(Sports Network) - Michigan State is no longer in the national rankings and the team will be looking to take its frustration out on an opponent. That does not bode well for the Central Michigan Chippewas, who will take the field this Saturday at Spartan Stadium against the Spartans.
This will be the third straight road game for the Chippewas and coach Dan Enos is hoping for a better showing than the previous two. After claiming a 21-6 victory over South Carolina State in their opener, the Chippewas went on the road to face Kentucky and Western Michigan, and were defeated handily in both contests.
The Spartans climbed as high as 15th in the rankings, but the team did not face an equal opponent in its first two games, clobbering both Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic. The Spartans finally took on an quality foe this past weekend and the outcome was not good, as MSU got trounced by Notre Dame, 31-13. The loss led to Michigan State's exit from the top-25.
This series is closer than one might expect. Through seven games the Spartans only hold a 4-3 edge over the Chippewas. Central Michigan won the first two meetings in 1991 and 1992, followed by four straight wins for the Spartans. CMU got back into the win column in the last matchup, defeating Michigan State in thrilling fashion, 29-27.
It wasn't long ago that the Chippewas were a dangerous offensive unit, but last year the team took a major step backwards and through three games this season Central Michigan has not done much to be considered a potent unit.
Even in the team's victory over SCSU, the Chippewas tallied just 21 points on 256 total yards of production. Those are not overwhelming numbers for a team that just two years ago was averaging 33.9 ppg.
Coach Enos was hoping to see improvement from Ryan Radcliff after last season, but so far the quarterback has been mediocre at best. Through three games, Radcliff has thrown for just 678 yards and three touchdowns against four interceptions.
This past weekend Radcliff finished with 215 yards against Western Michigan, but did not throw a touchdown in the loss. The only score from the offense came from Tim Phillips, who stepped in for an injured Zurlon Tipton. Phillips was impressive in the loss, rushing for 84 yards on only 11 carries. As a team CMU finished with 147 rushing yards, and that type of success will be needed on the ground, especially while Radcliff figures things out.
Phillips will likely see more work this weekend, but he will have a tough time finding room against a Michigan State defense looking to rebound from a poor effort against Notre Dame.
The CMU defense has played well in the first two games, but against Western Michigan the Chippewas were torched through the air. CMU surrendered 355 passing yards and three touchdown passes against the Broncos and that lack of success could be exploited by Michigan State this Saturday.
Since Western Michigan had so much success through the air against the Chippewas the Broncos did not worry much about running the ball and finished with just 82 yards on 2.6 yards per attempt. However, coach Enos' squad has played well against the run, limiting opponents to just 125.3 yards per game.
The Spartans scored only 13 points in the loss to Notre Dame and coach Mark Dantonio will definitely have this offense ready to bounce back on Saturday. Quarterback Kirk Cousin enters this matchup wide-eyed after seeing the damage WMU created through the air against CMU's secondary.
So far the quarterback has thrown for 734 yards and four touchdowns on the year, and will likely look the way of B.J. Cunningham often, as the receiver is currently leading the team with 24 receptions and 361 yards.
Cousin threw for 329 yards and one score in the loss to Notre Dame, but because the team was well behind the Fighting Irish, the quarterback had to throw 53 times. Another reason for the high number is because the rushing attack did nothing against the Irish, as the Spartans finished with just 29 yards on 23 carries.
Clearly it was a lopsided effort by the Michigan State offense, but this could be an ongoing issue for the Spartans, who have trouble finding consistency on the ground. Through the first three games, the Spartans are averaging just 125.3 ypg on 3.4 yards per carry.
Edwin Baker has started all three games for Michigan State and is leading the team with 167 yards, but Le'Von Bell might be the best option out of the backfield as he comes into this weekend with 136 yards and a team-best three touchdowns.
The ground game is going to have to improve, but for this week, look for Michigan State to exploit CMU's weak secondary with a gameplan that is loaded with pass plays.
Michigan State opened the year with two lightweight opponents, which did not pose a threat to the defense. However, this past weekend the Spartans took on a Notre Dame squad that has been solid and if not for a boat-load of turnovers the Irish could possibly have entered the game with two wins, instead of two losses.
IT was the first true test for the defense and unfortunately for the faithful in East Lansing, the Spartans failed. Michigan State was not overwhelmed by Notre Dame though. In fact, the Spartans surrendered just 275 total yards.
There were some cracks up front, as the Irish finished with 114 yards and scored twice on the ground. Those were the first two rushing touchdowns allowed by Michigan State, which comes into this weekend holding opponents to just 88.0 rushing yards per contest.
The Spartans did force two turnovers in the loss, but did not get great pressure on Notre Dame's quarterback, finishing the game with one sack. It clearly wasn't the best effort for Michigan State. Look for this defense to rebound in a huge way against a much weaker Central Michigan squad.
Michigan State might have lost to Notre Dame by an 18-point margin, but the Spartans were not that bad in the matchup. Even though coach Dantonio's team dropped out of the Top-25, the Spartans should be back among the best in the country after a couple of convincing victories. One of those wins will come this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 34, Central Michigan 7