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College Football Weekend Preview: What Happened to Michigan State? What Does South Carolina Have Left? Can Johnny Football Perform Against LSU?

Here’s a look ahead at some of this week’s games. We’ll take a look at Kansas State vs. West Virginia tomorrow evening.

What happened to Sparty? Michigan State was every media member’s trendy Big Ten title pick (Not ours). A month ago the Green and White were creeping into AP top fives. Now, the Spartans may struggle to reach a bowl game. What changed from last year? Part of it is luck. This team went 8-1 in one-score games the past two seasons (Little Giants, Cousins to Nichol). Their only loss was in the Big Ten title game. This year? They are a more sensible 2-2. Beyond that, the team is much worse.

MSU’s passing game has been abysmal. Kirk Cousins was 30th in passer rating last year. Andrew Maxwell is not in the top 100. Even when his throws have the requisite touch, he has no one reliable to catch them. MSU lost its top three wide receivers from last year – Cunningham, Martin and Nichol –  who combined for 2,437 yards and 19 touchdowns. MSU’s top three wideouts this year have just 824 yards and three touchdowns combined through seven games.

Some offensive decline was expected. More worrying is the defense.  Yeah, top ten in yards allowed per play is nothing to disparage, but the Spartans are not blowing up plays this year. In 2011 MSU ranked fourth in sacks per game and 10th in tackles for loss per game. In 2012 they rank 114th and 83rd in those categories. Their two defensive ends Gholston and Rush and linebacker Denicos Allen combined for 20 sacks and 46.5 TFL last year. Seven games into this season, they have just three sacks and 13.5 TFL. MSU misses big Jerel Worthy causing a ruckus in the middle far more than most anticipated.

Can Michigan State bounce back with a strong performance against rival Michigan? Sure, but it will take much more focus and discipline than they’ve displayed thus far.

What does South Carolina have left?The SEC East Round-Robin continues. Florida had a reprieve against Vandy last week. South Carolina got beat and beat down physically by LSU, a week after a charged game against Georgia. Can they raise their game a third time in a row? It won’t be easy. Injuries are a major concern. Marcus Lattimore won’t start. Clowney has a lingering foot problem. Multiple players have missed practice with the flu. Defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles, will miss out due to suspension. Beyond that there’s the mental fatigue and the fact this game is in the Swamp. South Carolina is 15th in the country at home, averaging 7.1 yards per play. On the road, they are a different team, ranking 108th averaging 4.4 yards per play.

The great unwashed favor South Carolina with points on the road here. It’s worth noting, though, how the close score disguised a clear LSU victory. The Tigers almost doubled them over in total yardage and held them to just 34 yards on the ground. But for a few big plays, South Carolina was outplayed.

Johnny Football. He’s a quarterback. He’s popular and he’s had one hell of a month and a half. Johnny Manziel has steered the Aggies to a 5-1 record in his first six starts. He’s 10th nationally in passer rating. He has gained 676 yards on the ground. He set the SEC total yardage record and then broke it again. He’s a bonafide Heisman candidate. The question now is how he’ll perform against the nation’s No. 3 overall yards per play defense.

Florida is the closest parallel to LSU Texas A&M has faced. Manziel completed 23/30 against the Gators for 173 total yards. He also had 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The notable number, though, is 51, the number of total yards he had after Florida shut him down in the second half. He was not that great, but that was also his first start as a true freshman against a very good defense. The key for LSU will be vigilance on third downs. Manziel is lethal on scrambles, a major reason why Texas A&M is No. 1 nationally converting third downs. The Tigers held Driskel to one rushing yard, but that stat is deceptive due to sacks. The Florida QB converted three third downs for Florida on the ground and had another scramble for 10 yards that failed.

Florida State at Miami: Remember when this game was a big deal? National TV. Night game. Will anyone show up? Anyone?  (crickets)

Mind Boggling: Quarterback A is completing 70 percent of his passes, ranks 8th nationally in passer rating, ranks sixth in yards per attempt and has a 10-2 TD to INT ratio. Quarterback A is Tino Sunseri.

[Photo via Presswire]

 

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