Michigan State: A Team Seeking Answers

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was so frustrated by the way his team played against Eastern Michigan that he channeled his inner-Drew Rosenhaus, repeatedly using the phrase, “next question” in his postgame press conference.

The Spartans were down 7-6 until there was 1:11 left in the third quarter against the winless Eagles.

Though they eventually pulled away 23-7, Michigan State’s performance still left them feeling like they’re a team looking for answers.

What Michigan State has been able to rely on so far this season is their defense and running back Le’Veon Bell.

Defensively, the Spartans have yet to allow an opponent to rack up more than 300 yards this season. (Ohio State’s worst offensive performance this year, in case you’re wondering, is 347 yards.) They are 13th in pass defense, 10th in run defense, and they’re only allowing an average of 11.75 points per game.

Over the past two games, opponents have gone a combined 3-28 on third down against the Spartans.

Pacing the Michigan State offense is Bell, who has already carried the ball 117 times this season, more than all but Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson (122 carries). He rushed for a career-high 253 yards against EMU, and took over as the team’s primary punt returner during that same game.

Overall, Bell is ranked third nationally in rushing, posting an average of 153 yards every time out.

However, outside Bell, there are some question marks. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell is a first-year starter with 4 career touchdowns and three interceptions. Having said that, he’s also third in the Big Ten in passing yards/game (217.2) and fifth in total offense (851 yards).

Dantonio has expressed disappointment in his receivers’ ability to catch the ball. They had six drops in their most recent win. Their leading pass catcher is actually their tight end, Dion Sims.

As for their offensive line? They start three underclassmen (a redshirt freshman and two sophomores), but they are big (averaging 6’4″, 295 pounds) and have only given up 4 sacks this season.

ESPN College GameDay will be in East Lansing when the Buckeyes come to town this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

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