Wyoming takes on its second top-10 opponent this year as the Cowboys travel to East Lansing, Michigan, to face Michigan State, and to get to know the Spartans we reached out The Only Colors to get caught up with the Spartans.
1. Wyoming runs a similar style of play with wanting to be physical but Michigan State can actually put up points, so to get Wyoming fans familiar with the Spartans who are the key players on offense?
The offense begins with quarterback Connor Cook. He was one of three QBs Mark Dantonio tried on offense at the beginning of last season, and Cook won the job. He was up and down throughout 2013, but came of age in the postseason, throwing for over 300 yards in both the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl, and was offensive MVP of the latter. He leads the Big Ten in passer rating, and will be seeking out his main target, Tony Lippett. Lippett has good speed and hands, and knows how to get open. He's averaging over 19 yards a reception and has scored five touchdowns on the season.
For the running backs, Jeremy Langford is the main back. He's had some slight injury problems to begin the season, but he ended last season by rushing for 100 yards or more in eight straight games.
2. On to the Michigan State defense, Wyoming is one of the worst scoring offenses in the nation by averaging 17 points per game, so what type of defense will Michigan State bring to this game in hopes of pitching a shutout?
MSU plays out of a base 4-3, and parts of the defense haven't looked great at times this season -- there have been significantly more gaps in the secondary, which was the cause of MSU's demise against Oregon and allowed Eastern Michigan to put points on the board. I'd go into more detail, but this Grantland piece does a great job of explaining the nuts and bolts of the Spartan defense, so I'll point you towards there.
3. Wyoming likes to slow the ball down and will use a rushing attack and Michigan State has been tested against Oregon but also have completely shutdown Eastern Michigan and Jacksonville State, and Wyoming is above the latter and no where near Oregon, so what are the chances that the Cowboys can have a consistent running game on Saturday?
Not good. The one thing Michigan State has been able to do consistently save for a few big runs by Oregon is shut down the opponents' running game. The Spartans' defense is designed in part to play a lot of men close to the line of scrimmage, so Wyoming will probably find it tough sledding against MSU's front 7.
4. What are the chances that Michigan State could be overlooking Wyoming since the Spartans play a ranked Nebraska team the following week?
They could be, but I really don't think that would make a significant difference in the score. The Spartans played Minnesota in the last game of the regular season last year, a game that essentially meant nothing because the Spartans had already qualified for the Big Ten Championship game. Even though the offense was a bit rough, the defense put in a great performance and the Spartans won 14-3. So even if the Spartans are looking forward to next week (I don't think they are), I don't think it'll be visible in their performance on the field.
5. Outside of not showing up, a bus catching on fire or a return of a flu epidemic, how can Wyoming pull off this upset, or at least cover the 32-point line?
First, they're not pulling off the upset, let's make that clear. Wyoming actually ranks below Jacksonville State in the Sagarin rankings, and if Jacksonville State couldn't come close to beating MSU in East Lansing, I don't expect Wyoming to beat MSU either. They can cover the line by holding onto the ball and pick up first downs. Unlike last season, MSU has the ability in the passing game for explosive gains. They also need to get a few turnovers along the way. Indiana kept the game close last season by forcing two MSU turnovers on the Spartan side of the field, so if the Cowboys can do that, they can keep the game close enough to cover the spread.
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