Upon Further Review: A Look At MSU Football After Two Games...

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The Spartans have a lot to be excited about as they start the 2010 season 2-0.  Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

The Spartans have a lot to be excited about as they start the 2010 season 2-0. Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

A Closer Look at MSU Football After Two Games

 

The Good

  • The MSU offensive line has been stellar. I got a lot of email about them after the first game and some after FAU, but maybe folks are watching a different game than me. They look big, explosive and dominant. Sure, in an 80-play game you can see a play that could have been better, but this group has been very good.
  • Kickoffs with Kevin Muma…better than last year and frankly, very good.
  • Place kicking with Dan Conroy…Perfect. Literally. Enough said.
  • Running backs are elite. 
  • I mentioned depth a lot in the preseason so think of this. We don’t have ONE position on this team where someone could go down and MSU would be out of luck. Concerned? For sure. Out of luck? No way.
  • TE blocking has been OUTSTANDING.
  • Alex Shackleton…the best in the nation.
  • KR/PR very solid.
  • Aaron Bates is the best in the Big Ten.
  • DL against the run.
  • LBs against the run.

 

The Bad

  • DL getting pressure on the QB in passing situations. This disturbs me. UM got good pressure against ND yesterday with three. MSU has to get pressure with their DL next week to beat the Irish. Next week will tell us what we have. MSU has not revealed the 3-4 (other than a few generic looks) and they haven’t done any new blitz packages. They also have been playing teams that shouldn’t matter.
  • LB in pass coverage has not been good at all. Gordon has been very good. Others have struggled.
  • Tackling has been up and down so you have to list it as bad. This is tackle football and frankly, this team should be tackling better.
  • Dropped interceptions. This team has to get the ball from their opponent. I am VERY concerned with the lack of turnover production consistently.
  • Third down conversions are hideous. I can tell you this. If the Spartans don’t fix this they WILL HAVE A HORRID YEAR. I will address this later in my time of possession comments below.
  • Frankly speaking, Andrew Maxwell should have a lot more reps than he does right now. It isn’t fair to ask Cousins to stay 100% healthy and neither is it realistic. It also won’t be fair to ask Maxwell to play in a big time BCS program in the meatiest part of the schedule with no meaningful reps. There is no excuse for this.

 

The Inconclusive

  • I have heard a lot of people bemoaning the DB play, and I have mentioned dropped interceptions and tackling. What I don’t think people are taking into account are two major factors. MSU has kept their scheme generic and vanilla. They have kept the S back and have done NO new blitz packages. Part of staying generic is to keep ND off balance not knowing what the Spartans are bringing. If the DB is not better against the Irish then this would move from inconclusive, but I don’t think you can be fair and judge it until then.
  • Kirk Cousins. He has made two major critical errors. One against WMU when he threw a lateral and the refs helped him out, and the other the interception in the endzone against FAU. He had a very good game against WMU in which his teammates dropped six balls they should have caught. He didn’t have as good of a game against FAU and I will ask him about it on Tuesday. Cousins is the real deal, and frankly we expect a lot from him. He showed that against WMU and we need more information before we judge FAU. He had an NFL throw for a score to BJ Cunningham, but he even said after the game yesterday, “I have to play better.” 
  • Time of possession. At first glance, it is ugly. VERY ugly. As is the case so many times with first glances, those aren’t the entire story. MSU’s atrocious third down conversions of course hurt that. If you look, however many of those are third and longs and your percentage of completing those is rare. The reason this is inconclusive is because the Spartans have so many big play short drives, that they haven’t got a chance at many third and one and third and short opportunities that come with sustained drives. MSU has two ends of the teeter-totter that hurt them here. Poor third down conversions and many quick strike short drives. There isn’t enough evidence to call this good (quick strike short drives) or bad (poor third down conversions) so you have to call it inconclusive.
  • Passing game has been inconclusive. It should be better than it has been. A pound green pound mindset has contributed to that, so we need to see more. Notre Dame will make an all out attempt to stop the run, so next week will tell us a mot more.