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Michigan State vs. Central Michigan University Scouting Report and Prediction

Michigan State vs. Central Michigan University Scouting Report and Prediction



A look at this week’s opponent…

The Chips are led by one of the best young coaches in the nation. Butch Jones has taken, what many agree, was a good job of coaching by the former head coach Brian Kelly, and done a far better job than Kelly ever could. On and off the field Jones has done a superb job and clearly will have his pick of jobs in the future should he choose to leave Mount Pleasant.


Jones’ mentor, as far as system, is UM head coach Rich M ROD Rodriguez. Similar to M Rod, people mistakenly categorize his offense as a pass happy spread. Neither are. Jones would much rather see his star QB Dan Lefevour run the ball rather than throw. Jones may have a spread system, but he is a grind it out hard-core old school coach.


In the spirit of full disclosure, Jones is a close friend and I admire his character as a coach, but even more as a father, husband, and man. He took a CMU program that had been through tough times, both in how the school and their former coach treated them, and held it together and rebuilt it.


Last season Jones had my vote as college coach of the year. With a startling amount of injuries, he just kept playing. He moved guys from positions where two, three, and four guys had been injured to positions they had never played before. Even with that, Jones led them to another bowl and yet again an amazing record.


Jones has better players in Mt. Pleasant that some Big Ten schools, and he has proven to be an amazing recruiter and more importantly, a great developer of talent. Very few schools can go get the complete marquee player, great coaches nowadays are made in who can develop talent. Jones has a keen eye for it like the Spartan Nation’s Mark Dantonio. In fact, their schemes may be different, but both men’s commitment to faith, family and football make them near mirror images of how they run their programs and conduct themselves.


CMU has a very good football program despite a lack of what I feel is a commitment to it from the athletic hierarchy. That is a testament to Jones who literally is cutting his teeth doing so much that is far beyond what should be required a coach of his stature. Look for Jones stature as a premier coach to only get better if a school could pry him from Mt. Pleasant as he would almost most assuredly go to a school with a better commitment to football at the administrative level.


The Chips are very young, but Jones has had them all over the country from between the hedges in Athens, Georgia last year against the #1 Bulldogs to Arizona earlier this year. Jones’ teams are solid, disciplined and committed to toughness and they will not beat themselves in Spartan Stadium on Saturday.


When MSU has the ball…

The Chips defense will attack the Spartans. They are fast. They are not the most physical defensive line in the nation and will be able to overpower the Spartan OL. If the Chips can get a pass rush without blitzing in Saturday they not only can beat MSU, but they will. That is a big if and I am convinced that they can’t.


The Spartans last week used a very bland and vanilla game plan. I was shocked, and at times angry at Spartan fans that filled my inbox with complaints like this:



I walked out of Spartan Stadium disappointed on Saturday. Our offense looked stale and predictable with almost no running game.



Unfortunately, Max’s email was not the exception. First, I would say that anyone who wanted to see MSU run more of a scheme doesn’t know football. Why show your hand? If the Spartans can get a good lead early this week be prepared for blander. Why show your arsenal if it isn’t needed? Why give Notre Dame more tape to look at showing more of your weapons?


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Second, I have to hold back laughter at anyone critical of the Spartan rushing attack. The Bobcats put eight and at times NINE men in the box to force the Spartans to pass (and they did for 318 yards and FIVE TDs) and take away a Dantonio staple which is running. Even with the critics they ran the ball with a multitude of backs for 175 yards on 40 carries for a 4.4 average. Last year Javon would have gotten all the carries and Spartans would have walked away singing his Heisman praises. Here is a hint, a 4.4 average is better than Javon had (4.0 last year) and was a great performance.


The Spartan receivers dropped eight passes and had two more that weren’t drops, but fell to the ground incomplete when the receiver ran the wrong route. In fairness, both passers had two bad passes. This week will be a good one to see how the dropped pass soap opera either gets fixed or at least addressed.


This week I expect the Spartans to put more runs specifically geared towards the QB to be installed in the game plan. That should lean towards the strengths of Keith Nichol, but that advantage for him is slight, as Cousins will surprise some people with his running talents also. Again, if the Spartans can create some separation early this could all be thrown out, as the Spartans would again want to hunker down on a lead and revert back to last week’s game plan.


This game comes down to the line of scrimmage. I don’t see the Chips having the manpower, as young as they are, being able to stop the Spartans. They will have no choice if the Spartans run more with the QBs and that will open the passing game and when that happens this one is over.



When MSU is on defense…

The Spartans are going to attack Lefevour. He is a great QB, but if he has a kryptonite it is being “forced” into decisions. Arizona last week used speed to make him make mistakes. He has a lightning quick release and a brain like a mensa super star. They have to make him not use that brain. They have to have pressure on him and to punish him physically. When he runs they have to use their aggressive attack to hit him hard. I have only seen it once with Lefevour, but when he gets pummeled physically he will think twice about tucking the ball and running.


Like any good football team you have to stop the run. Lefevour is way too good to be shut out. He will make throws and he will score points. The secret is to keep a relentless attack. I look for more of last year’s “chaos” attack where Narduzzi goes with no down lineman, and I look for Greg Jones to spend more time in the Chip backfield and on Lefevour than the back judge.


The Spartans will use a lot of the “Viper” formation, which is a 3-4 scheme and should get Adam Decker a lot of time as an outside DE. I look for CMU to try to avoid Greg Jones, and Decker should have a monster game.


The Spartans have no problem winning this game if they stop the run and get enough pressure on Lefevour. They will, but the Chips will make a valiant effort. This will be a very good football game, but in the end the Chips will not have the horses to win this race.




There are three for this game.

A)   Butch Jones has added to his staff this year former Spartan DL coach Steve Stripling. Stripling angered many Spartan fans when he jumped ship early in the JLS reign for UM. Many saw it as a slap in the face of the Spartan Nation (I agree) as he jumped for what he thought was a better opportunity. How is that choice working out for you coach? Stripling is a good coach, but certainly is not a hero in East Lansing. I know, for a fact, that there are a lot of people in the program that took his jumping ship to an archrival as a big slap in the face of the Spartan Nation and are reminding people of his act of betrayal.

B)    George Perles lost to CMU twice and told me, “It is very difficult when you play these games. All of those kids wanted to come to MSU and are so fired up and motivated that this is a real tough game and the records get thrown out for that fight.” The Chips have 52 players from Michigan and 15 others from Big Ten states. All of them think they should be here and you know that is extra motivation.

C)   The Spartans cannot play sloppy or undisciplined and win this game. Coach Dantonio has them ready, but it still is a concern with so many young players. Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartan have three sacks and gives up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus five ratio at least every game.



I look for the Spartans to establish the run forcing the Chips to have to move more men in the box and the Spartans then pulling away. The Chips, however, need to keep it close and get into the fourth quarter so their star QB Dan Lefevour can work his magic.


Coach Jones will have a great game plan, but not the horses to win this fight. Make it MSU 31 and CMU 14.