5 things I'd like to see from Michigan State this weekend against Northwestern
It’s Homecoming in East Lansing this weekend, and the game on the field is a tough one. The Spartans (3-1 and 1-0 in the Big Ten) take on a Northwestern team that’s been struggling but is still very dangerous.
Northwestern is just 1-3 and has lost three games in a row since beating Purdue in its opener. But they had Michigan in a 17-0 hole early last week before losing and they have a good history with the Spartans, having won the past two years.
Gametime is at Noon ET (TV FoxSports1), and the Spartans are favored by 10.5 points.
Here are five things I want to see from Michigan State this weekend against Northwestern:
1. Get plenty of pressure on Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson
Northwestern beat Michigan State last year when quarterback Clayton Thorson threw for 356 yards, including 69 yards and two touchdowns in overtime. He did it by sitting back in the pocket and picking Michigan State’s defense apart without much pressure. That needs to change. The Spartans have turned up the heat on QBs lately, getting 12 sacks in the past three games. It’s a good recipe for Saturday, as well.
2. Next man up has to shine on offensive line
Injuries have been such a huge issue that Michigan State has started four offensive line combinations in four games. The offensive line is a mess, and it’s shown so far this season. Standout left tackle Cole Chewins hasn’t been healthy all season, but he finally saw 21 plays last week and he’s hoping for more Saturday. Right guard Kevin Jarvis, left guard and guard/tackle Luke Campbell have all missed time. With all the shuffling and stresses on depth, the running game has struggled. You can run the ball against Northwesterm, so it will be interesting to see if the Spartans’ line can turn the corner.
3. Brian Lewerke has to have a big game mentally
It’s difficult to gauge Brian Lewerke’s season at quarterback, because he has definitely been impacted by those offensive line issues and its effect on the game plan. He’s been prone to try to do too much himself, and it’s led to some untimely turnovers. He’s had five interceptions already to just five TD passes, which isn’t what we’ve expected from him. “I’m sure you always want to have a couple back,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said about Lewerke’s play. “And given the situation, I’m sure he would’ve rather dumped it off because he was clean, he was open. But it sort of is what it is. I thought Brian Lewerke made a lot of plays in the game, thought he played pretty well.”
4. With Cody White out, new receivers need to step up
When Cody White injured his hand last week, that mean four of Michigan State’s top six receivers were out of the game. Others had to step up and they’ll need do it again this week. Sophomore Laress Nelson caught three passes for 31 yards, and senior Brandon Sowards had two catches for 29 yards. The Spartans also used sophomore Andre Welch and redshirt freshman C.J. Hayes. Who makes the big plays this weekend?
5. Patchwork secondary needs to get better
Michigan State is ranked 114th in pass defense, and with the way Thorson torched them last season, they need to have a huge game Saturday. “Coach mentioned in practice that we have to stop the pass more efficiently, so we try to bring up the level of intensity in the backfield,” cornerback Justin Layne said. Getting more pass rush has helped the past few weeks, and the numbers are actually better after getting torched for 699 yards in the first two games. Layne and the others need to keep creating turnovers to have more success.