WHEN/WHERE: Noon/Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
TV/RADIO: ESPNU/98.7 FM, 1010 AM
RECORDS: USF (0-1), Michigan State (1-0).
3 Keys to USF Victory
Dating to last season, this has evolved into a weekly theme. McNeese State quickly pulled away from USF, largely because it capitalized on mistakes. There were two Matt Floyd interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), Marcus Shaw’s fumble on USF’s 7-yard line (which instantly led to a score) and long-snapper David Burdetsky’s extremely long snap over the punter’s head (which produced a safety). More pratfalls such as that and USF has little chance to beat anyone. And the Bulls might want to avoid Michigan State senior LB Jairus Jones (Wharton High), who had two interceptions in the opener.
McNeese State 53, USF 21. Everyone at USF will remember that score. Now everyone at USF will do well to forget all about it — and move on. Eleven games remain in the regular season — including an eight-game slate in the American Athletic Conference. Willie Taggart talked about players flying around with abandon, having fun. There’s nothing to lose here. Having pressure-free fun might translate into a better result.
After last season’s defensive misery, allowing 53 points to a Football Championship Subdivision team is not exactly a way to inspire confidence. But you suspect that the crew of defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan will have much more to offer. It starts up front. The defensive line must create pressure, particularly against Michigan State, which has an uncertain quarterback situation.
USF offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive line
The Bulls did OK last week, allowing just one sack and producing 6.3 yards per carry. But USF had just 21 rushing attempts and never was able to run its preferred brand of offense. Senior RB Marcus Shaw had nice moments (12 rushes for 145 yards). The Bulls must run effectively to win — not a news flash — but Michigan State’s run defense is formidable. Under coach Mark Dantonio, the Spartans have held opponents to under 100 yards rushing on 36 occasions (45 percent). Last week, Michigan State limited Western Michigan to 11 rushing yards on 27 carries (0.4-yard average).
JOHNSTON’S PICK: Michigan State 31, USF 20
We’re guessing USF will be much improved, making a huge jump from Week 1 to Week 2. Of course, it can be argued that it’s difficult for the Bulls to be much worse. To pull an upset, the Bulls would need to play a near-perfect game and force the Spartans into mistakes. Michigan State might not be flashy, but it is fundamentally sound and able to execute a winning formula. Even great improvement from USF can’t overcome that combination.