This team is interesting. It has so much firepower: the second quarter explosion at Oregon, the three-quarter domination vs. Nebraska, the third-quarter surge at Purdue. Michigan State currently ranks fourth nationally in scoring at 45.5 points per game.
The problem is the 4th quarter. Against decent competition this fall, Michigan State has faltered after its scoring explosion, being outscored 47-7 against these same teams in the final stanza. This differs greatly from last year's squad, which outscored teams 112-30 in the fourth quarter over the season.
Yes, the Spartans have given up more points in the 4th quarter during six games this year than in all of 14 games last year. Ahem, that's a problem.
On the other hand, this season's Michigan State team has already scored 245 points through the first three quarters in just six games, which is on pace to nearly double last year's team which scored 299 points through the first three quarters during the 14-game season. And, the 80 points against the Big Green D over the first three quarters so far this season is only about half of the 155 given up in all of last year.
Here is the comparison, MSU scoring 2013 vs 2014
GP (Games Played), Q (Quarter)
|GP||Q 1-3||Q 4|
The stats don't lie. The MSU scoring offense is far more explosive and efficient than last year's squad. And the defense is not as stingy. But, can these forces equate to more wins in 2014? It seems to be a dicey game - and one that has proved victorious in competition against teams from non-interesting locations (West Lafayette, Laramie, Lincoln); but there is work to do to shore up the game when playing Ohio State, and/or the potential B1G title game.
What is also impressive is that this Michigan State team is dictating the game more often than not, leading the nation in Time of Possession, with 35:52 per game. That is very impressive of a team that is also #17 in Total Offense at 502.3 yards per game... but, moreover: #2 in the country in Turnover Margin, at 1.83 per game; #5 in Rushing Defense at 81.5 yards per game; and #12 overall in defense at 304.2 yards per game.
In other words, statistically this team is very very stout. The problem is this 4th quarter hiccup in the three games... otherwise, MSU would likely lead in every single statistical category in the nation.
Shoring up the defense in the 4th quarter, completing passes on third downs in the 4th quarter, and not trying a fake-punt in our own territory in the 4th quarter would go a long way toward a greater statistical advantage... and less nausea. Furthermore, MSU showed poor form with the young LB Riley Bullough (#30) out of position on a 52-yard TD run by the Boiler's Akeem Hunt; as well as the once-again-close-but-no-cigar, 4th-quarter phantom-INT by Kurtis Drummond that led to a 12-yd first down completion on a TD drive by Purdue.
But, it is a game of inches. And, vs both Nebraska and Purdue, the defense picked off passes late in the game that were definitive in the Spartan victories.
This week, our Michigan State team has another good test to get its act in order vs a high-flying Indiana team. Let's see if they can settle down, again score early but for once put the game away early in the 4th quarter and keep the Hoosiers at bay. Here's the USA Today poll for you to enjoy...