Scouting Report and Prediction: #13 Michigan State 1-0 vs. Arizona State 1-0
A look at this week’s opponent…
The #13/15 Michigan State Spartans continue their pursuit and march towards a Big Ten Title and a return to the college football playoff by heading to the desert to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. After taking out Utah State to open the 2018 season with a 1-0 record, they are hungry for more.
Dantonio said of the trip to Tempe, “Look at the game last week that Arizona State played. 14-0 almost until the end of the first half, then they bust two in right before half. It's a football game. So there are challenges there, as well. Everybody is going through these things. Very exciting getting out 1-0. We'll always take a win. You want to pound somebody 50 to nothing, that's not happening too often. It certainly hasn't happened here in my time. We're just eking by, just trying to find those inches.”
Dantonio added, “I like Herm Edwards. Good guy. You could tell that. Got charisma. Says what he means. Those type of things. Following him from afar, I remember when I was at the University of Kansas, Herm was just getting into coaching and was a scout for the Chiefs, (Marty) Schottenheimer's team. He was one of the guys they were bringing in along as a defensive assistant. Dungy was a secondary coach there. Unbelievable staff. Then went to Tampa Bay from there, onto the Jets. I followed him from afar. I think he's done a great job. I think thus far from what I see, transitioning into the college game, he's one game in. It's a grind. A good man.”
The Arizona State Sun Devils and new Coach Herman Edwards are coming off of a 49-7 drubbing of UTSA. Edwards is great in a press conference and said of the Spartans this week that, “They’re Michigan State. They have a brand of how they’re going to play and they’re not going to change that. And that’s why they are so consistent with winning a lot of games. They’re a team that understands who they are.”
The last time the Spartans played in Tempe against ASU they lost 20-17. That was back in 1986. The last time they played in Sun Devil Stadium was 2012 when they won the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU. After the win over USU, Dantonio’s troops have had 18 4th quarter wins.
When MSU has the ball…
I asked QB Coach Brad Salem about the ASU defense and what stood out to him. He said, “Their defense is just so active, very good team speed, play a lot of different people. Structurally it's different from what we've seen with three down lineman, three linebackers, and you could say five defensive backs if that's how you look at it structure wise, so it presents a little different picture.”
Arizona State despite playing an inferior opponent last week still had an impressive nine sacks. Something that concerns Dantonio. “Arizona State, a lot of different looks, a lot of different pressures, and a lot of different angles they come at you with. We've got to be prepared for that. Got to protect our quarterback on different coverage’s. I think they're doing a nice job defensively. They're just into really one game into what they're going to do. But it comes from San Diego State's coordinator coming over there. We're going to find out more about our football team and their football team on Saturday night. But we have to protect the quarterback. Nine sacks, as you said, numerous other quarterback hits.”
Edwards doesn’t think that Spartan QB Brian Lewerke will be bothered by coming home. In fact, he thinks the opposite. “This team is a team that is used to the spotlight. That’s their normal, that’s normal to them. When you’re the quarterback and you’re in a winning program, that comes along with that.”
Dantonio agrees with Edwards, that Lewerke is ready for being back home. “He's going to be fine. He's had an opportunity to play in big games, big games here. Huge national games. So he'll have an opportunity to play in another one back home. I think he's excited about it. I think he brings a little bit of how you play down there, the mentality from a mindset, what you got to do to play in the heat a little bit. He brings that mentality with him. He'll bring that for all of us. He's a little bit of a source of information, too.”
QB Coach Brad Salem said of preparing for an expected temperature at kickoff on the field over 110 degrees that, “It's a challenge, it's just a different weather environment than we're used to. Obviously with humidity here, but you don't get the 100-degree temperatures. So we have to take care of ourselves, that really is the emphasis this week as far as hydration, taking care of your body and just making sure you're ready to play.”
The MSU OL responded to Mark Dantonio’s impassioned halftime verbal thrashing in the locker room last week. They looked much better in the second half. They will look even better in this game.
LJ Scott will benefit from an improved OL, as Connor Heyward did last week. I think the MSU running game will get on track, helped by a Spartan offensive aerial attack that can really have success against ASU.
