Fresh off a strong late win against Boise State, the Michigan State Spartans hit the road to test their newly minted #11 ranking. From an offensive standpoint, things are a work in progress. From the defensive point of view, everything is looks like gravy. Now, standing in the Spartans’ way are the Central Michigan Chippewas and what is likely to be a rowdy environment at Kelly-Shorts Stadium. A Big Ten team travels to take on the MAC on their home turf in a highly anticipated interstate affair.
What must Michigan State do to survive and reach 2-0? How can Central Michigan pull a shocking upset? From the Spartan Sideline lays everything out.
Michigan State’s Key To Victory: Rev up the passing attack.
Andrew Maxwell was 22-38 for 248 yards and three interceptions against Boise State. It’s a given that Le’Veon Bell will run well, but for Michigan State to win on the road, Maxwell has to throw better against a bad defense. Central Michigan gave up 308 total yards (188 rushing) and trailed 24-10 to lowly Southeast Missouri State before pulling away in the second half, so the Spartans won’t find the same level of competition they did against Boise State. Maxwell must exploit this, especially if Bell is able to get the running game going downhill. Maxwell must to make better decisions, look at several different receivers and make confident throws. If he can, Michigan State won’t have trouble scoring no matter the environment.
Central Michigan’s Key To Victory: Keep Zurlon Tipton hot.
Tipton was the Chippewas’ best player against Southeast Missouri State, rushing for 180 yards and three touchdowns while single handily willing Central Michigan to a big win. Michigan State only allowed 37 yards rushing to Boise State, so the test will be a bit more stern for Tipton this week against a fantastic defense. Can he continue to run well against the Spartans? Central Michigan will need a similar performance this season to sustain enough offense to pull off a win. Last year, the Chippewas rushed for 21 yards against Michigan State, so the total will have to be much greater in 2012 for them to win.
Michgan State and Central Michigan Players To Watch: Tony Lippett and Ryan Radcliff.
Against Boise State, Lippett was a major reason for Maxwell’s early struggles. He fumbled, dropped passes and had a horrible game while being a featured receiver. Will Maxwell look to Lippett for a comeback performance? If so, how will he do? It’s clear he’s going to get a chance, so the play of Lippett will go a long way in determining how well Michigan State’s scuffling passing attack bounces back. If he’s focused and fired up to atone for mistakes. he could have a big game. Lippett’s talent is obvious; but now, his maturity must shine through after some adversity.
Radcliff played a decent game against Southeast Missouri State by his standards, throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown. He’ll have to manage the game in a similar (or better) way against a good defense in order to manufacture an upset. Last season, he threw two interceptions and only completed 11 passes in a loss. For the Chippewas to win, those numbers will need to improve against a tough defense. In 2009, Dan LeFevour showed what a Central Michigan quarterback has to do in order to beat Michigan State. Anything short of that from Radcliff, whether they’re the same type of player or not, will probably mean a long day for Central Michigan’s offense. This isn’t the Redhawk defense we’re taking about.
What Michigan State Must Improve: Offensive decision making.
Most of this falls on the shoulders of Maxwell, who made some poor throws while under duress in the pocket against Boise State. That led to interceptions and nearly helped the Broncos walk out of town with an upset. This is more than just a Maxwell issue, however. The Spartan receivers need to focus more and meet Maxwell halfway by catching passes and not fumbling early. There needs to be more attention to detail offensively and more focus with better decision making. This starts with the leader Maxwell, and filters down across his young receiving core. To win on the road, this will have to make a dramatic improvement.
Prediction Time: Central Michigan had a nice debut while there were several questions about Michigan State’s young quarterback and a struggling passing game. Still, at the end of the day, the Spartans are not Southeast Missouri State. Michigan State’s defense will get the job done and bottle up Tipton, and the Chippewa offense will not look like the juggernaut it was last week. Maxwell and company might still struggle a bit, but Bell will continue his dominance and Michigan State will win another laugher against Central Michigan, saddening a sellout crowd thirsting for an upset.
Michigan State 43, Central Michigan 13