Early Matchup Breakdown - FAU vs. Michigan St

Posted May 23, 2011

Looking ahead at the Early Matchups - Florida Atlantic vs. Michigan State

Preview 2011

Early Matchup - FAU vs. MSU

- 2011 Michigan State Preview | 2011 Michigan State Offense
- 2011 Michigan State Defense | 2011 Michigan State Depth Chart

- 2011 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2011 Florida Atlantic Offense
- 2011 Florida Atlantic Defense | 2011 Florida Atlantic Depth Chart

Florida Atlantic
Offense: After a 2009 with a veteran attack that produced some decent numbers, the Owls had to completely rebuild parts of offense, and it showed. The pass protection was miserable and the passing game was wildly inefficient. Now the line returns all the key parts and Alfred Morris is one of the Sun Belt's best backs, but the concern is at quarterback where there are some very big, very strong bombers who have to have to fight it out for the job. David Kooi and Graham Wilbert are huge, but they need time. The receiving corps has to find a No. 1 target to replace Lester Jean, but tight end Darian Williams should be fine in place of the ultra-athletic Rob Housler.

Defense: The defense wasn't that bad finishing first in the Sun Belt against the pass, but it got blown away against the better running teams. In an effort to get even more speed and athleticism on the field, the Owls are moving to a 3-4 alignment and now several smallish defensive linemen will be in more natural linebacker spots. There's plenty of rebuilding to do, especially in the secondary, but safety Marcus Bartels is a great one to work around. The front seven should get plenty of big plays from the linebackers, especially Cory Henry who moves from end to strongside linebacker; he'll thrive with more room to move. Size isn't the issue it normally is for FAU, but the front three has to do a better job of holding up.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Alfred Morris. The Owls need either Kooi or Wilbert to be the main man, but Morris is the big, tough veteran who should be a steadying force for the offense if the line play is a bit better. Even though the running game didn't do much of anything, Morris was still able to bang out 928 yards and seven touchdowns with some workhorse performances. With a little more help from the rest of the attack, he'll be a 1,000-yard rusher.

Best defensive player: Senior FS Marcus Bartels. Way too small at only 5-9 and 170 pounds, he doesn't look like a big popper and he doesn't have the strength or bulk to be a big hitter, but he's a guided missile when he gets a beat on a ball-carrier. With 216 tackles over the last two seasons, he's a proven veteran and a leader for a changing secondary. If he does more when the ball is in the air, after making two picks and seven broken up passes, he'll deserve to get more looks on All-America lists.

Michigan State

Offense: The offense was good last year, but it wasn't quite as dominant as it might have seemed. Yes, QB Kirk Cousins is a good talent who knows what he's doing, and he spread the ball around well, but he has to cut down on his interceptions after throwing ten. The running backs rotation of Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell, and Larry Caper is strong, but the running game disappeared at times with Bell and Caper non-existent for stretches. The receiving corps should be solid with several excellent options and a potentially special tight end situation, and with Cousins under center, the passing game should be even more efficient and effective if, and it's a huge, glaring if, the line can come through. The front five was just okay last year, and it'll be good at guard, but the tackle situation is up in the air and there's a fight for the center job. Everything will work out and the passing game will be good enough to make up for a slew of problems, but the nation's 53rd ranked offense of last year might not be appreciably better even with all the returning experience.

Defense: The meltdown against Alabama put an ugly cap on a terrific year. There wasn't a pass rush and there were a few problems against the better passing teams, but the defense came up with a nice season against the run and did enough to get by. There weren't too many high-octane offenses on the schedule, but the Spartans did a nice job against Wisconsin and Michigan and shut down Illinois and Penn State. Now the defense has to replace two phenomenal linebackers in Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, but there are plenty of good, hard-hitting athletes ready to step in. The strength will be at defensive tackle where Jerel Worthy is ready for the NFL right now, and enough size and strength from the rest of the tackles to be tough against the run. Johnny White is about to become an All-America caliber corner who'll lead a good-looking secondary, but the defensive backs need help from more of a pass rush that finished 90th in the nation. The line has to do more to get into the backfield, and that means big, talented ends William Gholston and Tyler Hoover have to do more.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Kirk Cousins. He's not spectacular and he doesn't have elite skills, but he's a big, nice-armed passer who should be a top 50 NFL Draft pick if he can come up with a good senior season. He has thrown 19 picks in the last two years, he wasn't always great on third downs, and he had a few struggles at odd times, but he was one of the nation's most efficient passers, spreads the ball around well, and is accurate on his midrange throws. With a great receiving corps to work with, he should throw for more than 3,000 yards.

Best defensive player: Junior DT Jerel Worthy. The nice part for Worthy is that he doesn't have to be the big, bad, body on the interior. The Spartans are loaded with plus-sized defensive lineman, so Worth, at 6-3 and 305 pounds, can be turned loose as a playmaker in the backfield and a strong run stopper. While the projections always fluctuate wildly, Worthy has top ten overall pick talent and size, and now the pressure will be on to show that he can take his game up a notch with the scouting spotlight on. Call 2011 a multi-million dollar job interview.