Spartan Saturday Preview: Michigan State Vs. Central Michigan
Michigan State Spartans (1-0) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (0-1)
Saturday, September 12, noon Eastern (ESPN2)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
The opening week of the season could not have been more different for these two teams. Coming off three straight seasons that resulted in a bowl berth, expectations for Central Michigan were running high. This team has an incredible talent at quarterback in Dan LeFevour, and the Chippewas were expected to pull off an upset or two en route to contending for yet another MAC title.
Arizona brought CMU back down to earth with a 19-6 victory last Saturday in Tucson. They dominated the game on the ground and managed to keep LeFevour in check, no small accomplishment.
Michigan State enters Week 2 on the heels of a 44-3 blowout victory over Montana State from the FCS.
While the opposition wasn't particularly glamorous or difficult, it did give head coach Mark Dantonio an opportunity to introduce several new faces to his system.
The new Spartans responded well to their first snaps in a college uniform, but there is still much work to do on both sides of the ball. For now, Michigan State looks to continue their undefeated start to the season as they prepare for a huge clash with Notre Dame in Week 3.
CMU offense vs. MSU defense
Dan LeFevour is a great quarterback. He's thrown for 74 touchdowns and more than 9,500 yards during his college career while passing at a fairly accurate rate. LeFevour is the big reason why CMU was a trendy pick to pull off some upsets in 2009.
The Arizona defense had him in shackles last week. LeFevour was only 18-for-31 through the air for a paltry 108 yards and one interception. The Wildcats were able to limit LeFevour to very short gains through the air, holding CMU without a first down until the very end of the first half.
Unfortunately for the Chippewas, they can probably expect more of the same this weekend.
The Wildcats were so successful because they utilized the quickness and physicality of their defense to upset the Chippewa attack. Michigan State's defense has both of those qualities in spades.
Johnny Adams, Chris L. Rucker, Jeremy Ware, and Roderick Jenrette provide plenty of athleticism in the Spartan secondary and they should be able to shut down the CMU receivers. Up front, Michigan State also has the bodies to put pressure on LeFevour thanks to one of the deepest linebacking corps in the entire country.
You can expect Mr. LeFevour to be very familiar with a certain Greg Jones (14 tackles, 2 sacks in Week 1) by the end of the afternoon.
Central also appears to lack the necessary talent to exploit the weak link in the Spartan defense, the defensive line. While Trevor Anderson is a decent pass rusher and Antonio Jeremiah has the bulk to be a good run-stopping tackle, the line lacks the depth to be a dominant force right now.
But Central's rushing game was even weaker than their passing game in Week 1. They only amassed 74 yards on 20 carries. Expect the Spartan linebackers to aid in stopping the run this weekend.
MSU offense vs. CMU defense
This battle is where the Spartans will expose many of their unknown quantities.
Mark Dantonio is likely to continue his quarterback platoon to help decide on a starter for Week 3. Both Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol played very well in the opener, but were victimized by no fewer than six dropped passes by the receivers.
The two combined to complete 52 percent of their passes, but that number would have been roughly 71 percent without the drops.
Dropped passes is a problem that has plagued the Spartans for years, and they need to fix that issue in the very near future, before they get into the meat of their schedule. B.J. Cunningham showed some improvement in that area in Week 1, and Blair White had no trouble catching passes, but the rest of the receivers need to get up to speed quickly.
The running game is also filled with new faces for the Spartans, with the top three spots on the depth chart occupied by freshmen. Red-shirt freshman Caulton Ray started in Week 1 and displayed a nice blend of speed and power en route to a healthy 5.9 yards per carry.
Second-stringer Larry Caper added another 4.9 yards per carry while Keith Nichol showed a nice ability to run as well, with four carries for 18 yards.
But, the Spartans will have to deal with the possible absence of veteran center Joel Nitchman. Nitchman sprained his knee at the end of the first half against Montana State and is currently listed as day-to-day. His absence could hurt an already inexperienced offensive line, especially in the running game.
Central Michigan is a very good MAC team, but very good MAC teams don't beat very good Big Ten teams. Michigan State just has too many weapons on both sides of the ball and should enjoy an easy victory this Saturday.
Michigan State 38, Central Michigan 14
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