Mark Dantonio was all smiles and confident along side Nick Saban getting ready for the Capital One Bowl.  Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

Mark Dantonio was all smiles and confident along side Nick Saban getting ready for the Capital One Bowl. Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

 

Scouting Report and Prediction: MSU vs. Alabama

A look at this week’s opponent…

The Alabama Crimson Tide are a very good program.  I do not respect or like Saban as a human being, but he is a very good football coach.  Mark Dantonio said on Friday, “Winning this game would prove we are among the elite programs, because Alabama certainly is.”

When MSU has the ball…

The Spartans need to use the pass to set up the run.  In the last two seasons at Alabama, any team that has beaten the Tide or had any amount of success has loosened up their vaunted rush defense by going to the air.  You certainly have to be balanced, but to achieve balance against this team, it first starts in the air.

Alabama is going to attack Cousins.  They are going to stack the box and bring blitzers from all over.  They will use that pressure to stop the run and consequently get pressure on Cousins.

There is no problem with that, unless MSU is too stubborn with the run.  Yesterday, Saban said it best about MSU, “They are stubborn and will keep trying to establish the run.”  If MSU does that, they will start slow.  I look for MSU to pull out all the stops and come out with a lot of passes, short and mid range, and then try to go down the field.  At the end of the game, the Spartans will have the balance they covet, but it starts in the air for the Spartans.

Look for them to create space and plays for KMART and Fowler in reverses, and look for some Wildcat running and throwing schemes that they have not used yet this season.  If the MSU attack that came out last year in San Antonio is being used, MSU could pull away.

They need to get the highly lauded Alabama D guessing and second-guessing themselves, and a fast start will do that.

When MSU is on defense…

The Spartans have to do the same thing that Alabama does.  They need to attack and come with pressure from all over the field.  Ingram, Richardson, Jones, and the Tide athletes will make plays.  That is OK.  They just need to keep coming.  I would NEVER use Greg Jones in pass coverage.  I would have him all night coming from all over the field.  He should treat McElroy the Tide QB like a prom date and just be all over him, all game.  They have to disguise where he is.  Sometimes from the middle.  Some from the outside, some from a down lineman position. 

McElroy is a great QB.  If he gets time he will kill anyone he gets time to throw against.  Pressure stops the run, and makes him make quick decisions when he has to throw.  Here is the biggest key to this type of attack however.

The Spartans have to make tackles at the point of attack.  If you are bringing eight guys, then whoever meets Richardson or Ingram first has to make the tackle or hold on for backup.

Jones and Maze will catch the ball.  That’s fine.  Just keep them in front of you.  If the Spartans get pressure and take care of their business Bama will score, but they aren’t invincible.

Intangibles…

There is a lot of emotion in this game for MSU.  They have approached this as a business trip.  They are hungry.  They want this game and are totally prepared.  They are so emotional that if Bama gets up more than 14 points, I worry about them staying calm, and worry that they’ll keep fighting.  As long as they keep it within two scores in the first half, I think MSU will take control in the second half.

Prediction…

MSU is all business.  Mark Dantonio has reminded them all week that they are 14-point dogs, that they aren’t getting respect.  The Spartans are healthy.  They weren’t against Iowa.  This team struggled down the stretch because of injuries and youth.  They are ready.

MSU will come out and start strong, they will fight, and in the fourth quarter, they will win this game.  Make it MSU 27 and Alabama 24.