Matt Charboneau covers Michigan State football and basketball for The Detroit News. We talked to him for an insight on Michigan State, which the University of Tulsa plays at 6 p.m. Friday night.
Traditionally, since it’s not what it usually faces, how does the Michigan State defense handle a fast-paced offense such as TU?
Michigan State sees some tempo during the season, but not much. Indiana, which is in the Big Ten East with MSU, often plays at a quick pace, but outside of Tulsa, that’s about it this season. Depth is the key for MSU and it has that on the defensive side. The Spartans also spent part of the week playing against three separate offenses that were running plays every 10 seconds.
Does anyone outside of the Michigan State locker room really know what to expect from the Spartan offense this season with the changes and how secretive they’ve been?
Not really. It’s been a guessing game for the most part, but believing it will be a drastic change from what the Spartans have done in the past might be stretching it. There will be some tempo and expect QB Brian Lewerke to make more plays with his feet, but MSU will still be a team that attempts to establish the run first.
TU kind of embraces the Friday night game because of the national exposure it doesn’t usually get. That’s not always the case for bigger programs, so what are Michigan State’s thoughts about playing in Friday night games?
Michigan State began the trend in the Big Ten back in 2011 simply because it drew better crowds on Friday night of the Labor Day weekend as opposed to Saturday. Now with all Big Ten teams mixing in some Friday games, it’s really become just like any other week. For the most part, the experience has been all positive at Michigan State.
Who’s a player on the offensive and defensive side of the ball TU fans should know to look out for before Friday, and why?
Junior wide receiver Cody White is Michigan State’s most complete offensive weapon. He led the Spartans in receiving yards last season despite missing four games with a broken hand and looks to build on that performance this season. On defense, take your pick. CB Josiah Scott, LB Joe Bachie, DT Raequan Williams and DE Kenny Willekes are all potential All-Americans, but Willekes is the one who can be the most disruptive to an offense.
If TU manages to pull off an upset, what would you predict was the downfall of Michigan State that TU took advantage of to make it possible?
If that happens, it means Michigan State couldn’t move the ball and the defense was forced to spend way too much time on the field. MSU gave up its share of late scores last season because it lost the time of possession battle, and if that happens again, it could wear down a defense that will likely be run ragged by the end of the game.