BSU Football: 7 Keys to Winning the Michigan State Game
All through the offseason, Boise State has been preparing for the 2012 campaign. That time has come. All the preparations, the integration of new faces, all the hopes will kick off Friday night in East Lansing.
Michigan State is favored to beat the Broncos. The Spartans outrank BSU in the polls and Vegas odds have MSU favored by a touchdown. But like Boise State, Michigan State has a lot of unanswered questions with its team. In spite of that, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit favors the Spartans to win the Big Ten. To do that, the Spartans will have to get past Boise State Friday night.
For Boise State the equation is equally as simple. Beat the Spartans and move up the polls. A win will also silence all the naysayers. Even a good showing will go a long ways. There are several things that Boise State must do, though, if it hopes to come out of East Lansing with a win.
Here is a list of seven areas that the Broncos must cover:
Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE
The Idaho Statesman reported that junior Joe Southwick was given the nod to start against the Spartans. Southwick, the primary backup to Kellen Moore in 2011, turned in a great performance in the last preseason scrimmage. He has some tools that Moore didn’t have, like mobility.
But he is no longer in the back-up role. He is taking center stage in a big game. BSU offensive coordinator Robert Prince thinks Southwick is ready.
It also appears that Nick Patti is red-shirting since the backups to Southwick are Grant Hedrick and Jimmy Laughrea. But it is Southwick that needs to come out poised and confident. If he can manage the complicated offense that Boise State runs, and he has had experience, and can get the Broncos rolling, BSU has a chance.
Adjust, adapt, read the defenses and run the plays sent in. The equation is simple, but this time Southwick carries the burden.
Stopping the MSU Running Attack
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The Spartans have a load in running back Le’Veon Bell, a 6’2”, 244 lb horse that can burn past would-be tacklers or run over them. The Broncos have faced talented running backs before, but it will be incumbent on the Broncos to shut Bell down or at least hold him to manageable yardage.
Bell started the last six games of the 2011 season for MSU and ground-pounded for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. BSU must win the war in the trenches, shut down the holes up the middle and take away the corners to hold Bell in check. Let Bell run wild, and it will be a long game for Boise State.
Getting Pressure on the Spartan Quarterback
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Andrew Maxwell is the Spartan starter at quarterback. Like BSU, the Spartans have been looking to replace a proven talent (graduated senior Kirk Cousins) and Maxwell is the go-to guy at the moment. Maxwell’s 2011 numbers are a lot like those of BSU QB Joe Southwick. He didn’t get a lot of snaps, but he was the primary backup.
Pressure him, make him scramble and have to make quick decisions, don’t give him time to think and some good things could happen for the BSU defense. Boise State will have to find a way to get through the offensive line of MSU, which could be a tall order.
Establish the Run
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Sixth-year senior D.J. Harper is tabbed to start for Boise State, with senior Drew Wright and freshman Jack Fields also expected to see action. Harper has been in the backfield with Ian Johnson and Doug Martin. He knows the offense. In 2011, Harper average 4.8 yards-per-carry.
If the running game is working, the passing attack can succeed. Take away the running game, and the Spartans can load up to defend the pass.
BSU must run the ball successfully.
Kicking Game on Track
Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE
The Boise State kicking game has struggled at the most inopportune times in the past several years. Starting Friday night, with Michael Frisina tabbed as the starting kicker, the Broncos must put those memories in the rearview mirror and prove the kicking game is a valuable part of the option.
Head coach Chris Petersen needs to know that he can rely on the kickers for, not only extra points, but also for those mid-distance field goals. If the game is on the line late, it would be nice to know that the kickers can handle the pressure and put the pigskin through the uprights.
Production from Special Teams
Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE
D.J. Harper and Mitch Burroughs will be handling some of the return duties for kickoffs and punts. In 2011, Burroughs was ranked eighth in the nation in punt returns with a 13.3 yard-per-return average. BSU needs to get good field position on returns and not break down on coverage when kicking the ball.
In 2010, Trevor Harmon averaged 44.7 yards per punt. The Broncos will need numbers like that should it be necessary to punt the ball.
No Injuries Wire-to-Wire
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
Boise State’s secondary got burned a few times in 2011 because of injuries to key players and baptism under fire for young players. The Broncos appear to be a little bit deeper this year, but they cannot afford to lose players in the first game of the season.
This should be a hard-hitting game, with both teams out to prove themselves. There is little room for error. A loss for either team, more so for BSU, will hit hard. Boise State has to take care of the football and hope that no one gets banged up too badly.