You know the drill by now — we’ve got things we want to see, two key stats and one best bet as we hope to see our Spartans remain undefeated.
Here’s a bonus “Thing We Want To See” that I’ll just throw out right now: Less than seven turnovers. Let’s mix it up and NOT do that this season.
LET’S GET TO IT.
3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE
A FAST 30 FOLLOWED BY A FULL 30
By that I mean we want to see a fast start in the first half followed with a dialed-in 30 minutes in the second half. Of course we want to see this in every game, but here’s why it will be magnified in this certain game.
Both teams are coming off games where the first halves in each contest showed trends that would be LOVELY for this upcoming game. Michigan State walked into halftime up 42-16 last week against Western Kentucky, and Rutgers walked into halftime down 45-6 to Ohio State.
What I’m really looking forward to, though, is Rutgers looking thin in the secondary for the first half as defensive back Naijee Jones will be suspended for the first half due to a questionable targeting call (imagine that!). Starting defensive back Max Melton and reserve Chris Long are also suspended indefinitely. Now MSU is no Ohio State, but the Scarlet Knights could be prime for the picking with the insanely talented trio of Jayden Reed, Jalen Nailor and Tre Mosley, as Rutgers will be thin in the first half.
AND REALLY QUICK, let’s actually play football in the second half. It’s been a tough last two weeks — zero first downs in the second half versus Nebraska and just six points in the second half against WKU. Head coach Mel Tucker has pointed out the need to play a full 60 minutes in his press conference to start the week, so next step is actually seeing it.
SOMEONE TO SPELL KENNETH WALKER III
This isn’t even a huge necessity for this game — it’s just something we would like to start seeing soon.
Walker is undeniably amazing — a generational talent. But he could use some help, especially as we get into the tough part of Michigan State’s schedule on the very near horizon.
Jordon Simmons has had an “ehh” season, most recently coming off a 10 carries and 34 yard game last week. Harold Joiner III has gotten snaps, but hasn’t carried the ball since his fumble (on what should’ve been a targeting call) against Northwestern. Elijah Collins is hurt, and there’s no telling when or if he will return.
It’s not a total necessity to have a solid No. 2 running back, as Walker has been incredible so far. However, it would be a nice luxury to have a guy you can turn to when Walker needs a breather in a game or someone to help keep his legs somewhat fresh by the time we reach the Ohio State-Penn State gauntlet to end the season.
TIGHTENING UP THE OFFENSIVE LINE ROTATION
Through the first five games of the season, Michigan State has been going with a platoon system for its offensive line. Instead of swapping out individual players in the starting line of Matt Allen, AJ Arcuri, J.D. Duplain, Kevin Jarvis and Jarrett Horst, MSU brings on four new players and kicks Jarvis out to right tackle.
I get doing it to start the season — especially in a 200-degree game at Miami to keep your guys fresh — but this is starting to feel like playing nine guys deep into a basketball season. Eventually the rotation has to be tightened up and you have to start playing your best guys unless they need a breather. Walker has done a solid job at hiding the line’s blemishes at times this season, but that can’t be the sustainable option going forward.
2 KEY STATS
That’s how many fourth down attempts Rutgers has this season, which is tied for the most in the Big Ten with Michigan. Rutgers is an aggressive team and plays to win — almost to a fault. The Scarlet Knights fake punt to start last week’s game went awry as they gave the ball to Ohio State at midfield, only to see the Buckeyes score in two plays and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
On the season, Rutgers is converting fourth downs at a eight-for-18 clip, which isn’t too stellar. On the contrary, Michigan State leads the conference in fourth down attempts against them with 19. However, it hasn’t been too great for MSU in that regard, as teams are 15-for-19 against the Spartans.
So, who will win the battle of the Scarlet Knights aggression? STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT.
That’s how many penalties Rutgers has on the entire season, which is leading the conference for the fewest. That number is nearly half of where Michigan State sits, as the Spartans have 32 on the season (ninth fewest in the nation).
Rutgers is disciplined in the penalty game, which is a far cry from where the Scarlet Knights were last season, as they were dead last in the conference with 67 penalties in nine games. MSU has also benefitted the most from flags out of any team in the conference, as they Spartans have seen opponents giving them a whopping 55 yards per game off penalties, leading the conference.
If there’s one thing you can expect out of this somewhat mysterious Rutgers team, its that they will be disciplined.
1 BEST BET
MSU -5.5, O/U 51
Despite MSU’s best second half efforts last week, my official pick of WKU +10.5 did NOT cash. My unofficial “over” pick basically hit at the coin toss, but that sadly won’t count for this season’s total.
We’re going to give the ol’ points total another try. I think both defensive game plan will be the same, as they’ll keep the game in front of them and tighten up in the red zone. We’ve seen that game plenty of times already with Michigan State. So, with that said, GIVE ME THE UNDER.
Pick: Under 51
What’s your best bet for Saturday?