Look, two things are so well known heading into this game that my five-week old son could even tell you — MSU’s run offense is awful and Northwestern’s run defense is great.

All right, you can’t sling the ball 82 times on Saturday. You have to run the ball. So...let’s just try to do it on the outside by way of (you guessed it) jet sweeps, screens and outside runs.

The Northwestern front four is menacing. They have great linebackers. Let’s get all of them running and use that speed of Jordan Simmons, Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor on the outside. It gives MSU a much better chance of moving the rock than trying to pound the inside over and over again.

Field position, field position, field position

Look, I’m sorry to be so boring and obvious here, but never has there been a bigger emphasis (and hope) of good field position heading into a game.

Forcing turnovers. Generating three and outs. Bryce Barringer banging the hell out of the ball on punts. Actually getting good coverage on said punts.

I’ll be surprised if MSU puts together a drive of 70-plus yards. I’ll pass out and fall on the floor if they do it multiple times.

What I’m trying to say is...yeah, MSU desperately needs good field position every once in a while on Saturday.

1 Best Bet

MSU +13, over/under 41.5

It should be no surprise what I am doing here. I have close to no faith in either offenses. The only way the over hits is if Shakur Brown houses a few interceptions.

No more explanation needed — I am going so under it physical hurts.

Pick: Uhh, yeah, definitely under

Record: 2-2

Poll

What is your best bet for Saturday/

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    MSU +13
    (10 votes)
  • 31%
    Northwestern -13
    (21 votes)
  • 2%
    Over 41.5
    (2 votes)
  • 50%
    Under 41.5
    (34 votes)
67 votes total Vote Now