All right, I’ve postponed the inevitable long enough. After offering a bare bones beginning to my look at Michigan State, I now have no choice but to give you some semblance of an examination of the Spartans, since the ‘Dawgs will be playing them on Thursday and all, so let’s
get this over with dive into the nuances of the Capital One Bowl!
Overall, the Michigan State attack stands smack dab in the middle of the Big Ten pack. The Spartans rank sixth in the league in scoring offense (26.2 points per game), sixth in red zone offense (84.0%), fifth in pass offense (214.0 yards per game through the air), and a surprisingly low ninth in rushing offense (138.4 yards per game on the ground).
For all the attention paid to senior running back Javon Ringer and his 132.5 rushing yards per game, the most prominent player for M.S.U. is less impressive than you might expect. Paul Westerdawg already has exposed Ringer’s inflated numbers and a quick glance at the Big Ten stat sheet reveals that, although he is the conference’s second-leading rusher, his average yards per carry (4.3) are by far the lowest of the top eight ballcarriers in the league. Unfortunately, his 21 rushing touchdowns cannot be ignored.
Peeks inside the Spartans’ other offensive numbers reveal other holes elsewhere in the team’s stats. Michigan State is tied with Penn State for the most field goals in the Big Ten (20), but, while the Nittany Lions have scored a league-leading 60 touchdowns, Sparty has had to settle for 36 trips into the end zone. Only Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Northwestern scored fewer T.D.s.
Likewise, Ringer’s running did not help his team gain more than 88 rushing first downs, the second-fewest in the conference. Michigan State actually was much more adept at moving the chains through the air (116 first downs gained on pass plays), but only Wisconsin managed fewer touchdown passes than the Spartans. Sparty tallied eleven T.D. tosses to nine interceptions and, although M.S.U. had the best completion percentage among Big Ten teams in its home state, it had the tenth best in the conference overall (53.3%).
Of greatest concern to Bulldog fans regarding the M.S.U. offense is the fact that the Spartans gained 24 first downs on penalties . . . more than any other Big Ten team except Northwestern.
Coming Soon: A look at the Michigan State defense.