Scouting Report and Prediction: Michigan State vs. South Florida Bulls
A look at this week’s opponent…
The Bulls come into the High Cathedral of the Spartan Nation with a record of 0-1 having just quit on their coach and school the previous week. They were beat up and owned by a 1-AA team and had nothing to look at and call good, other than a rushing attack that shined against a 1-AA. It was the worst possible start (other than being shutout) that Coach Willie Taggart could have dreamed about in his debut.
That said, Taggart is a very good coach who inherited a bad program. If given the time, he will do well in Tampa. This is East Lansing, and it won’t go well this Saturday.
When MSU has the ball…
I believe that MSU will begin to explore a new era. I think Mark Dantonio will bench Andrew Maxwell as he has to get a long hard look at his future and possibly his present.
I look for Connor Cook to get some good looks, but a lot of reps for redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor. O’Connor will be getting his first live game reps and the talented youngster from Lima, Ohio, will need to be allowed to learn.
He was the best high school QB that I have ever seen. He can run, he can pass, and he does it with ease. He reminds me a lot of former Spartan Drew Stanton and just like Drew, it may not always be the prettiest, but he gets the job done. I have written before that I have had MULTIPLE people inside the program use the Stanton reference when discussing O’Connor and tomorrow I fully expect he will get his chance to show that off.
I expect Cook and O’Connor to breathe some new life into the team and for MSU to run more of the read option and some other variances of the offense that were not set loose against WMU. You will see freshman WR R.J. Shelton on the field I expect. Not saying a starters role, but I do expect to see him. If so, that would be taking him out of the redshirt availability (barring an injury) and fifth year senior Bennie Fowler was demoted down the depth chart earlier this week.
With O’Connor in the game, look for MSU to take more chances down the field. It is not that those plays were not offered to Maxwell; it was that he didn’t take them (something Spartan Nation wrote about at length after the season last year).
Cook will take off much faster and try to use his legs, and O’Connor waits (just like Stanton) until the last second.
The Bulls gave up 53 to McNeese. I do not expect the Spartans to put that many up. Not because McNeese is a better team, but because I expect Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor to get all the reps. MSU has to let O’Connor do a lot, but they won’t take unnecessary risk. He has to show what he can do under adversity. They need to see him create more than create for him.
Cook and O’Connor will get ample opportunity to showcase to their head coach and the Spartan Nation that the time is now to make a change. This team needs a playmaker and more importantly, a play ORIGINATOR.
When MSU is on defense…
I fully expect domination. I imagine the Spartans will have a couple of turnovers that South Florida can convert for field goals, but not any major scoring chances. The staff has put great pressure this week on the backups to not give up late scores and I expect that the message has hit home.
The Bulls are going to line up and try to run the ball. MSU will try to stack the box and beg the dear Lord that the Bulls go to the air. The Bulls want none of that. They know that the future is full of interceptions against MSU in the air. They are trying to get out of East Lansing alive. Taggart won’t concede the game, but he knows another blowout won’t help him after last week.
Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus five ratio at least every game.
How will the Spartans respond with a new QB leading the way? Can Cook and O’Connor shine? Will Cook be on a shorter leash? When O’Connor makes a mistake, does he show that suave demeanor he did in high school and just respond in a big way or does he struggle? Watching young QBs play on Saturday will make this game worth the price of admission.
The Bulls quit last week. That is a sign of character issues that Taggart must combat in Tampa. He is a very solid coach. MSU needs to take it to the Bulls, get the crowd fired up with early success from a young QB and simply get them to sit back and take it. The sooner the Bulls quit, the better it is for MSU.
I do not believe that Taggart has a roster of quitters. Being a very good coach, does he bench people and some young guys make plays early and they get inspired? USF has a more talented roster than WMU, but I don’t think after what they showed last week, a better team than WMU. They were embarrassed. Do they respond like proud men or quitters? That will be fascinating to see. That MSU D has a way of intimidating folks and they can smell the blood in the water and it is Shark Week in the Spartan Nation.
Make it 31-9 Spartans.