2 – games Michigan State has won after Oct. 1 in the last two seasons combined. In the final two years of Coach John L. Smith's tenure, the Spartans went a combined 7-1 before October's arrival, including such quality wins as Notre Dame, Pitt, Illinois and Hawaii. But both of those teams imploded down the stretch, going a combined 2-12 in October and November games. While the last two seasons were the most glaring examples of the Spartans' late season collapses, it's been a familiar scene for some time. Dating back to 2002, Michigan State teams are 16-6 before Oct. 1 and 10-27 from Oct. 1 on. Those late-season meltdowns were why Michigan State turned the reins over to former Cincinnati Coach Mark Dantonio in the off-season. But it was the same old story for the Spartans this past weekend now that the leaves are changing and the calendar has turned to October. After a 4-1 start to the season that had them ranked in the nation's top 25, Michigan State suffered a stunning 48-41 overtime loss to Northwestern.
520 – passing yards the Spartan defense yielded to Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher in Saturday's 48-41 loss. Entering the game, Michigan State ranked in the top three in the Big Ten in pass defense, giving up just 185.4 yards in its first four games. Dantonio's team hadn't allowed any quarterback to throw for 300 yards against them, and they held both Pitt and Notre Dame under 100 yards passing in September wins. But Bacher completed 38-of-48 passes for those 520 yards and five touchdowns. Thanks to his performance, Bacher saw his passing totals go from 249.4 yards/game up to 294.5 yards/contest, ranking him second to Purdue's Curtis Painter in the Big Ten.
3 –sacks for Michigan State the last two weeks. Michigan State ranks second to Indiana in the Big Ten with 24 sacks, but Dantonio's team hasn't had the some sort of success in getting after the quarterback now that the Big Ten season has started. The Spartans totaled 21 sacks while racing to a 4-0 start in the non-conference, posting at least four sacks in each of those four games. But it had just two sacks in a 37-34 loss to Wisconsin and only one in Saturday's 48-41 loss to Northwestern. The decline in numbers, meanwhile, isn't a result of Big Ten teams throwing the ball less. The Spartans' four non-conference foes averaged 32.5 pass attempts/game, while their two Big Ten foes averaged 37 pass attempts/contest.
2 – Michigan State running backs ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in rushing. If the Hoosiers' defense has an Achilles' heel it still appears to be shutting down a quality tailback, and Dantonio has a couple of them in Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick. Ringer, who is coming off a 12-carry, 185-yard, three-touchdown effort against Northwestern, ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 121.5 yards/game, while Caulcrick chips in 67.5 yards rushing/game and leads the Spartans with 10 touchdowns. They lead a MSU ground attack that ranks second in the Big Ten to Illinois with 221.8 yards/game. Ringer, who is also averaging 7.1 yards/carry, missed last year's 46-21 Indiana win over the Spartans after he tore his MCL in the Big Ten opener against Illinois and missed the remainder of the season.
9 – rushes of 20 yards or more by Ringer. The Spartans' 5-9, 200-pound tailback has been one of the nation's most dangerous big-play threats, and that was never more apparent than Saturday. Ringer broke off four runs of at least 20 yards, three of which went for at least 40. After snapping off a 43-yard run midway through the second quarter, Ringer broke free for 47- and 80-yard touchdown runs in the second half. His 7.1 yards/carry average leads the Big Ten, just ahead of another tailback who gave Indiana fits – Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall – who is averaging 6.8 yards/carry.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
MICHIGAN STATE: Five Days and Counting
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