Michigan State is a massive favorite heading into this Saturday’s “showdown” with Akron.
This game should be a snoozer, but that doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee.
I mean, hey, just last week an FBS team had to take a FCS opponent into overtime despite being favored by 18.5-points! Oh, that FBS team that barely escaped with a win despite being a major favorite? That’s right — Akron.
So, here are a few things we want to see this weekend to avoid a stunning upset in Spartan Stadium and to give us optimism moving forward into the season.
3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE
The run game runnin’ wild
The only thing that would make me “worried” this week is if the run game doesn’t feast on Saturday afternoon. I highly doubt the run game stalls because a.) the running backs had a nice showing last week against Western Michigan and b.) Akron’s run defense is...hoo boy, I feel like even I could run for 127 yards on 14 carries against them.
In a game full of Michigan State’s strengths versus Akron’s weaknesses, this is probably the starkest one. Last season Akron was amongst the worst teams in the nation at stopping the run, letting up (get ready for this one) 6.2 YARDS PER CARRY! The season hasn’t started much better for the Zips as they let up 4.7 yards per carry against FCS opponent Saint Francis last weekend. That’s not atrocious, but that also tells me there’s no reason a more physical and talented MSU running game can’t pound the ball at will on Saturday.
A strong safety game
With the experienced safety Xavier Henderson likely out (in addition to linebacker Darius Snow being out for the remainder of the season) and Akron’s run-pass option offense coming to town, this is one area where MSU could maybe be vulnerable. The RPO offense will ask for discipline from the Spartan defense, making split decisions that could be detrimental if chosen poorly.
New Akron head coach Joe Moorhead has made a name for himself with his dazzling offenses at every stop he’s been, most recently as Oregon’s offensive coordinator. He has the chops to generate points on the board and give headaches to defenses. WITH THAT SAID, this still is his second game in his first year under a major rebuild, so MSU should have no problem.
Saint Francis really had no problem with it last week, holding the Zips to just 3.0 yards per carry. MSU’s talented linebacker corps gives us reason to believe they’ll be fine. The biggest question mark on defense would be the safeties like Kendell Brooks (if he is healthy himself) taking over for Henderson, as Brooks is the presumed starter for the foreseeable future, but others could rotate in.
A made field goal or two
Looking ahead to next weekend in Seattle against Washington, that is very well a game that could come down to one possession. Last weekend’s outing by true freshman Jack Stone left a little bit to be desired as he sprayed his lone field goal attempt wide left in the midst of making all five of his extra point attempts.
It will be interesting to see if Stone still gets the start, or if Auburn transfer Ben Patton will get to boot a few. Regardless, it would be great for sick people who lose sleep over kicking like me to see a reason for optimism this Saturday.
2 KEY STATS
That’s was Akron’s opponent completion percentage last season, which was easily the worst in the MAC. The Zips start to this season wasn’t much better, letting up 63 percent completion to an FCS opponent in Saint Francis.
Payton Thorne was one of the first to admit he wasn’t his best last Friday night, despite throwing for four touchdowns. And I am a first class passenger of the Payton Thorne Hype Train, so I am not all too worried about his performance — there was rust, getting accustomed to new weapons, playing against his dad, etc.
He’s shown in the past that after every “rough” outing, he bounces back with a strong game. Heck, sometimes he’ll get things straightened out over the course of a game (like last year’s Michigan win). I’m sure MSU will ground and pound the majority of the afternoon coming up, but seeing Thorne have a comfortable game will help the worried fans find some semblance of ease as the Spartans head into a big game against Washington next weekend.
Good news for Akron? All five of their starting offensive linemen are back from last season. BAD NEWS? THEY LET UP A FBS-WORST 63 SACKS LAST YEAR!
Surely things got started on the right foot last week against an FCS opponent, right? WRONG! THE ZIPS GAVE UP SIX (6) SACKS LAST WEEKEND TO SAINT FRANCIS!
1 BEST BET
MSU -34.5, over/under 56
Semi-fun fact: This is by far Mel Tucker’s steepest spread as a head coach at Michigan State with the next closest being his push as 28-point favorites last year against Youngstown State.
Look, I think the world of Joe Moorhead and think he’ll do as good of a job as anyone could ask for at Akron. HOWEVER, he’s got at least a few years to go. The offensive line is still shoddy at best. The defense leaves a ton to be desired. And, oh yeah, MSU’s strengths play directly into Akron’s weaknesses.
So I’m going to do something I actually rarely do, which is take Michigan State and lay the points. All this chatter from Thorne about playing better and Tucker saying that last week’s performance was “unacceptable” leads me to believe MSU will turn on the jets Saturday.
Even if Michigan State’s second-stringers get some run late in the game, I think it’ll be enough to climb over that monster spread.
Pick: MSU -34.5
What is your best bet for this Saturday?
This poll is closed