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Film Preview: Michigan State Spartans, 9/18

The Spartans head south to Miami to face the Hurricanes at noon on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Michigan State at Northwestern Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes play another home game Saturday afternoon, this time hosting the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans. MSU heads south to play The U at noon on ABC. This will be a national broadcast which I’m sure Disney is hoping to see Miami get blown out in front of a large TV audience.

The ‘Canes are 1-1 and are coming off a close call with App State, while MSU is 2-0 in year two of Mel Tucker’s regime and coming off of a blowout of FCS program Youngstown State, but also put up 38 points on a traditionally stingy Northwestern defense.

The data

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+, Miami is ranked 22nd overall while MSU is ranked 33rd. To put this into perspective App State is ranked 40th. The ‘Canes offense is 31st while MSU’s defense is 12th. However, Miami’s defense is ranked 32nd while Sparty’s offense is ranked a paltry 71st in FBS. Miami has a kicking advantage per the SP+ as they’re ranked 49th while the green are ranked 105th.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Youngstown State at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MSU QB Payton Thorne has scored six touchdowns (one rushing) while averaging 10.1 yards per passing attempt in ‘21. Running backs Kenneth Walker III and Jordan Simmons are averaging 10.7 and 6.2 yards per carry, respectively. Walker has scored five times on the ground to lead the Sparty offense.

MSU offense

Walker and Simmons aren’t the only weapons for MSU. They also have a burner of a deep threat in Jayden Reed. Reed is averaging 27.2 yards per catch with two TD’s and 32 yards per kick return so far this season.

Above- If the Hurricane linebackers and safeties don’t improve their ‘finish’ in a hurry, this could be a long afternoon. “What to do about Manny?” could quickly turn into a Clay Helton slash Lane Kiffin situation ala USC (note: Blake James doesn’t have the stones).

Above- MSU has such a solid run game their play-action game works perfectly here. Miami linebackers have been sucked in on fakes so far over two weeks and will have to look for new keys that tip a play-action pass.

Above- Attention Coach Diaz, this is a split zone play. It’s kinda like counter. MSU ran it on film in Week One. That is all.

Above- Another PAP, Thorne likes to step up and fire a good intermediate to deep throw. He’s a better passer than I expected and did some work against a good, well coached, NW defense.

Above- Thorne’s ability to pull could be trouble for Miami. He can actually read the read option and is mobile enough. Actually, most of MSU has great running form including the O-Line.

Above- The screen pass set up to their 3rd down back and behind the massive MSU line could be a dangerous weapon for Sparty. Clemson and NCSU among others have used screens against Miami’s aggressive and sloppy defense.

Above- This is starting to look and smell like those Wisconsin Badgers bowl games all over again. Walker is such a bruising back that I can’t see Gurvan Hall and Bubba Bolden being willing to make a play against the Spartans star back.

MSU defense

MSU is still working from a 4-2 type of base look. Safety Xavier Henderson has three tackles for loss, and interception and two sacks in ‘21. He’s the star of the defense so far in East Lansing. Keep an eye on Henderson as he’ll be all over the field against Miami.

Above- Northwestern tries a direct snap sweep type of play with a couple of false keys but MSU is a great spill team. Mark Dantonio might be gone but the spill technique is embedded into the MSU defensive DNA.

Above- D’Eriq King is going to have to keep his eyes up and straight ahead. He’s prone to allowing pressure up the middle to go unchecked, even with his great ability to avoid an outside rush.

Above- Sparty likes to get after the QB and Miami’s O-Line was swiss cheese against App State. Imagine what a well coached P5 will do against Garin Justice’s revolving door of linemen.


My Canyonero keys to victory from the summer were to not get beat deep by MSU’s WR’s, to stop forcing inside zone runs on ‘and short’ and to beat someone in the kicking game. Hell, if they listened to that re App State the game wouldn’t have been a near upset to a Sun Belt team.

Miami definitely struggled against the App State run, and that was with Chase Brice missing on a TD throw or two and all around being a bad college QB. MSU’s offense played well against Northwestern. Miami has a 65.7% chance to win per ESPN, and The U is favored by about a touchdown by Vegas.

Prediction: Miami by 1.