Michigan State needs to win two out of its next three games for Quick Lane Bowl (or another bowl game) glory.
It gets started this weekend against a Rutgers team that is also hungry for bowl eligibility as well, but does the Scarlet Knights’ offense have what it takes to satisfy that hunger?
Well, read some of these stats and let’s find out.
3 KEY STATS
82 and 148
That’s right, TWO STATS AT THE SAME TIME!
Rutgers has 82 plays of 10-plus yards this season — that’s fifth-worst in the entire nation.
MSU’s defense has given up 148 plays of 10-plus yards this season — that’s the worst in the Big Ten and 118th in the country.
The winner of this battle could be a big indicator of who wins the war. An immovable offense against a defense that seems to set up velvet ropes and a red carpet downfield for its opponents.
Luckily, there are some other stats that suggest MSU could very well be the team that wins the battle of Scarlet Knight offense versus Spartan defense.
That would be Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt’s completion percentage in his two games taking over as starting quarterback. He also has just one touchdown pass and four interceptions in those two games, which were against Minnesota and Michigan.
Look, we all know Michigan State’s secondary has had its fair share of issues in the past. However, things have been looking marginally better since the return of safety Xavier Henderson and I don’t believe MSU has faced a quarterback this underwhelming all season.
If MSU’s run defense can hold up its end of the bargain against a team that’s failed to average more than 3.0 yards per carry four times in its last five games, the Spartans should fare well. Again, should.
That’s the stuff rate for Rutgers’ defense. NOW, what is stuff rate? It’s the percentage of runs that get stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage.
That 22.7 percent mark is good for 19th-best in the country...but last week the Spartans faced a defense even better in this metric as Illinois is in the top-10 for the same stat.
This is actually the fourth weekend in a row the Spartans are taking on a team that ranks top-25 in opponent opportunity rate as well. Opportunity rate is simply percentage of runs that go four or more yards.
Last weekend offensive coordinator Jay Johnson pulled all the right strings in the run game against a fierce Illinois run defense. Running back Jalen Berger and the players on the offensive line also had their best collective game of the season as well in opening holes and hitting them with explosiveness, and we’ll need to see that again this Saturday.
2 Things We Want To See
The Continuation Of Not Breaking
Don’t look now, but the “bend-don’t-break” style of defense has crept back into the world of Michigan State football the last few weeks.
Over the last two games against Michigan and Illinois, MSU has held its opponents to just three touchdowns in nine red zone trips. The numbers suggest MSU can keep this rolling as Rutgers has the third-lowest red zone touchdown conversion in the conference, sitting ahead of Iowa and Illinois.
This game will most likely be a low-scoring affair, and holding the Scarlet Knights to just three points on those (hopefully rare) red zone visits will be paramount.
Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman Balling Together
There’s just been one game this season where both wide receivers Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman each eclipsed 50 yards or more (versus Wisconsin). It seems like when one has a strong game, the other one is held to a near-silent game.
Rutgers’ pass defense has actually been solid this season, allowing just 183.1 yards per game (22nd in the FBS). However, the Scarlet Knights haven’t really faced many strong receiver units to this point — their game against Ohio State is the only time they’ve seen anything like Reed and Coleman at the same time. And in that game, Julian Flemming and Emeka Egbuka each had over 50 yards in a game where the Buckeyes got their work done in the rushing game.
Point is, it’s time to see MSU’s two best weapons stunt on another defense together.
1 BEST BET
Michigan State -9.5, over/under 40
Michigan State’s defense was great to me last weekend as we clinched under 41.5, and we might be going back to that well.
Actually, we are definitely going back to that well. Why am I even debating this??
Rutgers’ offense is...a unit that’s had its challenges, to put it nicely. Between the Scarlet Knights’ rough offense, their solid defense and the guarantee MSU will leave points on the board by way of missed field goals and/or extra points, we are taking the under here.
Pick: Under 40