An Early Look at the Spartans

The Bears' home game against the Michigan State Spartans is just over a week away...

On August 30, the California Golden Bear football season will be underway and many questions will be answered during that game about the quarterback position, wide receivers and the new look 3-4 defense. But what will Michigan State bring to the table?

The Michigan State Spartans finished 7-6 in 2007, including a 24-21 loss to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl. MSU lost its best playmaker from last season in wide receiver Devin Thomas, who was taken by the Washington Redskins in last April's NFL Draft. However, California will still have a few Spartan players that will demand their attention come next Saturday.

The Bears' will have to contend with a strong and consistent running game when the Spartans come to town. Last season, running backs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick combined for 476 carries last season for 2,319 yards and 27 touchdowns. Caulcrick departs and takes 21 of those touchdowns with him. Quarterback Brian Hoyer averaged 209 yards per game through the air on just 376 total pass attempts.

MSU likes to run and then run the ball some more. Ringers' number of carries should increase after finishing 20th in the nation in yards per game last season. Moreover, A.J. Jimmerson will try to replace Caulcrick's production. Ringer has the speed to get to a second level quickly and he has a knack for making defenders miss when he is in the open field. Last season, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. The Spartans try to get the ball in Ringer's hands as much as possible and like to utilize him in the passing game. In 2007, he finished with thirty-five catches. Cal can expect Ringer to get the ball early and often.

MSU likes to keep quarterback Hoyer out of third and long passing situations. This is why the Spartans ran the ball more than they passed last season. In 2007, Hoyer passed for 2,725 yards with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. MSU will look for wide receivers Mark Dell and Deon Curry to step-up and make plays in the passing game when needed.

On defense, the Spartans are very aggressive and give the offense a lot of different looks. They occasionally play with a two-man front, four linebackers and five defensive backs. When MSU plays this defense, sometimes they blitz and other times they drop everyone back in coverage. The Spartans are not shy about blitzing the quarterback.

Linebacker Eric Gordon is a player that the Bears' must keep an eye on. As a freshman, Gordon finished with 62 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

The Bears need to be ready to stop a strong Spartan running game. In addition, be ready to protect their quarterback against an aggressive MSU defense.

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