Matchup: MSU defense vs. UM offense

Looking at the key match ups, important stats and what to expect from Michigan State as it enters a showdown with Michigan.

Key matchups

Shilique Calhoun vs Taylor Lewan

Calhoun has been a force to be reckoned with for Michigan State so far this season as he has a team-high four sacks. He also an interception, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three touchdowns. This will be a stiff test for him, however, going against an All-American left tackle in Taylor Lewan.

Devin Gardner is mobile at quarterback for Michigan, but the Spartans will look to get a good pass rush and that starts with Calhoun as far as the defensive line is concerned.

Darqueze Dennard/Trae Waynes vs Jeremy Gallon/Devin Funchess

The Spartans cornerbacks are the most integral part of the defense, which says they are going to guard one-on-one and play physically – so try and beat them. As is a pattern, this might be the biggest test for the pair of Dennard and Waynes.

Against Indiana, Gallon had 369 yards, but he won't do that against Dennard. Funchess presents a matchup nightmare for all cornerbacks since being moved full-time to wide receiver. Waynes will be challenged with him and that matchup is an important one.

Devin Gardner vs MSU secondary

Gardner is prone to make a few bad throws each game and has turned the ball over at an alarming rate. He has thrown 10 interceptions already and has had some fumble issues, too. Michigan State's defense is solid at forcing turnovers and it is a key for the Spartans getting wins, too.

With a ball-hawking secondary led by Dennard, the Spartans will seek to make a lot of plays when Gardner puts the ball in the air, but also can be beaten downfield. Just like the matchup between Dennard/Waynes and Gallon/Funchess, how the secondary does with defending the pass will be key.

By the numbers

50

Tackles for loss by the Michigan State defense, good for second in the Big Ten.

55

Tackles for loss allowed by Michigan, second to worst in the Big Ten and 105 of 125 in the nation.

27.5

Percentage of third-down conversions allowed by the Michigan State defense, good for third in the country.

6

Michigan State's turnover margin through its first eight games.

42.4

Points per game for the Wolverines, the same total as Indiana, the only team to score more than 20 points (28) on Michigan State.

What to look for from MSU

Pat Narduzzi literally tells teams what he is going to do. He is going to blitz. He is going to stop the run. He is going to force you to throw to the sidelines. Nothing is a secret. One thing that has hurt the Spartans' revered defense is mobile quarterbacks that also can make plays through the air. Gardner fits that, despite his turnover problems.

Michigan struggles to run the ball for the most part, so the Spartans will look to make the conservative Al Borges go away from the run with Fitz Toussaint. To make Michigan one-dimension through the air is to give the secondary chances to make plays, which it thrives on.

The trademark A-gap blitz is ideal in spurts, too, as the Wolverines offensive line is weakest up the middle with a freshman and true freshman at offensive guard. The Wolverines will need to have extra blockers in the backfield and strong formations to try and counteract the blitzing from Narduzzi.

It comes down to how much Funchess and Gallon can do against Dennard and Waynes at the end of the day. If they can get separation and go for big plays, Michigan State could be in trouble. If the Spartans can force turnovers and three-and-outs, it will be a long day for Michigan.


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