With the Michigan State football team opening up their season against Western Michigan tonight, we are going to look at three reasons why the Spartans will walk out of Waldo Stadium victorious, and three reasons why Western Michigan will score the upset. To be clear, these are not predictions, but rather a look at what will be deciding factors each week.
Three reasons why MSU will lose to the Broncos
3. Spartans toying with rotations
Are the best players playing? Obviously the trenches are set on both sides of the ball, but what about the skill positions on offense? Though the Spartans seem comfortable with Macgarrett Kings, Aaron Burbridge and R.J. Shelton as the starting wide receivers, they will want to figure out what the rotation will look like behind them. At running back, Gerald Holmes, Madre London, and L.J. Scott will all get carries and Delton Williams may even be thrown into the mix. While the Spartans are looking for weapons to go around Cook and the offensive line, Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell knows where he is throwing the ball. Which brings us to…
2. Secondary problems not solved
Western Michigan ranked 6th in the nation in passing efficiency last year. They have a 6-foot-3 receiver named Corey Davis who beat the “No Fly Zone” downfield in 2013, but then-freshman quarterback Zach Terrell couldn’t connect with him despite being open. Even with a couple deep misses, Davis still racked up eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Both Davis and Terrell have turned into a legitimate NFL prospects and clearly the Spartans struggled in the secondary last year with the departure of Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard. Obviously the secondary has taken a step back, but can they do enough to hold the Broncos high-powered offense in check?
1. Looking ahead to Oregon
You would have to think this is the most obvious reason right? Though I recently said the Spartans shouldn’t overlook Western Michigan, no one in their right mind thinks the Broncos are more talented than the defending Cotton Bowl champions. While there are a couple mismatches that actually favor P.J. Fleck’s team, across the board, the advantage clearly goes with the Spartans. If the Broncos do pull off the upset, regardless of how it happens, this is going to be the reason why.
Three reasons why MSU will beat the Broncos
3. The offensive line
This kind of ties in with the number three reason I had for the Spartans losing. The line is projected to be among the top two or three in the country. This will not only help the three or four running backs that are expected to split carries to find creases, but will help the receivers as well. As Burbridge and Shelton adjust to increased roles on the outside, the offensive line will give Connor Cook more time in the pocket, which gives them more time to get open. This group will definitely assist the skill positions.
2. The defensive line
There is another tie-in here as well. Even though the secondary may struggle, especially next week, the defensive line should help them. While the Broncos boast a very good offense, the WMU offensive line won’t be able to hang with the front four of Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas, Malik McDowell and Joel Heath. They should be able to put enough pressure on Zach Terrell to force a few more mistakes than he is used to. Whether those mistakes result in turnovers or just missing open receivers are two different things, but it shouldn’t have any say in the outcome of this game.
The Broncos are going to be in this game, at least early on. They have enough firepower on offense to hang a couple touchdowns on the Spartans. Ultimately, they will struggle keeping pace with Connor Cook and company later. Guys like Corey Davis could end up running routes against as many as five different cornerbacks and will still have to get over safeties R.J. Williamson and Montae Nicholson. The Spartans may struggle against a team that likes to air out, but Cook and the rest of the offense should be able to cancel out some early Western Michigan scores. Later on, the Broncos will be too tired to keep matching the Spartans on the scoreboard.
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