It's Bulls Recon Time! We would have done one last week, but there's no McNeese State blogs out there... which is a sign you really shouldn't ever be getting crop dusted at home by McNeese State.
This week we chat with Chris Vannini of The Only Colors (as well as @CoachingBuzz on Twitter) about the Spartans of Michigan State. Their starting QB situation is in flux, and they're coming off a rather pedestrian win over Western Michigan, but they're still a 17.5 point favorite this weekend. Thanks to Chris for the time, and here's our preview of USF for them (hint: we change Skip Holtz's name to Malignant Tumor).
1. Will we see both Andrew Maxwell & Connor Cook in non-garbage time? Who will be the starter? You only had 116 yards passing last week after 37 attempts across two QB's, but didn't turn it over. Was this a case of "keep the playbook locked down until you really need it," or do they both really suck at throwing the football?
Who the hell knows what's going on. This was a four-quarterback battle going into the final week of camp, along with redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor and true freshman Damion Terry. After last week's pitiful performance with Maxwell and Cook, it looks like it's open again. I do think Maxwell starts, but I also think O'Connor gets some playing time. Cook probably plays, too. Fans are clamoring for Terry because he's the only one they haven't seen play poorly yet.
I do think (and hope) the playbook was locked down, because if it wasn't, MSU will do nothing on offense all season. MSU does not like to pass the ball down the field for whatever reason, so it'd be best if your safeties were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Will MSU open things up looking to find any success? They should.
2. You also had 42 carries for 181 yards as a team, so clearly you want establish running the football early and often. Ideally where do you want to attack a front seven? And what's Jeremy Langford's favorite type of play call as a feature back?
Week 1 was Langford's first experience as a real running back in games, so his performance was encouraging. He's supposed to be the fastest guy on the team. He's not a power guy, so he's probably better outside of the tackles, if MSU's always-injured offensive line can block for him. I was surprised MSU didn't run more last week, but I think the goal was to try to get something going in the passing game. MSU should try to run the ball more, because it was clearly more successful.
3. Defense is the calling card of your team, but which of the three units (D-line, linebackers, secondary) makes the most impact? If there's a weakness, where is it and how would you exploit it?
The linebackers have to make the biggest impact because of MSU's love of blitzing. They really mix up and disguise their blitzes, and it has been the calling card for the past two years. MSU had five sacks and nine TFLs, getting the kind of negative plays they had in 2011, but not last year. Denicos Allen is the blitz specialist on the outside, while Max Bullough controls things up the middle.
As for exploiting it, you use its aggressiveness against itself with draws, counters and screen passes. Sometimes you can catch them off-guard, but safeties are so good at diagnosing plays that they cover up in time. It's a tough defense, no doubt, and the numbers don't lie.
4. You forced four turnovers last week, including 3 INT's. Obviously we are very vulnerable to getting picked off, but is that common for your defense? Are they normally more "get a three-and-out" rather than a turnover?
It depends on the offense, probably. How smart they play and whatnot. It's better to take a sack than throw an interception. MSU's defense is about pressuring and not giving up an inch, so three-and-outs are probably more of the goal, but turnovers are obviously important. The turnovers can just be a result of that pressure, like a quarterback throwing before his receiver is ready.
5. Give us a score prediction. Go ahead and say what you really think, we won't be offended. Triple digits are ok if necessary.
Man, I just don't know what to expect from this offense. MSU's defense outscored the offense 17-9 last week, if we're being technical. Until I see this offense actually do something, I won't be confident in it. MSU hasn't scored more than 26 points in the last eight games. I'll go with 24-7, with the defense probably scoring one of those touchdowns.
Thanks to Chris and the staff at TOC, and if you're heading to East Lansing this week, be sure to check out their Visitors Guide to the city. Also get a hold of me if you want to swing by the official VoodooFive Tailgate on campus at MSU this Saturday. Remember: lots of booze is the only way you're getting through this game (and possibly this season) with your sanity, but don't drink so much you don't make it to Ann Arbor for Notre Dame-Michigan that night. Balance, friends.