Maybe unlike any recent battle between Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly there is less known about the Michigan State Spartans football team that will take the field Saturday night in Notre Dame Stadium.
Many have already picked the Irish to walk off the field with their second win of the season, however, we feel there are some things the Spartans can do that will key a victory over a very good Irish team.
Be Different On Offense
It is no mistake the Spartans offensive game plan for many of the games during the Dantonio era have been a run controlled time consuming attack with the occasional deep ball to keep a defense honest. However, one of the biggest keys will be the fact the Spartans must be different in their attack. If the Spartans do the same things they’ve done over the past nine seasons the Irish have seen it. The unknown of Tyler O’Connor and vanilla looking offense from the Furman season opener can be an advantage if used properly. O’Connor must manage the game but also needs Dave Warner to throw some new wrinkles into the mix that will keep the Irish defense on its heels. Early this cannot be a Run Green Run offense and a possible sighting of Damion Terry could be in the mix.
Play Inside The Tackles
Again, on offense the Spartans must have a game plan that is inside the tackles and not one of wide sweeps against a defense built with speed. The Irish have shown they struggled stopping a large back (Texas) and those runs where inside the tackles. This is L.J. Scott can use his physical size and strength to make things happen. We’re not looking for three yards and a cloud of dust, but hard attacking power run plays using fullback Prescott Line.
Pressure DeShone Kizer
The Irish have a young but talented group of receivers and expect to have maybe their best receiver Torii Hunter Jr. back in the fold after missing last week’s game against Nevada following the hit he received against Texas in the season opener that many felt was targeting. If the Spartans can’t get pressure on Kizer forcing him to release the ball before he wants, he has the tool set to pick the Spartans defense a part. Pressure does not mean only sacks, but keep Kizer from getting outside of the pocket and extending plays where he’s capable of running or throwing for positive plays.
Be Yourself On Defense
While we want the Spartans to be different on offense, we don’t want them to get away from being a pressure attacking defense. Vayante Copeland must play the best game of his career and if Darian Hicks struggles early, get him out and put in Tyson Smith to see if he can get the job done. Pressure from the front four will help the Spartans secondary get back to earning to be called the No Fly Zone. Spartans co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel talked this week about how the secondary has to be prepared for deep ball threats against the Irish.
“First of all, you have to anticipate. You have to know that it’s going to happen. And quite honestly, if some of the underneath stuff happens, those aren’t 20-yard plays or automatic first downs on a pass interference. We are anticipating it. We will try and get them in some better situations without talking about how doing that. We know that is what is going to happen.”
Be Intense From Play One
How will the Spartans react to having a bye week in Week Two of the season and only playing one game so far? That is a new question that will be answered early Saturday night. The Spartans must take the field and on the first play show the intensity of a team playing their third game of the season. Trust me, I’m sure the Spartans week off practice had some serious hitting going on to keep things on track. If it didn’t, then the Irish will have a huge early advantage in this game.