B.J. Cunningham catching a ball against mighty Youngstown State.
It's Friday, so that means another Q&A with our SBNation counterparts for our opponent this week. Today, we're talking to Pete Rossman at The Only Colors about our game tomorrow. I exchanged questions with him and my answers can be found here.
1. Having only two data points, and those points being games against Youngstown State and FAU, is anyone sure how good this Michigan State team really is? Where do you think the team is right now?
I know that MSU will be a good team this season, it's just a matter of how good. After a shaky first half against Youngstown State the team collected itself (I think they were a wee bit amped with YAU being a night game and all) and performed admirably. The FAU game was a defensive clinic. Michigan State's defense allowed less than 50 yards of offense and one first down all game, while the offense looked vanilla but still scored 37 points.
I think the team is where I'd thought it'd be right now. The coaching staff seems to have settled on starters for the offensive line, and while it's looked shaky, glimmers of promise have shown. The defense looks good, but I'm worried about the depth in the secondary. A few too many special teams mistakes have occurred for me to feel completely comfortable about field goals et al. But overall I'm pleased with how the Spartans have performed to this point.
2. I was relieved to hear Greg Jones finally went off to live with a nice family on a farm (or to the NFL, I forget) after terrorizing opponents for what seemed like seven years. What defensive player will start haunting my dreams now that Jones is gone?
The easy answer to this question would be a defensive lineman such as Jerel Worthy or William Gholston, but I really think it's the player who replaced Jones at middle linebacker, sophomore Max Bullough. In the season opener against YSU Bullough tied Jones's career high for tackles in a game with 15. Bullough seems to have most of Jones's instincts for finding and wrapping up the ball carrier, and he's bigger to boot at 6'3" and 245 pounds. While I've heard a few people say that the fall off at linebacker for MSU would be great this season, I don't think that's the case -- Bullough has filled in nicely.
3. Speaking of players that feel like they've been there forever, I see Kirk Cousins is still the quarterback. Everyone knows the Spartans can run the ball, but how does the passing game look? Where does Cousins stack up with respect to the other B1G QBs?
Cousins is the best pure passer, and definitely one of the top three quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He's completed 79% of his passes so far this season and looks at ease in the offense, as one would expect a third-year starter to look. The one underrated part of his game is his play fakes. In the FAU game last week Cousins faked a hand-off, turned his back to the offensive line, turned back around and found Keshawn Martin in stride for a big gain. While other Big Ten QBs will get more attention because of their ability to run the ball, Cousins is most likely the most accurate downfield passer of all of them.
4. How do you feel about the new Big 10? Do you like the new division format? How do feel your team compares to the other teams within the conference?
The new Big 10...eh. Nebraska was a fine division, but I feel like the division format can create wildly unbalanced schedules. For example, MSU's opponents from the other division will be Indiana (reserved rivalry game), Wisconsin and Ohio State. In two years Wisconsin and Ohio State roll off for what will be a much easier schedule, but that still creates an imbalance when those games could be Purdue and Illinois. As for Michigan State in the conference? I feel like they're in the upper echelon, along with Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Ohio State, even though the latter two teams looked a bit shaky last week.
5. Who ya got? Remember, the Irish only lose in soul-crushing fashion this season and face an opponent known for handing out last-second losses to them.
I sincerely think the Tommy Rees-Michael Floyd combination is too good for this not to be a close game. The Fighting Irish offense will be by far the biggest test the defense has faced, and I'm a bit worried how an offensive line with three new starters will protect Kirk Cousins. I do think this'll be a close game throughout, but I just think Michigan State will make less mistakes in this game, and will win by a score of...oh, let's say 34-27. I'll be watching this game at a B-Dubs in between my friend's wedding and his reception, so if you remember one thing from this preview, let it be this:
If you have to get married on a college football Saturday, make sure your reception is next to a sports bar.
Thanks again to Pete and the guys at The Only Colors!