Miami has a very soft schedule in 2020, but for some reason fans are penciling in a loss to the Michigan St Spartans in week 4. The Spartans , who under Mark Dantonio, always had a good running game, and an in your face defense will look different in the new year. Mel Tucker comes over after one year at Colorado, and will be tasked in rebuilding a culture that has eroded over the past few seasons. Brian Lewerke also exhausted his eligibility at QB, so they will be looking for a new signal caller to make the offense more lethal. The defense has a couple of stalwarts, and Tucker has a penchant for making a difference on that side of the ball. This will be Miami’s toughest out of conference game, but should be very winnable if the Canes show up to play.
Miami leads the all-time series 4-0, but their last meeting was in 1989 at East Lansing. Miami won a tough contest 26-20 when Caros Huerta hit a couple of late field goals to propel Miami to the victory. Craig Erickson fractured a knuckle, and Gino Torretta had to come in relief to win the game. Miami would win the National Title that season, but the Michigan St game was one of the toughest.
On offense Michigan St has been really mediocre for years, and Miami should feast on a group that doesn’t do much well. Brian Lewerke graduated leaving a big void at QB, where Junior Ricky Lombardi could have the leg up. In 2019 he was an unimpressive 7 for 21 passing with zero TDs and 2 Ints and only 74 yards. Lombardi is a kid with a big arm, and some decent athleticism, but is no lock to start for the Spartans. Payton Thorne is a rising freshman who will have a chance in fall camp to be the starter. Michigan St has 10 offensive linemen who have played during the past 2 seasons, and are headlined by Matt Allen(center) and Left Tackle AJ Acuri. Tucker has brought in OC Jay Johnson who will attempt to run a balanced set, and will have a stud in the backfield in Elijah Collins to hand the rock to. Collins ran for 968 yards on 4.5 yards per carry and can handle a big workload. Sparty lost their top 3 pass catchers, but Jalen Nailor can be explosive when healthy, and they added transfer Jayden Reed from Western Michigan.
Miami should feast on the Spartans by attacking the run game and forcing Michigan St to throw the ball. Gregory Rousseau, Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips should live in the backfield, and Miami should keep the Spartans to 17 points or less.
Defensively Michigan St is very stout, finishing in the Top 20 defensively each of the last 3 years. Miami will have to be sharp offensively against the Spartans, or they will get into a meat grinder that they don’t want. Michigan St only returns 3 starters from last year’s group, but they have one on each level of the defense and they are all good players. Jacob Panasiuk returns at defensive end, but 3 new starters will be on the line with him. Antjuan Simmons is a hair undersized, but can do everything at LB, and was the team’s leading tackler with 90 stops in 2019. Xavier Henderson is the only returning DB, and was 2nd on the team with 83 stops. Kenny Willekes is gone to the NFL so Michigan St will have a hard time replacing his 17 sacks.
Why Should Miami Win?
The Canes are just better. I attended Michigan St/Maryland in 2018, and quite frankly it was one of the worst games I had ever seen live. Michigan St has many questions on offense and they lose a ton of talent off the defensive side of the ball. Payton Thorne and Ricky Lombardi pose little threat to Miami defensively, and if the Canes stop the run, it will be tough for the Spartans to score. D’Eriq King gives Miami an added dimension that the Canes haven’t had, well ever. King and Rhett Lashlee’s uptempo offense should be able to move the ball, and if the Canes get to 21 points they will most likely win. The Spartans won only twice in 2019 when giving up 21 or more.
Why Miami Could Lose?
FIU, GT, Duke and La Tech! Those 4 games from 2019 show Miami can be beaten by anyone. There have been many cases where this program has fallen flat on their faces in moments where they thought they could show up and win. Michigan St will be the 1st physical test for the Canes and will punch Miami in the face on both lines of scrimmage. How will the Canes respond? That remains to be seen. With Covid-19, fans or lack thereof could change the home field advantage that Michigan St would have had. Michigan St has a tougher 1st 3 weeks playing a conference game vs Northwestern, traveling to BYU and a home game against Tulsa. This will be the biggest out of conference game for Sparty, and if fans are allowed, East Lansing will be rocking.
Miami will struggle early with the physicality of the game, but Michigan St will struggle with the uptempo and speed that Miami possesses. I think Miami’s defense will stymie Michigan St most of the way, and the offense will finally hit some big plays to pull away in the 2nd half.
Michigan St 17
Canes will be 4-0 after this matchup.