clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Know Thy Enemy: Michigan State Spartans

Who are the 2018 Michigan State Spartans? How do they match up with the Ducks?

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

2018 Record: 7-5 (5-4)

Key Numbers + Info (2018 season)

Head Coach: Mark Dantonio

OOC Opponents: Utah State, Arizona State, Central Michigan

Points per game: 19.75

Points allowed per game: 18.0

Avg. yards per rush: 3.5

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 2.7

Avg. rush yards per game: 122

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 81.3

Rushing TDs: 14 for, 8 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 221

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 230.17

Avg. pass yards per attempt: 5.8

Avg. pass yards per attempt allowed: 6.22

Passing TDs: 12 for, 13 against

Collective Pass Completion Rate: 51%

Collective Pass Completion Rate Against: 59%

Leading Rusher: Connor Heyward (114 carries for 520 yards and 5 TDs)

Leading Receiver (receptions): Cody White (36 receptions for 491 yards and 2 TDs)

Leading Receiver (touchdowns): Felton Davis III (31 receptions for 474 yards and 4 TDs)

Leading Tackler: Joe Bachie (94 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack)

Leader in Sacks: Kenny Willekes (76 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks)


  • Sparty is surprisingly a majority passing team, passing the ball to a tune of 52 to 47 against the run on 876 snaps. Their opponents are even more pass reliant going 55 to 45 pass to run just 809 plays. They were outworked in the rushing department in three games, losing two to Ohio State and Michigan while winning against Penn State.
  • Michigan State has won the total yardage battle by a score of 4,116 to 3,738. Opponents are beating them in the pass game 2,762 to 2,652.
  • The highest point total that they have scored in a win is 38 against Utah State. The lowest that they have scored is 6 twice in losses to Ohio State and Nebraska. The most that they have given up is 31 in the win against Utah State. The least that they have given up is 9 in the loss to Nebraska.

Key prospects to watch

1. Kenny Willekes 6’4 250 EDGE Junior

- The Spartans’ best pass rusher has increased his production every year in his career. A plus athlete with an equal work ethic to match. Has developed into a fearsome pass rusher as a junior. Run defense is good. Arsenal of pass rush moves needs to be developed further. Standout athlete that gives tackles fits. Lives in the opponents’ backfield.

2. Joe Bachie 6’2 230 LB Junior

- A quintessential Sparty linebacker in that he’s well schooled in the fundamentals but is limited athletically. His football IQ has him in the right place to make the play more often than not. The leading tackler in 2018. A big hitter.

3. Raequan Williams 6’4 295 DT Junior

- Williams is the cog in the middle of the feared Sparty defense. Has increased his production every year. He doesn’t wow you athletically but is a serious defensive tackle issue for offensive lines. Makes the whole defensive line go.

Keys to an Oregon win

  • Offensive line. The much beleaguered unit must step up against a Spartans defense that is virtually impenetrable against the run, allowing a paltry 81 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. The Ducks will need to implement some quick strikes in their passing game to tire out the defense. After watching nearly every MSU game, their defense is well deserved of their traditional reputation and then some.
  • Attack the pass. The Spartans’ “weak” link is their relatively shaky secondary so Justin Herbert must exploit this weakness provided the OL can give him time to do so. The run game probably won’t work initially so the pass game will have to step up more than that they have shown this season.
  • Defense. The Spartans offense is beyond abysmal. They have 0 depth nearly everywhere, particularly along the OL and RB positions. Their QB, Brian Lewerke was once discussed as a top prospect but got exposed. While the Ducks can’t just roll out the helmets, they do have to do their due diligence. Jim Leavitt could be wise to use several blitzes to expose their horrid OL. Seriously, their offense makes the Ducks’ inconsistent offense look like the Sean McVay era Rams offense by comparison.

Keys to an Oregon loss

  • Offensive line. The OL reverts back to being the maddeningly and horrifically poor that we’ve seen most of the season at the worst possible time. The line will be up against the best front seven they have faced in 2018. Can they do anything remotely positive and carry over the good will from the Civil War?
  • Justin Herbert. He will need to step up big time to help against that awe inspiring Spartan defense. Will he be mentally sharp or just the same old inconsistent Herbert that refuses to throw the ball to anyone but 13? Mental strength / fortitude is apparently not a forte of his but needs to be for the Ducks to win. You know that saying that a QB has to win you a ball game on his own, well, this one fits.

What are the odds?

The WestGate Superbook has Oregon as 2.5 point favorites. O/U is set at 48. The money line is Oregon -135, MSU +115.

William Hill has Oregon as 2.5 point favorites. O/U is set at 48. The money line is Oregon -140, MSU +120. has Oregon as 2.5 point favorites. O/U is set at 48. The money line is Oregon -135 MSU +115

Score prediction

Oregon 24 MSU 17