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Get to know Michigan State: Can the Spartans compete with the Wolverines?

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A big rivalry is upon us

NCAA Football: Iowa at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Each season comes and goes, each one stands on their own merits, they are their own story. The Michigan State Spartans had a 2016 season to forget, going 3-9, with two of the wins being against Furman and Rutgers.

Mark Dantonio has his team playing at a much more respectable level this season, already equaling their win total from last year, 3-1 thus far.

Spartans Defense

A big part of the Spartans turn around has been their defense, which has been stingy to say the least. They have given up just 993 yards through four games. This will be the best defense Michigan has faced to this point in the season. The Wolverines are ranked 110th in sacks allowed per game, and 119th in tackles for loss allowed per game. The Michigan offensive line will have to be up to the challenge if they expect to consistently gain positive yardage.

There is a potential weakness for John O’Korn to exploit, and that is in the secondary. While the Michigan State defense has only given up 609 yards to opposing quarterbacks, they’ve hauled in just three interceptions. This may be a good game to dial up some high risk-high reward play calls and have O’Korn let it rip.

Spartans Offense

Quarterback Brian Lewerke will be the deciding factor as to whether Michigan State wins or loses, as he does so does the team. Lewerke has looked very good in 2017, with both his arm, and legs. Already rushing for 248 yards on the season, the Michigan defense can’t allow Lewerke extra time to find an open man or scramble down the field. Bottling up Lewerke and racking up sacks will be the goal. When Lewerke has time, he can be dangerous. Lewerke has completed 63.2 percent of his throws for 963 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has shown to be a fairly accurate quarterback that puts good zip on the ball.

The Spartans rushing attack isn’t all that formidable, and what is a weekly occurence should continue, with Michigan bottling up their run game (Lewerke is their leading rusher). Also expect for Lewerke to pepper his favorite target Felton Davis III with opportunities. Davis has 21 receptions for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Noteworthy Statistics

  • 75th in total offense
  • 5th in total defense
  • 6th in pass defense and 11th in rush defense
  • 9 sacks on the season
  • 49.2 percent on third down
  • 21st in defensive efficiency
  • 95th with three interceptions
  • 85th in offensive efficiency

Conclusion

This game could go a bunch of different ways. It’s a night game at the Big House, perhaps that will benefit the Wolverines greatly. Or maybe MSU will rise to the occassion on a night where there should be a playoff type atmosphere in the stands. Maybe Michigan runs away with this one, with a laser-sharp focus from John O’Korn and Jim Harbaugh that translates into the offense hitting at all cylinders and the defense dominating as they normally do. Maybe Mark Dantonio has his team believing and executing at high levels and they give Michigan one hell of a fight. I’ll leave the predictions up to you.