No, you’re not wrong.
Yes, this is usually “3 things we want to see” and “2 key stats” but it’s time for a mojo change. We are going to roll out three key stats off the top because, quite frankly, I’m tired of asking to see the same things over and over again only for them not to happen.
So maybe mixing this up will change Michigan State’s luck on Saturday against Wisconsin? I don’t know, LET’S GIVE IT A SHOT!
3 KEY STATS
That is Wisconsin’s opportunity rate, which ranks outside of the top-100 in the nation. Yes, I’m bringing up one of my favorite stats — opportunity rate is when the run game picks up four or more yards (should there be at least four yards to gain). It’s a fancy way of saying “did the offensive line do its job?”
So only 44.1 percent of Wisconsin’s run go four or more yards (Michigan State is 49.1 percent, good for 57th in the country for comparison). This isn’t the typical all-world offensive line and run game that we are used to seeing from Wisconsin — this year the Badgers are just “meh”. If there’s an area of the game to exploit, this could be it.
299 and 5
Yes, 299 passing yards and five touchdowns is what Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz threw for last weekend against Northwestern, which are career-highs in both categories.
Now we could just point at that being Northwestern being a not-so-great team. However...Michigan State’s passing defense is not very good either, as we all know by now.
Interim head coach Jim Leonhard let Wisconsin offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph have carte blanche on the offense — no more Paul Chryst era run-run-maybe pass sequencing. The Badgers also had some five-wide sets, ran some run-pass options and, really, just had some fun looks out there. Maybe that has sparked something in Mertz moving forward?
That’s the combined field goal conversions between the two teams. MSU is 1-for-4 on the year, and Wisconsin is a sterling 3-for-6.
Point blank, this game will probably not be mistaken for a field goal clinic. We could see an influx of fourth-down attempts because of this, or we could just be treated to must-watch field goal attempts.
Regardless, each team’s kicking woes will be an underrated storyline heading into Saturday’s game.
2 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE
Just any stop on third/fourth down in the first half
I do a show called Locked On Spartans, and, if you’re one of the 13 people that listen to it, apologies for beating this stat into the ground. But in the first half of its last four games, Michigan State’s defense has been allowing a 69 percent conversion rate on combined third and fourth down attempts.
That’s absolutely abysmal and a large reason why a.) time of possession is being dominated by the other team and b.) these games are over by halftime (minus the Maryland game).
Giving up third downs has been contagious for this defense, and the Spartans need any semblance of confidence they can get. The homecoming crowd having their back hopefully helps things, because this defense needs to see early third down stops in the worst way possible.
More Elijah Collins
He’s the hottest hand you got in the backfield, so use him. The Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard experiment have left a lot to be desired in the last four weeks, and Collins has looked solid in his seven carries over the last two contests.
Just try your best to have more than 20 running back rush attempts (it’s been five weeks since we’ve seen that) and give half of them to Collins. Please, just mix something up in the run game.
1 Best Bet
MSU +7.5, over/under 49.5
I can’t lie, this has been going a lot better than I could have ever expected. Let’s try to get bowl eligible with these best bets, shall we?
I’m not going to overthink it. Wisconsin has a quarterback with four functioning limbs and a pulse. That’s all it takes to hang up points against this MSU defense, and I don’t trust the Spartan offense to keep pace with them. I pray I’m wrong, but if I’m right I at least want to be paid for it.
Pick: Wisconsin -7.5
What’s your best bet for this weekend’s game?
This poll is closed