This is the Super Bowl for Michigan State. It’s no secret MSU has struggled this season, but State fans will forget all about that if they win tonight. But winning won’t be easy. Here’s what it will take to pull off the upset.
Keys to the game for Michigan State:
– The MSU defense needs to get off the field on third down
I can’t stress this enough. Penn State couldn’t get off the field on third down against Michigan, and the Wolverines took advantage.
The good news is defensive tackle Jacob Slade and defensive backs Kendall Brooks and Xavier Henderson are all back and healthy. That should greatly improve Michigan State’s chances of holding up on third down. Particularly Slade, because he’s the force up the middle they need to stop the run. It should also help that Jacoby Windmon is playing as a linebacker now, instead of at defensive end.
– Get pressure on Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy
This is massively important. If Michigan State can put pressure on McCarthy he’s likely to throw the football a lot quicker. That could lead to some possible turnovers. When Penn State did this two weeks ago a flustered McCarthy threw a wacky interception that gave PSU the lead late in the first half.
– Give Payton Thorne time to throw
If Thorne doesn’t have time to throw then MSU’s offense is in deep trouble. Thorne needs to play exceptionally well and not commit any turnovers. In reality, he needs to have his best game of the season to give Michigan State a chance to win.
– Don’t allow explosive plays to Michigan running backs
Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are quite possibly the best running back duo in college football right now. Obviously they are having fantastic seasons, and both can change the complexion of a game at any time. State needs to eliminate explosive plays, stuff the run, and force McCarthy to beat them through the air.
– Get big games from the skill positions
Wide receivers Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman both need to have big games. Similarly, it would help MSU’s cause if running backs Jalen Berger and Elijah Collins can show some life on the ground, as they did against Wisconsin. But ultimately it’s all going to come down to the wide receivers to keep State within shouting distance.
– Win the turnover battle
This is key in just about every game, but it’s huge tonight. Simply put, Michigan State needs to get turnovers or they won’t win.
Michigan State takes on Michigan tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST