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MSU vs. CAL Scouting Report and Prediction

This game is the way teams should start the season. I know that this game was not scheduled by Dantonio, but he comes from the Jim Tressel coaching tree and like his mentor and (other than Becky) his best friend he loves the early test. In fact, I was talking with Mark a few months ago (after spring ball) and mentioned Izzo and Tressel's anyone, anywhere approach. He told me that he very much shares the same philosophy.


Breaking this game down is very difficult. These teams, although different in style, are both very well coached. If this game were played ten times, the home team would win six. With that said here is my break down.


How Does MSU Win?

The Spartans have to be able to run the ball and control the tempo of the game. They have to be able to sustain drives and take time off the clock. Don't get me wrong, they have to pass the ball effectively too. They must force Cal to move eight or nine into the box. If you see Cal having to do this, the Spartans will win.


Cal has a lot of talent, but they also have a lot of questions. If the Spartans are able to run, than it opens up play action and with eight in the box. The Spartan receivers are bigger and more powerful than the Bears and you will see them make plays if they are in one-on-one situations.


I have told you on many occasions the race to five analogy. The Spartans want five sack/or plus turnovers. If they have one turnover and get three from the Bears they would be plus two. Add to that three sacks and the Spartans reach the rule of five. If that happens the Spartans are in the game.


Another huge key is the ability of MSU to get pressure from their D line. As we saw with the Super Bowl Champion Giants, front four pressure can be the difference in a game against a potent offense. If they can pressure Riley with our front four, then they can use more LB's in underneath coverage. Riley is a good QB. He is still young and I don't care who you are, a young QB can get rattled. If you've watched him, he has a tendency to get rattled and make mistakes.


I think based on everything I have read and saw that the Bears are under estimating the Spartan D. Coach D and Narduzzi are specialists. Remember it was Dantonio who came up with the defensive game plan for the Buckeyes against the faster and more athletic Miami Hurricanes and we all know what happened there. The Spartan staff has pulled out and looked at those play books. They are respectful, but they aren't intimidated.


If the Spartans are able to run the ball, get pressure from the D line, and win the rule of five this will be their game.


How Cal Wins?

The Bears are able to use their incredible LB's and stop the run. If MSU has to go to the air and find themselves in third and long then turn the lights out. You are not going to out finesse Cal. They are fast. However speed can be neutralized by power.


Cal wants a game that gets into the thirties during regulation. That is a game the Spartans cannot win.

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If Cal's LB's can force MSU to the air it will be a long night. Jeff Tedford is a great coach and I am sure he has Riley having nightmares with the thoughts of Greg Jones. The Spartans would love to use Gordon and Decker in underneath coverage and let Jones chase Riley like a crazed lunatic.


The Cal Home field Advantage


Not sure if there really is one. They struggle to sell out. The Spartans are projecting 10,000 based on their sales, but we have obtained this nugget from folks in the Cal media. They sold a lot of tickets to folks in Cal and on the west coast who have never bought tickets to a Cal game before. That lends to speculation that they are MSU fans that didn't go through the MSU ticket office. Reports from Cal are that the place is crawling with the Spartan Nation and our media source told us this morning, “I wouldn't be shocked to see 15,000 or maybe more at this game for the Spartans still.”


Yes they have won 22 of the last 26 at home. That figure however isn't totally germane when you look at who they have played at home.




This is a difficult one for me. Like I said if it were a home game I would say MSU. It isn't. I remember back to something Mark Dantonio told me last year. Young players make young players mistakes. There are so many young players on the Spartans that for one game I call it Cal 21 and MSU 20.


I wouldn't be shocked with an MSU win, in fact I would love it. I just worry about mistakes and the cost that they can bring. People saying that MSU can't win are nuts. People saying that MSU will dominate them are not giving the Bears the respect that they deserve.


When I made my pre-season prediction I thought the Spartans would lose here. As the game has gotten closer I still think that. I will say this. I think this game, if it is a loss, will propel MSU to a better record than last season, and a win will take them past my eight win projection.


I, for one, love a good football game and I can't wait. This is going to be a great game between two good teams. The Spartans win or lose will represent. I know the Spartan Nation hopes I am wrong. So do I. See you in Cal. Let's all say an extra prayer hoping I am wrong. Nothing would make me happier.


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