Michigan State To Take Care of Business Against Lowly Bowling Green

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Rainman M.

Saturday, September 2, 2017 5:14 PM GMT

Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017 5:14 PM GMT

Bowling Green and Michigan State play their first game of the season Saturday Morning in East Lansing. Michigan State opened as 20 point favorites and oddsmakers had set the total at 56.5 points. Both numbers have since come down.

Bowling Green

Bowling Green does not have a lot of players that the average fan knows about. After all, the last Big 10 team that they faced was Ohio State--and they lost to them 77-10. They did improve last season and finished their 4-8 season with 3 straight wins. But those wins came against bottom-feeders in the MAC.

Bowling Green will hope for sophomore quarterback James Morgan to improve his consistency and overall his pass accuracy from last season. His completion % was 56 and he threw 15 interceptions. Morgan will not enjoy the same level of protection as he did last year: both starting guards and an All-Conference tackle departed. The current right tackle will also transition to left tackle. 

Morgan does have a solid group of receivers at his disposal--if he can get the ball to them.  Scott Miller is a small receiver but he has speed and route-running ability and can achieve a big play at any time. He achieved nearly 1,000 yards last season and earned a spot in the All-Mac First Team. The Falcons will continue to ride Morgan and they signed six three-star recruits at wide receiver in order to create depth and competition in the position. While Morgan struggled last season, the Falcons relied, especially on a versatile running game. Donovan Wilson was able to carry a significant workload. He is a bruising 225 pounder who is difficult to bring down. Josh Cleveland is the complete opposite-- a little man who possesses a lot of speed--and will complement him in the backfield.

Michigan State

While Bowling Green struggled against the bigger football schools that they faced--especially Ohio State and Memphis, Michigan State floundered in a 3-9 season. They did, amidst a season of crushing defeats and disappointments, take care of the weaker teams at home, which makes me think that they will by no means overlook the Falcons but be motivated to start this season off of a fresh note.

The Spartans do have a lot of problems, however, especially on the defensive side. While the returning line for the Falcons contains some question marks after offseason departures, the Spartans' pass rush last season was anemic. Not a single Spartan made the Big 10 ranking of top 40 sack leaders. That line did suffer from some unexpected early season departures and injuries and improvement won't be difficult. Hype from practice is buzzing around freshman Brandon Randle, who will help the pass rush as a defensive end. even though he is a linebacker by nature. The Spartans will feature two well-known pieces in the interior line in Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams. 

Even if Bowling Green's rush attack is able to conquer Michigan State's questionable defensive line, Michigan State's linebacking corps will be ready to plug any gaps in the line and take away the outside for the speedy Cleveland. The linebackers will comprise Sparty's biggest defensive strength. Together, they build a significant veteran presence and possess a high level of talent. Although Joe Bachie is only a sophomore, he has been sharing Randle's hype. Despite his youth, the middle linebacker reacts very well to plays, which means that his football intelligence is high, and he also enjoys significant speed and athleticism.  Bowling Green will want to run against Michigan State because Morgan already showed at the end of last season how unreliable he is. Bowling Green won its last 3 games by running the ball. But the Spartans' rush defense will build its strength.

The Spartans' biggest weakness last season was actually probably not its anemic pass rush but the secondary historically called the "No Fly Zone," for which their defense had historically been so revered. I like Bowling Green's depth and talent at wide receiver to engender opportunities against a secondary consisting of a former wide receiver, a true freshman, and two safeties who were not expected to start. But I don't trust Morgan to get the ball where it needs to. Morgan is a prototypical pocket passer who does not like to run with the ball. However, he can't pass it accurately, either. While Bowling Green will see a lot of new recruits, building chemistry takes time. Hill is extremely talented, but he's the only player that Morgan knows he can rely on. Bowling Green will want to pass on Michigan State but doesn't have the ability to do so with Morgan.

Bowling Green's defensive weakness was likewise its secondary. But one can chalk that up to a lot of key injuries, which helped younger players gain more playing time. Bowling Green's secondary should actually be its strength on defense this season, while its prior strength, its rush defense, should become its weakness. This change is great for a Sparty offense that is missing a reliable wide receiver for its hyped quarterback, Brian Lewerke, who has drawn a comparison to former Spartan great Kirk Cousins, to throw to. The key for the Spartans' offense will be LJ Scott, who is on the 2017 watch list for college football's best player and on the one for best running back. He owned Michigan and Ohio State, both ranked #2 respectively at the time, for over 130 yards a piece and should dominate a Bowling Green defense that will miss its best linebacker and does not possess the talent to exploit a very questionable Sparty offensive line.

The Verdict

Both teams will rely on their rushing attack.  Neither team really possesses the tools to take advantages of the weaknesses in the other team's secondary but each team does possess the most scoring promise in the backfield.  Bowling Green will be outmatched in East Lansing by a group of hungry Spartans who will want to start this season on a strong note on our NCAAF Picks.

I think this will be a low-scoring game but since the over/under has dropped a couple points I will happily take advantage of the spread movement.

Free NCAAF Pick: Michigan State -17Best Line Offered: Heritage

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