EAST LANSING - This is the week coach Pat Narduzzi and the Spartans defense really gets tested. The Spartans run into arguably their best opponent of the non-conference season when they face the Bowling Green State University Falcons on Saturday.
Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon is a disciple of Florida's Urban Meyer. Brandon served as offensive coordinator for Meyer beforing taking over as head coach at BGSU and knows how to find holes to exploit in the opposition's defense.
For MSU, the key to mix will be slowing sophomore quarterback Tyler Sheehan, the MAC East Player of the Week, who threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns in their upset win over Minnesota.
Despite making his first career start, Sheehan played like an experienced veteran, finding the holes in the Gophers zone defense and exploting them. After getting a touchdown in overtime, BGSU's Brandon made the gutsy call to go for two instead of the safe tie and Sheehan hit Tyler Barnes for the winning conversion.
The Falcons wracked up an incredible 512 yards of total offense in the win, putting them among the top offenses in the nation, all this against a Big Ten foe. BGSU had five players with more than 50 yards receiving and even Sheehan caught a TD pass on a gimmick play from receiver Corey Partridge)
Look for MSU to use more of their 3-4 look against BGSU in an attempt to slow the Gophers potent spread attack. It wouldn't be surprising to see MSU use a three deep look in some situations with safeites Nehemiah Warrick, Travis Key and Otis Wiley all on the field to keep things in front of them.
The Spartans will need to have a solid tackling game as the BGSU spread is designed to get men open in the middle of the field short, and have them elude tacklers.
MSU will want to punish the Falcons receivers with big hits and force them to play error free ball while keeping everything in front of them.
The Spartans safeties, especially Otis Wiley, will be on the spot to make the correct calls and line up the defense correctly. MSU would love to get another big effort from Kendell Davis-Clark, blanketing BGSU's top receiver Freddie Barnes (six catches, 99 yards) who was outstanding against UAB.
The Spartans would like to see a better effort upfront from their pass rush. Senior Ervin Baldwin and sophomore Brandon Long need to step it up a notch against a dangerous BGSU team.
Meanwhile, State has little to worry about a ground game for the Falcons (Chris Bullock, 9 carries, 47 yards leading rusher) that managed only 100 yards rushing against the Golden Gophers.
MSU wants to keep BGSU one-dimensional while keeping the ball away from the Falcons with long, clock-eating drives featuring their power running attack of Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer.
Expect the Spartans to pound the Falcons on the ground and come away with a closer victory this week.
PICK: MSU 27 - Bowling Green 20
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