Closer Look: Panther Offense

"If I were to look at their team right now for a strength, I think their offensive line plays pretty well, especially their upper classmen . . . so it'll be another challenge for us." -- Mark Dantonio on the challenge his Spartan's will face against Pitt's offense.

EAST LANSING - Despite an expected sellout for the White Out this weekend against Pittsburgh, fans might hear an echo at Spartan stadium. It could be the sound of similar offensive philosophies being barked by a pair of coaches with tough, run-first offensive identities.

Like Michigan State, the Panthers return four starters to a massive offensive line. Led by senior left tackle Jeff Otah (6-foot-6, 340 pounds) and senior right guard Mike McGlynn (6-foot-5, 315 pounds), Pittsburgh looks to wear down opponents with a ground heavy assault.

"They want to run the football and establish the run," Mark Dantonio said of Pitt at his weekly press conference.

Redshirt freshman Kevan Smith, starting just his second game at quarterback – only two behind Spartan QB Brian Hoyer – will hand the pigskin to junior LaRod Stephens-Howling and freshman LeSean "Shady" McCoy.

Like the dynamics in the Spartan backfield, Stephens-Howling (5-foot-7, 180 pounds) is a smaller, quicker feature back who nicely compliments a north-south bruiser like McCoy (5-foot11, 210 pounds) who himself had three first quarter touchdowns against Grambling State last week.

At times, Michigan State could even get a double dose.

"There's been times where they've used both of them in the game at the same time, even this early, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some of that," Dantonio said.

But for Pittsburgh to stay in the game, Smith must have an uneventful day at quarterback. They say the biggest improvement comes between games one and two, so what is it that Smith needs to improve the second time out?

"As simple as this sounds, just hitting open receivers and taking what the defense gives him," Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He needs to work on those little things."

Add in a deep bench at tight end for Pitt and a go-to receiver – sophomore Oderick Turner – and pretty soon one wonders if rosters were plagiarized.

"Yeah, there are some similarities," Dantonio admits. But when it comes to the game this Saturday, the only similarity Dantonio wants to think about is racking up another W.

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