Eastern Michigan (0-3) at (21) Michigan State (2-1)
Saturday, September 22, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first loss of the season, the 21st-ranked Michigan State Spartans look to regroup against winless Eastern Michigan Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.
Michigan State suffered a 20-3 loss to now No. 11 Notre Dame on Saturday night in East Lansing. The loss snapped a 15-game home winning for the Spartans, who were ranked 10th in the nation entering that matchup. Their home winning streak included a victory over the Irish in 2010 on a fake field goal in overtime.
Head coach Mark Dantonio did not mince words when describing what went wrong during his post-game remarks.
"We didn't run the football, we didn't protect the quarterback very well and we had some drops," Dantonio said. "We need to have more explosive plays on offense."
Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan enters this contest still in search of its first win of the season. The Eagles were blown out by Purdue last weekend, 54-16 to drop to 0-3. The game was tight until Purdue notched 20 unanswered points in the final 5:23 of the half to take control.
Michigan State has won all eight prior meetings in the head-to-head series, seven of which have come in East Lansing. This is the first meeting between these two teams since 2008.
Eastern Michigan has endured some struggles on both sides of the ball this season. The Eagles boast the nation's 107th-ranked offense in terms of scoring (18.7 ppg) and are 108th in total yards (309 ypg). A positive development from Saturday's loss at Purdue was that the team was finally able to move the ball on the ground, as senior tailback Dominique Sherrer finished with 73 yards on 12 carries. However, the passing game was ineffective.
Senior quarterback Alex Gillett finished the game 9-of-15 passing for a mere 66 yards and was intercepted three times. Sophomore Tyler Benz took over for Gillett in the second half and completed just 5-of-14 passes for 78 yards, although he did notch his first career rushing score late in the game.
EMU ranks dead-last in the nation in run defense (312.3 ypg) and they are giving up a staggering 40.7 points per game. The Eagles allowed six different Boilermakers to notch a rushing touchdown last weekend. Sophomore defensive back Pudge Cotton was one of the few bright spots for the Eagles defense in the loss. Cotton got his team on the board early in the second quarter when he returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown. On the second play of Purdue's next drive, Cotton recovered a fumble at the Boilermakers' 32-yard line, setting up an eventual 23-yard field goal by Mulder to make it a 13-9 game. However, that was as close as the Eagles would get the rest of the way.
The Spartans didn't put on much of a show for their home crowd against Notre Dame. In fact, it was the team's worst offensive showing at home since a 20-3 loss to Central Michigan in 1991. MSU's offense finished with only 237 total yards against the Irish. Andrew Maxwell completed only 23-of-45 passes for 187 yards, as he was sacked four times and rarely had much time in the pocket to throw the ball. Dantonio was particularly critical of his offensive line play after the game. Running back Le'Veon Bell carried 19 times for 77 yards but committed a bad turnover on a lateral late in the game with his team trying to mount a comeback.
Through three games, Michigan State ranks 102nd out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring offense (20.3 ppg). While that is certainly cause for concern, the defense has been solid. The Spartans rank 13th nationally in total defense (250.3 ypg) and 16th in scoring defense (13.3 ppg).
After not allowing a first-half touchdown in either of its first two games, Michigan State surrendered two TDs in the first half against Notre Dame. Although the Spartans did improve as the game wore on, they were not afforded much rest or favorable field position by their offensive teammates who struggled to move the ball. The Spartans held Notre Dame to a collective 3.6 yards per carry on the ground, while Irish quarterback Everett Golson finished with 178 yards and a TD on 14-of-32 passing.
This figures to be a fairly easy matchup for Michigan State, particularly coming off a tough loss. Still, the Spartans know they can ill-afford to take any opponent lightly, even a winless EMU squad.
"I think that we are at a defining moment," coach Dantonio said of his team. "We have to pick up the pieces and respond."
Look for his Spartans to do just that.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 37, Eastern Michigan 17
09/19 10:49:12 ET