The Michigan State Spartans are coming off of a seven win season in 2018, but with a strong defense many media pundits were bullish on the Spartans entering 2019. So far the season has not quite gone as expected, dropping their two ranked match ups to Arizona State and Ohio State. While Michigan State is no longer ranked, with a 4-2 record, they do have talent. Mark Dantonio’s squad has the following results up to this point:
- Win vs. Tulsa 28-7
- Win vs. Western Michigan 51-17
- Loss vs. Arizona State 10-7
- Win at Northwestern 31-10
- Win vs. Indiana 40-31
- Loss at Ohio State 34-10
In the latest of edition of B5Q’s upcoming “opponent at a glance” we take a deeper look at how Michigan State has looked so far this year.
The Michigan State offense has been a bit of an enigma to this point in the season. Ranking 75th in the nation, the Spartans are averaging just under 28 points per game, but have the No. 100 ranked rushing offense, a normal calling card for a Mark Dantonio team. The offense has primarily struggled against some of the better competition, scoring only 17 points combined against Arizona State and Ohio State.
Starting quarterback Brian Lewerke has had a bounce back senior season so far after battling injuries most of last season. He is averaging 257 yards per game, with an 11:2 touchdown to interception ratio. With the positives though come the negatives. He is currently only completing 58% of his passes, which is indicative of the offensive struggles at times.
On the ground, Elijah Collins has taken on the bulk of the carries with 491 yards rushing through six games played. While he has averaged five yards a carry, he has only found the end zone three times.
Through the air, Darrell Stewart has been the highlight of the offense. The 6-foot-2 senior has been a weapon at receiver, averaging over 100 yards per game. He by far leads the team in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. If there is one player for the Badger defense to shift their focus to, it is the big play receiving threat.
On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan State has one of the best front sevens in college football. The Spartans are No. 21 in the country in sacks with just over three per game, and in scoring defense at 18 points allowed per game.
The defense flows through senior middle linebacker Joe Bachie, who definitively leads the team with 57 tackles. Bachie is one of the better linebackers in the country, and also has 3.5 sacks and an interception on the season. The other primary defender to watch is Kenny Willekes. The senior defensive end can really get into the backfield. Through six contests he has four sacks and has accounted for 11 quarterback hurries. Those two stalwarts with Raequan Williams at defensive tackle can really cause a disruption up front in the run game and against the pass.
Cornerback Josiah Scott has been the best player in the MSU secondary, with two interceptions and four pass breakups. He was a preseason All-Big Ten selection by both Athlon and Phil Steele, and to this point has lived up to the hype.
The Spartans defense has been able to create turnovers in bunches and have also been stingy in the red zone. Opponents have only been able to score touchdowns against Michigan State on 47% of red zone trips. If Wisconsin wants to win this weekend, the Badgers will need to take care of the football and convert in the red zone.
Michigan State has had some ups and downs so far in 2019. With a strong defense, and a quarterback who has been playing well, the Spartans are a tough team. While the offense has not been great, Darrell Stewart is a dude, and the Wisconsin secondary will need to hold him down to win.
Michigan State is perennially one of the better teams in the B1G, and at this juncture, this year’s team is no different.
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