Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) over at TheOnlyColors was willing to sit down and answer some questions for us about Michigan State and his thoughts on the upcoming game.
1. So, you're six weeks into the season now. There's been struggles on offense and clinics on defense. Are both squads as good/bad as they've been made out to be?
Pretty much. The offense seemed to take huge steps forward against Iowa, but it is yet to be seen if this was a start of something new or an aberration. The Iowa game was proof, though, that MSU can win relying on the passing game if it needs to. It's also notable MSU's offense has been terrible in the red zone. So even when they do move the ball, they're not finishing. It could cost them down the road. On defense, they've been all they were hyped up to be and then some. MSU's defense is allowing 1.9 yards per rush, 22 percent on third downs and are No. 1 in passing defense. There are not any weaknesses.
2. Connor Cook appears to have finally completely grasped the starting job. He doesn't appear to be blowing anyone away though. Are Michigan State fans content with just having a guy that can manage a game without turning the ball over?
He threw an interception in the fourth quarter at Iowa, and it was the first interception thrown by an MSU quarterback this year, so he has been safe there. Against Iowa, he had to be more than a game manager. The Hawkeyes loaded the box and dared MSU to win through the air, as other teams have done, and he came through, finishing 25-for-44 for 277 yards and one touchdown. There were also many medium-level passes, which was a step up from the short passes we kept seeing. MSU was the only team in the country without an offensive play of 40-plus yards before breaking that last week. Cook was able to take advantage of single coverage on the outside, something MSU needs to do if teams are going to gear up to stop the run. For the first time, he looked like a Big Ten quarterback, and that's a good thing.
3. Tell me about the run game. Everyone talks about a bad MSU offense, but that talk always centers on the passing game. No one ever seems to mention the run. Looking at the aggregate stats for your top 2 guys it doesn't appear to be going that badly.
Fans were upset MSU got away from the run game against Notre Dame, because it was one thing that was actually working. Using multiple backs like speedy Jeremy Langford, diminutive Nick Hill and now powerful Delton Williams, MSU has been a better rushing team than last year, when Le'Veon Bell took every carry. MSU hasn't been *great* on the ground, but compared to how incompetent the pass game had been, it was the better way to go. With the emergence of the passing game last week, MSU has an opportunity for the balanced offense it wants.
4. Let's get a little more into the positives of this team. Darqueze Dennard really good or best ever at Michigan State?
I'm not going to speak on "best ever," but he's up there with some of Mark Dantonio's best defensive backs, like Chris Gamble at Ohio State and others. Dennard was a two-star recruit from Georgia who was put on the field as a freshman in 2010 due to some suspensions, made an immediate impact and hasn't looked back. He was kind of hidden as the No. 2 CB the last two years behind Johnny Adams, but he is proving himself against teams' No. 1 receivers this year. He can play physical, he's got speed and he can get the ball in the air. He has the whole package. Last year, Adams came into the season with similar hype, but fell short due to injuries and some poor play at times. Dennard hasn't fallen (yet, at least).
5. Which unit should Indiana be most afraid of on defense?
I'll say the secondary is the strongest unit, especially since Indiana will have a pass-heavy offense. That wasn't the case entering the year, but Trae Waynes has filled in great at the open corner spot replacing Adams. MSU has six interceptions on the season, and that's in a blitz-heavy offense, often leaving one-on-one coverage in the secondary. With Indiana's offense, I wouldn't be surprised to see more defensive backs in there, given how IU attacked MSU's linebackers in the passing game last year.
6. A lot of us didn't watch the Iowa-MSU game because we were busy beating the hell out of Penn State and then drinking heavily. Give us a quick sentence or two about that game.
All I can say is that MSU fans are ecstatic after that performance by Cook and the passing game. Iowa and Kinnick Stadium have always given MSU problems, and to see this maligned offense make big plays against a good Iowa defense has renewed hopes of a division title.
7. Finally, give us your prediction on Sunday's game. The line currently sits at MSU -9.5. You taking the points?
I'll never take the points with this offense. I'll say MSU wins 30-21 with a lot of field goals. I think Kevin Wilson is building a good program. It's too bad you lost to Navy, or you'd be sitting pretty for a bowl game.
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