Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Looking back at Purdue and looking ahead to Illinois (and Michigan)

 I didn't see any of the MSU/Purdue game, as I was out of town and had no access to a television. It doesn't sound like I missed much.

The game was apparently so much of a snooze fest that Big Ten Network seems to have deemed it unworthy of repeated viewings, so it's nowhere to be found in the "Big Ten Football in 60" capsule games that BTN shows the following week. Instead, we get about a dozen replays of the Indiana/Michigan shootout, in which the defenses only made sporadic appearances.

The oddest part of the MSU/Purdue game is looking at the box score. MSU had no turnovers, rushed for over 180 yards, and though Connor Cook's numbers were nowhere close to Aaron Rodgers-like, they weren't necessarily awful. Having seen only the meager highlights of a game that featured few true "highlights," it just looks like MSU must have had several drives that just staggered and sputtered.

It's disappointing from the standpoint that it looked like, after the Iowa and Indiana games, the offense had made strides, but it looks like there is still work to be done. The offense, though definitely improved from the non-conference slate, is a work in progress.

Next up is a road game against Illinois, and though the Illini were beaten fairly soundly by Wisconsin, they are still able to put points on the board (the Illini scored 32 against the Badgers), and they could give MSU a tough time on Saturday--particularly if MSU's offense continues to sputter. In addition, the Spartans have a rivalry game the following week and if MSU is caught looking ahead to Michigan, it could be an upset down at Champaign-Urbana (or Urbana-Champaign--I have no idea what that place is calling itself these days).

As far as Michigan goes--and I suppose as a fan, I am allowed to look ahead--they haven't looked good all year despite having lost only one game, but no game against them is ever a given. The Wolverines have an explosive offense that, like Illinois, is capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Devin Funchess may be one of the top tight ends in the country, and he scares me. Sure, Michigan's defense has largely been a no-show this season, and Devin Gardner erratic at best at quarterback, but that doesn't mean this will be the case on November 2. Michigan will also have two weeks to prepare.

In short, I never see the Michigan game as a guaranteed win, no matter how good (or not good) the Wolverines happen to be. But having said all that, I fully expect MSU to be jacked to the moon for this game, and Pat Narduzzi's defense will play its most intense game of the season. I just hope that it's a controlled intensity and the the Spartans don't face the same problems they did against Notre Dame, with yellow flags flying all over the field. The MSU D should make Devin Gardner's life hellish on the field and there is no reason to give Michigan a break with any stupid penalties.

But here I am getting ahead of myself. MSU needs to take care of Illinois first.

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