Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Michigan State Preview Series: The Offense

I gave kind of a general overview of the Michigan State team yesterday, and today I want to look a little bit more in-depth at the offense, and how it compares to UGA.  Much like the Dawgs, MSU has a very streaky offense.  When they are clicking though, they can really put up some points.  The common theme that I pounded home yesterday was how similar these teams are in performance.  Well, here are some more offensive stats to compare:

Cousins (MSU)
Murray (UGA)
65.0% Pct 58.8%
3,016 Yds 2,861
24 TD 33
7 Int 12
151.36 Rating 146.42

1,858 Yds 2,245
4.04 Yds/Carry 4.13
19 TD 15
142.92 YPG 172.69

Total Offense
3,217 Pass Yds 2,861
1,858 Rush Yds 2,245
5.90 Yds/Play 5.69
66.2 Plays/Game 72.7
390.4 Yds/Game 413.8
30.8 Pts/Game 32.2

The Spartans have been stronger in the passing game overall, and we have been stronger in the running game overall, but at the end of the day our yards per play averages are within .21 yards of each other, and the scoring averages are less than 1.5 points apart.  Again, the schemes may not be identical, but the end results are pretty darn close.

In the passing game, the Spartans do not spread the ball around nearly as much as we do.  Their top two receivers -B.J. Cunningham & Keshawn Martin - have 72 and 62 receptions on the season, respectively.  Contrast that with UGA, who doesn't have anyone with more than 44 catches on the year, and that was from the tight end position (Charles).  So while UGA seemingly has somebody new stepping up to make plays all the time in the passing/receiving game, you pretty much know who your threats are with MSU.  That doesn't mean they are easy to stop, however.  Cunningham is a senior with a good size & speed combination who has caught 9 touchdowns in their last 4 games.  Martin is a smaller guy but with excellent quickness, and an average of 12 yards per reception.  They try to find ways to get the ball in his hands, as he has lined up at WR, RB, QB (wildcat), PR, and KR at various times this year.  Basically, he is their version of Brandon Boykin.

Outside of that, they do actually use their TE's and RB's quite a bit in the passing game as well, though they tend to use the RB's more, whereas we tend to use the TE's heavily.  On the season, their TE's have 39 total catches, compared to UGA's 53, but their RB's have 51 catches, compared to 26 by UGA.  Their philosophy seems to be similar to ours in that they like to use a close, controlled passing game for the most part, with the occasional shot downfield. 

In the running game, they have two guys, Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker, who have nearly the same number of carries on the year.  However, Bell has been the far more productive back, averaging 5.45 yds/carry, compared to 3.95 for Baker.  Bernie over Bernie's Dawg Blawg has a post from yesterday with a Michigan State blogger who breaks out the difference between the two backs far better than I could, check that out here.  From the way he talks, we can expect a pretty heavy dose of Bell, whose productivity has increased as the season has worn on, and for them to use that to build on their play action package.  This is one area of the game that does concern me.......on the season, our rushing stats are actually a good bit better than theirs, but I'm a big believer in putting more weight on recent performances and going with the trends.  UGA has some work to do then because while MSU's rushing game has been trending up towards the end of the year, ours has most certainly been trending down.  As referenced above, they also try to mix things up in the running game by putting KeShawn Martin back there (17 carries on the year), similar to how we use Boykin & Smith. 

Again, two very similar teams overall.  They get it done in slightly different ways, but both teams still want to attack you with balance, use the play action pass, and rely on their QB's to be accurate and efficient.  Outside of the number of TD's, Cousins actually has a bit better stats on the season than does Murray, but I expect both of them to come out pretty sharp in this game.  The one advantage Murray gives is his ability to make plays running the ball, which really is not a part of Cousins' game.  Despite taking 28 sacks this year, Murray still has a net positive rushing total for the season (124 yards), whereas Cousins has -62 yards despite only taking 14 sacks.

As referenced in the prior paragraph though with the high number of sacks on the year, UGA will have to find a way to keep Murray upright in this game, as the Spartan D will be bringing the heat all game long.  We'll explore their defense more hopefully tomorrow, time permitting.


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