Breaking it down: Spartans hoping to avoid sleeper game
Who: Air Force vs. Michigan State
When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, Michigan State
Spread: MSU -26.5
Matchup to watch: Shilique Calhoun vs. triple option attack
So much pressure is put on defensive ends against the triple option. Lucky for Michigan State, it has one of the best, and most experienced, defensive ends to take on that challenge. Calhoun — assuming he’s healthy — will look to shut down Air Force’s ground attack, which has accounted for 411 yards per contest this season. Fullback D.J. Johnson has had the most success out of it this season. The Falcons will be without starting quarterback Nate Romine, who is out for the season after tearing ligaments in his knee last week. We saw what Calhoun and Co. were able to do against an Oregon team that unsuccessfully tried to spread them out. They wouldn’t mind a repeat of that effort on Saturday.
Thing I’m excited for: L.J. Scott in the second half
The freshman tailback has done nothing but impress so far and Saturday shouldn’t be any different. His two touchdowns against Oregon showed a mix of power and speed that you rarely see from true freshmen. He did his damage in the second half, which is exactly what he figures to do if and when Michigan State pulls away in this one. When the Air Force is worn down from dealing with the dominant Spartan line — even without right tackle Kodi Kieler — it’ll get a heavy dose of Scott down the stretch. Arm tackling, as Oregon found out, doesn’t work on Scott. He could be in line for the biggest day of his young career.
Number to remember: 50
That’s how many points per game the Falcons are averaging this season. It’s a four-touchdown spread, but Air Force is no slouch. The Falcons won 10 games last year and took teams out of their comfort zone. Michigan State has teed off on quarterbacks this year, but for a team that doesn’t figure to look downfield very often, it’ll be a new challenge. Mark Dantonio will have his unit ready to roll because if it isn’t, the Falcons are more than capable of hanging around.
Prediction: Michigan State 48, Air Force 14
Still, this is an ideal matchup for the Spartans. Michigan State is most vulnerable in the secondary, which is where Air Force rarely attacks. Connor Cook will be able to take some shots deep and expose a defensive backfield that hasn’t seen anything like the MSU passing game. Call it a sleeper game if you want, but the Spartans are too experienced to let anybody sneak up on them.