ASU will stack the box and if the Spartans open up the aerial presence early they will roll and roll big. ASU must choose to stack and stop the run or try to help their pass attack by only sending four. If the Spartans are stubborn and don’t use the pass to set up the run should ASU stack the box (I believe they will stack the box) then the game will be much closer than it should be. I think the Spartan attack after the first drive.
When MSU is on defense…
DB Coach Paul Haynes said of the ASU offense that, “Very good. Probably the strength of their team. They've got a very good receiving corps, a solid offensive line, the quarterback played well in the last game and has been a three-year starter for them so they've got leadership. So it'll be a big challenge for us.”
Edwards said of facing the Spartan D that, “We sputtered some offensively, and that’s going to happen this week, by the way, against Michigan State. It’s not like you’re going to just have your way with them, because you’re not. There are going to be a lot of bad plays. We’ve got to realize that and we can’t get flustered.” He went on to add, “They have good runners that can break tackles. The receivers, they are strong and physical guys. This will be a good test for our defense.”
Haynes was happy with the play of Josh Butler and Justin Layne last week. But he wants more. He said, “I think we'll probably have to play more guys. Last week was kind of hard with how fast they (Utah State) we're going. You talk about eight, seven, sometimes nine seconds in between plays just hard to rotate guys at that time, but we'll play more guys. Tre Person will play for us this week, Shak (Shakur Brown) will play for us this week, Xavier (Henderson) this week also too, so we'll rotate some guys in there.”
ASU has a very good aerial attack, but I will make this declaration right now. As good and as talented as they are, THEY ARE NOT better than USU. The key for MSU is pressure. Look for Jon Reschke to get more reps and the Spartans to dial up some blitz packages to create pressure.
The Spartans are a better team. Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus-five ratio at least every game. Last week MSU as a whopping -3 and STILL WON.
The Spartans had nine terrible penalties on Friday. But ASU had it worse. Edwards said, “We made some boneheaded plays and you’ve got to alleviate it. You can’t have 11 penalties in a game and expect to win. You’re not going to have 11 penalties against these guys and win a football game, you got no shot.”
MSU got a lot of things out of their system last week. I expected MSU to roll over USU. The Aggies played better than expected, but really the Spartans played poorly. That was a wakeup call. That is not good news for ASU.
With a new regime at ASU, Dantonio talked about the obvious difficulty in scouting them. He said, “You're not going to know somebody like you know year in, year out, within your conference. At the same time we do our very best to try to gather as much information as we can on the players, what they do, where they come from. The coordinator, San Diego State coordinator comes to Arizona State. We're breaking down San Diego State film. That's the nature of it. They use these coverage’s, these fronts, different pressures, things of that nature. You have one game to go on. Certainly they don't know everything, as well. A lot of it is preparation in terms of what you're going to do, making sure you're on task in terms of playing fast, playing aggressively, do what we do and do it well.”
For MSU that has played in so many big games, they are ready. “They find their self very comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Edwards said.
The MSU staff had a superb game plan last week. I was not happy with stubbornness when USU stacked the box, but they won. The Spartans will benefit greatly by last week.
One player told me, “I think last week we really understood what Coach Izzo said last year about Spartan basketball. That they get everyone’s best shot. We got a great shot by Utah State and I think it really showed us what we need to do.”
A disappointed Dantonio said frankly of the last game that, “So my perception is we can play better, we will play better. We've always had these type of games first game out of the box, it seems. Go back to 2013, you look at how our football team progressed, 2015, those are the things that you hope that are going to happen.”
Had MSU rolled over USU as expected, I thought this would be a field goal game. I do not feel that way now. MSU was humbled by their last game. A talented, but not as talented as MSU ASU team was emboldened. Almost cocky. The better team and the team who has their feet back, in reality, is going to the desert for a business trip.
The worst thing that could happen for ASU was Lewerke playing at less than his talent level last week. He had the best week of practice in his career (as of Wednesday) at MSU this week. He is going to have a monster homecoming and he will show why he is on NFL draft boards as an early entrant. On a nationally televised stage, Lewerke will own the day.
To me this game is simple. Had MSU blown out USU I thought this game would be tight. Lewerke’s mistakes and a Spartan team that played poorly it was a wakeup call. Lewerke is going to have a monster game and the Spartans are going to roll. In the end, I say MSU wins this 31-17.
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