- MAUI 2010 FIELD
We’re going to Hawaii in two years.
- Ford Field bid for Final Four denied
There won’t be another Final Four in Detroit until at least 2017.
- FanHouse NCAA Hoops BlogPoll: No. 9, Purdue Boilermakers
T-Mill of Off the Tracks previews the Purdue basketball season for FanHouse.
- A room full of rivalry trophies – for how much longer?
Fighting With a Vim notes that, for the moment at least, we hold all four of our rivalry trophies.
- Dantonio best of both mentors
Harrisburg writer lavishes praise on our coach. Unclear whether Dantonio can walk on water. (Hat tip: Joe Rexrode.)
- Penn State – Michigan State Stat Comparison
Courtesy of Black Shoe Diaries. A lot more Lions than Spartans in the “Advantage” column. More on this below.
- I hate Michigan State
More BSD. Somebody hates us! You’ve gotta be good to be worth hating!
- Blue & White Roundtable :: Regular season finale
Zombie Nation wants to see lots of Evan Royster running the ball this week. We, on the other hand, don’t.
MSU big picture: Following the collapse against Ohio State, the Spartans have resumed playing at their season-long steady-Eddie level–roughly the level of the #25 team in the country. They’re currently ranked higher than #25 in the polls and computer ratings because they’ve been so consistent from game to game–and they’ve made and/or caught enough breaks to turn nine of their ten 80ish game rating performances into wins.
(Patented Spartans Weblog Game Rating System: Point differential plus opponent’s Sagarin rating plus home/away factor. Major caveats: (1) inherent small sample size of college football season, (2) final point differential may not accurately reflect game performance, (3) footballs have pointy ends and random stuff happens. Game rating of 80 is roughly equivalent to the level of the #25 team in the country.)
Penn State, meanwhile, has played above the level of a #25 team all season–and has played well above that level for the most the season. Even the loss to Iowa doesn’t look very bad in this system: a one-point loss on the road to a team that’s shown top 25 ability throughout the season (despite some close losses).
For MSU to win this game, they’re going to have to play significantly above their baseline level of performance, and they’re going to need Penn State to play at the bottom of its range of performances to date–or really lay an egg.
If you clicked on the third football link above (BSD stat comparison), you saw that the only statistical edge MSU has over the Nittany Lions is its pass defense vs. the Lions’ pass offense. It’s not a huge edge–MSU ranks 39th in the country in passing yards allowed per game, while Penn State ranks 51st in the nation in passing yards gained per game–but it’s a glimmer of hope.
And, as seen in the graph below, Penn State’s passing offense has been less efficient over the last three weeks than it had been up to that point. They’ve averaged less than 7.0 yards per pass attempt in the last three games, after having exceeded that mark in all eight of their previous games.
If MSU is to make a run at winning this game, they’ll need to force Penn State QB Daryll Clark into making some bad throws. To do that, they’ll need to overcome the fact that Penn State has only allowed 1.0 sack per game through 11 games.
And putting Clark in tough passing situations means stopping the run. To date, the only team to hold Penn State to less than 4.0 yards/rushing attempt, has been Wisconsin (numbers have been adjusted for sacks). Penn State RB Evan Royster has only carried the ball 20 times or more in one game this season (against Iowa, ironically). I’d be surprised if he doesn’t add a second 20-carry game on Saturday.
As much as Penn State’s “Spread HD” offense has generated a lot of headlines, it’s their defense that’s been the larger strength. Only one team (Ohio State) has averaged more than 8.0 yards per pass attempt against the Lions, and only one team (Michigan) has averaged more than 5.0 yards per rushing attempt against them.
There will be very little margin for error on offense for MSU. If ever there was a time to find the perfect mix of running Javon Ringer up the middle and putting Hoyer in the position to make big plays off play action, this is it. The last four weeks, Penn State has allowed its opponent to hang with them through halftime. If the Penn State offense isn’t hitting on all cylinders early in the game this week, MSU will need to take advantage of that by scoring some points early.
One final glimmer of hope: Penn State has turned the ball over five times in their last two games. If that trend continues, that would obviously go quite a ways in evening out the multiple advantages Penn State has going into this game. (Reason for worry: Penn State has forced its opponent to turn the ball over two or more times in 7 of its 11 games.)
A win on Saturday would be the defining moment of what’s already been a very successful season. But a solid performance in a loss would be no shame either; only two teams have played Penn State to within single digits this season. If MSU can play toe to toe with a top 10 team in one of the most hostile road environments in the country, that would go along way toward proving this isn’t just a team that can squeak out wins against mid-level competition but collapses against the big boys (the way we did against the Buckeyes).
Coffee Talk: What are your expectations going into Saturday’s game? What scenarios can you conjure up that would lead to a Spartan victory in Happy Valley?
Oh, and will you be rooting for our friends from Ann Arbor at noon, or following Coach Dantonio’s lead?