Youngstown State vs. Michigan State Keys to the Game and Prediction
Do you feel it Spartan fans? Have you seen the lights set up yet? See the articles in the paper yet?
Well ladies and gentlemen, all of that can only mean one thing. Michigan State football is back in East Lansing!
This year the Spartans come off of a stellar Big Ten Championship season and return seven offensive starters that will promise an exciting passing and running game for college football to set their eyes on. On the other side of the ball six starters come back but All-American Greg Jones and partner in crime Eric Gordon are gone. All defensive expectations shouldn't be out the window though with Jerel Worthy manning the defensive line.
The Spartans kick off their Rose Bowl seeking season against Youngstown State under the lights on Friday. All signs point to an MSU victory, but in order for fans to see a good game Friday both teams will have to follow these three keys.
Michigan State Key #1
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Shut down the running game
The Spartans graduated two of some of the finest linebackers in program history when they said so long to Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. Michigan State will lose a great run defense that only averaged 22.3 points per game, and it's up to Max Bullough, Steve Gardiner and Chris Norman to give Spartan Nation another core linebacker crew. Senior defensive lineman Jerel Worthy is going to be the anchor in the defensive line that looks to clog up the running game with nose tackle Kevin Pickelman. The Spartan defense will be tested surprisingly early against Youngstown State with a running game that brings back two prolific backs in the FCS.
Junior running back Jamaine Cook highlighted the Penguins offense with 1,273 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Right behind him will be sophomore running back Adaris Bellamy who also put up 11 touchdowns as a freshman which was a school-tying record. If there is any reason the Penguins have a shot at leaving East Lansing with a win, it will be because of their dynamic running game. Last year the two running backs rushed the ball on 351 attempts, so the front seven should be geared up and ready to go this Friday night.
Michigan State Key #2
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Air the ball out
Last year the Youngstown State secondary set a school record, which is great, except it was for most passing touchdowns given up in a season.
The Penguins defense was very submarginal due to the fact they gave up 41 offensive touchdowns in the FCS, and 26 of those were through the passing game. Their seven interception mark was also their lowest since 2004, and all seven of those came from just three players.
On the offensive side Michigan State has the weapons to display how good their passing offense really is to the rest of the nation. Heisman dark horse candidate Kirk Cousins lost his main man Mark Dell to the NFL, but he'll fare just fine considering how much he likes to spread out the ball. Cousins threw the ball to nine different targets at least ten times last season all to different positions.
Exploiting Youngstown's weak secondary and utilizing the Spartans exceptional aerial attack should be enough for Michigan State to put this game out of reach early.
Michigan State Key #3
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This key doesn't come into play during the game as much as it does before. FCS teams are put on the schedule for that automatic win and tune-up, but a loss of focus can trip up any top-tier team (i.e. Michigan and Virginia Tech).
If the Spartans can keep their heads straight and not look past Youngstown State they should have no problem rolling the Penguins. They need to stick to the gameplan, play the full 60 minutes, and play Spartan football.
Youngstown State Key #1
Continue where they left off in the red zone
Last year Youngstown State absolutely controlled the red zone by scoring 41 out of 45 trips. Two of their missed trips stopped inside of the one yard line and the other two were in the final six minutes of the season. Their third best red zone offense in the FCS was just another impressive stat line the Penguins had to offer.
If they can continue their 2010 red zone success they can make this a game with MSU.
Youngstown State Key #2
Don't fold late in the game
Last year Youngstown State went 3-8, but they hung with their opponent every single game. In all 11 contests they had the lead at some point in the game, but blew four out of their seven fourth quarter leads, which led to their sub-.500 record.
Getting a lead against the Spartans isn't going to be a walk in the park by any means, and holding the lead will be a challenge also. If the Penguins can grab a lead and maintain it the rest of the game will give YSU victory and serious confidence for their upcoming season.
Youngstown State Key #3
Slow down the game early and often.
It's Friday night, first game of the season, and they'll be playing in front of one rowdy fan base. The only way to cut off the 12th man is to slow the game down, take long huddles, and burn up as much clock as possible. This will not only shut the fans up to a point, but it also has the chance of throwing MSU off of their tempo by making the defense wait and cool down the offense on the sidelines if they get hot.
Since YSU is a run oriented team they will also be running time off of the clock. If Youngstown can run the tempo to their favor it will certainly help them more than it will hurt them..
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Michigan State- 48 Youngstown State- 10
This game won't take long to get out of reach after Michigan State scores on their second possession of the game. Edwin Baker and Kirk Cousins will pick apart the defense and put up 31 points walking in to half time.
Youngstown State will leave halftime reset and ready to make an early statement and score on an early second half drive, but it will shortly be forgotten after MSU takes away momentum with a field goal the very next possession. With a few minutes remaining in the game Andrew Maxwell will step in and lead the Spartans on a late drive to put the game away for good and send the Spartan crowd home with a win.