Michigan State will look to get off to a 2-0 start this weekend as they take on Florida Atlantic University. The game will take place at Ford Field in Detroit, so it should be a great atmosphere to watch the game. After watching last week’s victory, there are three keys to this game that will help lead the Spartans to a victory. The first is continuing to establish a run game. It had been a while since MSU had two 100 yard rushers in the same game, and I would like to see them do it again this week. Not only does it get the offensive line off to an aggressive start and firing off the ball, but it also opens up the play action game and big plays down the field. Second, the secondary will be challenged again this week and it will be interesting to see how they respond. They were very good in some areas, such as tackling and knowing assignments, but they still lack great corner play. I know that I sound like a broken record when I say this, but it is the truth and until something changes, I will continue to talk about it. The reason is that you cannot win without great secondary play, especially at the corner position. Every championship team has someone in the back four that can take a game over with his ability and the Spartans are still lacking in this area. Finally, MSU must cut down on their penalties. They can have eleven against Western Michigan, but this will not fly against the upper echelon teams of the Big Ten. They must start getting more disciplined now because this is not something you can just turn off and on every week.
When Michigan State has the ball: I look for the running game to continue where it left off last week and dominate again. Le’Veon Bell had a breakout performance and he will only get better in complementing Edwin Baker. I also look for Kirk Cousins to get all of his receivers more involved this week. Last game, three out of MSU’s top four receivers (B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, and Keith Nichol) combined for only 3 receptions for 43 yards. That will change this week, as all three get more looks and touches (less drops also!). It will not be easy though against a secondary that returns all four starters from a year ago. They know how to make big plays, which was evident by the interception return for a touchdown they had last week in their victory over UAB. This defense will challenge the skill players for Michigan State, but in the end the Spartans have too many options and playmakers to be stopped.
When Florida Atlantic has the ball: Florida Atlantic has a very potent combo in QB Jeff Van Camp and WR Lester Jean. Last week, Jean was named Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Week with 9 receptions for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns. These two will alone be able to put pressure on the Spartan secondary and force them to make plays down the field. I look for Michigan State to bring pressure from all over the field and force Van Camp to get rid of the ball quickly. The only chance the Owls have will be to throw the ball because the running game will be non-existent because of the more experienced and deeper Spartan front seven.
This week’s game will be an interesting challenge for the Spartans because Florida Atlantic returns nine players on defense and they have some skilled weapons on the offensive side of the ball. They are also 1-0, having beaten UAB last week 32-31, by blocking a last second field goal to win the game. This game will be no cake walk for the Spartans and they must come out from the start and get after this team. We all know what happened last year in the second game of the season and we do not want the same result because a team is taken too lightly. I do not think this will happen though, in which MSU comes out firing on all cylinders and cruises to a 49-10 victory.
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Written by David Lesmeister