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3-2-1 Preview: 3 things we want to see, 2 key stats and 1 best bet for Michigan State versus Maryland

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Plenty of fun (and not fun) numbers to go over.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get back on the right track.

And I’m not just talking about the 8-1 Michigan State Spartans — I’m also talking about the Best Bet section of this weekly blog post.

Anywho, before getting to that mess I’ve made, we’ve got some fun (and not fun) numbers to go over before Maryland comes into East Lansing.

LET’S GET AFTER IT!

3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE

Kenneth Walker III bolster his Heisman campaign

On the surface, of course it would be great to see Kenneth barnstorm to another big day to further cement his invitation to Heisman Ceremony.

However, I think Michigan State’s run game can be the key to the game here. A gettable key to the game. And not just gettable because, well, MSU has the best running back in the nation in its arsenal — it’s also because Maryland’s run defense is prime for the picking.

The Terrapins give up 4.1 yards per carry on the ground — fourth-most in the Big Ten. If you want some more fun numbers, here they are on Maryland’s defense...

  • Opportunity Rate (Percentage of runs that go at least four yards against them): 48.4 percent, 80th in the nation
  • Power Success Rate (Percentage of runs on third and fourth down and two or less yards to go that are converted): 72.2 percent, 81st in the nation
  • Stuff Rate (Percentage of runs that gets stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage): 13.6 percent, 115th in the nation

With injuries on the offensive line (Matt Carrick out for the season, Jarrett Horst possibly out again), Walker will have quite the amount of leg work to do — literally. However, the Terps offer a good spot for Walker to go off for a big game should the Spartans avoid a spot where they have to air the ball out to keep up with the Terps. Which leads us to...

Getting after the quarterback

Tua Lite, I mean Taulia Tagovailoa, and the Terrapin passing game put up some nice numbers. Michigan State and the secondary have given up even nicer numbers through the air lately.

The recipe to changing that trend could rest in the front four and getting to the quarterback. Don’t give Maryland’s stable of receivers time to exploit a struggling and injured MSU secondary.

Easier said than done, of course. It’s been tough sledding the last two games to get pressure on the quarterback and, more importantly, Maryland has been solid at avoiding sacks this season. The Terrapins’ sack rate of 4.5 percent is 26th-best in the country.

Still, MSU needs answers to slow down this heavy passing game and I don’t have much faith in the secondary to solve those issues overnight.

The November Maryland Terrapins

When I think Maryland football, I instantly think of a team that annually starts the year off hot against decent-at-best competition and then flames out by year’s end.

So I went back and tested this hypothesis and, holy crap, I was actually right about something!

Maryland is abysmal in November — it is 1-15 in this month since 2017. That one win was against Penn State last season, which was still at the beginning of that odd COVID year.

So I want to see the November Terrapins we are used to seeing. I go back to that 2019 game at Spartan Stadium and it was as if each player on the field was trying to win a “who wants to look like they want to be here less” contest.

It’ll be cold. It’ll be miserable weather. If Michigan State can get off to a hot start and break Maryland’s spirit, that would just be superb.

2 KEY STATS

(Enter Maryland Passing Game Stat Here)

All right, so obviously the main hang-up for Michigan State going into this game will be the Maryland air raid. So let’s just go through a few numbers to get spooked about instead of narrowing it down to one.

  • Tied for first in the Big Ten for completion percentage (70.5)
  • Second in pass attempts in the Big Ten (353)
  • Third in passing yards in the Big Ten (2,845 yards. The Terps were second until Purdue passed them last weekend)

Maryland spreads it out too, as it has nine guys with at least 15 grabs this season. Four of those guys have at least 25 grabs. For reference, MSU has just four guys with at least 15 catches on the season and just Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed have more than 25 grabs for the Spartans.

While the Terps spread the ball around, the top guy to worry about is former five-star recruit Rakim Jarrett, as he leads the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Four

Let’s end on a happy note. Out of Maryland’s six conference games, the Terps have let five opponents score more than their season average. Let’s run down the list when teams play Maryland...

  • Penn State scored 31 points — four more than its average
  • Indiana scored 35 points — 15 more than its average
  • Minnesota scored 34 points — nine more than its average
  • Ohio State scored 66 points — 22 more than its average
  • Iowa scored 55 points — 31 more than its average

The only Big Ten team that didn’t pass its season average against Maryland was Illinois, which scored scored 17 points — just 0.2 less points than its average.

If this isn’t a get-right spot for Michigan State, I simply don’t know what is.

1 Best Bet

Michigan State -14, over/under 61

All right, for the first time in a few years this “Best Bet” section is turning into a blood bath. It’s rally time.

I’m very tempted to make Maryland +14 my official pick just because I am still that scarred from watching Aidan O’Connell morph into Patrick Mahomes against the Michgan State secondary.

However, let’s marry the two together. I think Maryland moves the ball like every team has against MSU. I think MSU exploits Maryland’s defense as well, leading to some Spartan Stadium fireworks.

Pick: Over 61

Record: 3-6