3 Keys for a Michigan State victory over Western Michigan

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Notre Dame
Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Sparty, the Michigan State Spartans mascot celebrates in the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. MSU won 36-28. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

While it took a little over a quarter of play for the Spartans to gain their footing against Bowling Green, once they did they cruised to a 35-10 victory. But if they start slow this week against the Western Michigan Broncos, they might find themselves in deep trouble.

While Michigan State began the 2017 season at home, Western Michigan traveled to Los Angeles and gave No. 4 Southern California everything they could handle in a closer-than-the-final-score 49-31 loss. Most people would agree that USC is a better football team than MSU right now, and if WMU can do that to the Trojans, what can they do to the Spartans?

Here are three things that must happen if Michigan State is to start the season 2-0.

GROUND GAME

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State
Nov 26, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) runs with the ball as Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Torrence Brown (19) defends during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions won 45-12. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Western Michigan made it a game against USC because they effectively ran the football up and down the field for a team total of 263 yards, 102 of which belonged to LeVante Bellamy on just nine carries. And while their ground game was dangerous, their passing attack was abysmal.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback John Wassink was just 11-for-22 for a measly 67 yards and one interception. In case your math is not the greatest, that’s a staggering average of three yards per attempt, and just six yards per completion. Wassink even contributed to the Bronco ground game, totaling 32 yards on seven carries

Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos gave up a whopping 521 yards of offense to the Men of Troy, 232 of them came on the ground. So part one is simple, stop Western Michigan’s rushing attack, and come at them early and often with the three-headed monster that is LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Madre London. This trio will look to improve on their 34-carry, 134-yard performance last week

SPECIAL TEAMS

When these two teams hooked up in September of 2015, the Spartans were gassed on special teams by CB/KR/PR Darius Phillips for a 100-yard touchdown return on his way to 185 return yards on just four kick returns. They do not want a repeat of that, and with Phillips doing the exact same thing to USC last week, you can bet Mark Dantonio will have it ingrained in the player’s minds just how possible that reality is.

So, if you’re Michigan State punter Jake Hartbarger, let’s keep it away from No. 4 shall we?

SURE-HANDED ‘D’

The Spartan defense played big last week against Bowling Green, converging on the Falcons with great speed and solid tackling. They will need a duplicate effort this Saturday if they want to walk out of Spartan Stadium with a victory.

Last season, Michigan State managed only 11 sacks and while last week’s showing by Wassink was nothing to write home about, you do not want to give him any confidence, so get to him with your front-four and bring him down. It’s obvious that running the ball is the Broncos’ strong point offensively. But as we all know when it comes to football, anything can happen, so do not allow Wassink any sort of confidence and make the Western Michigan offense one-dimensional, much like they did with Bowling Green in Week 1.

If the defense can bring pressure, avoid falling for trick plays, and not miss any tackles, Michigan State should be able to reign in the Broncos this Saturday.

STAFF PREDICTIONS

DSN STAFF PREDICTION
EVAN JAMES BAILEY WMU, 28-24
DANIEL DYLAN BAIR MSU, 31-17
MATT BASSIN MSU, 30-26
DON DRYSDALE WMU, 23-20
ALEXANDER MULLER MSU, 27-20
ROB OTTO MSU, 24-21
PAUL ROCHON MSU, 30-23