Q&A with LSJ's Joe Rexrode
How much anticipation has MSU had for this game following the loss in 2009?
A: That's tough to say. This is a classic "sandwich" game, placed between Notre Dame and Ohio State, so it's not like the Spartans have been pointing to this week in the offseason. But they're definitely talking about that 2009 game this week. I'm sure that was a rough day for Mark Dantonio, but he probably doesn't mind it as much now because it should help him get his team's attention. The problem with the revenge thing is that most of the players who beat MSU that day don't play for CMU anymore.
How do Spartan players or fans view the CMU football program given the all-time series between these two?
A: I think players have respect and fans probably have a lot of ill feelings. I mean, 4-3, that says a lot. And just wait until next season, when MSU has a new quarterback, CMU should be better and the Spartans travel to Mount Pleasant. Older MSU fans remember the early 1990s -- and back then, losing to a MAC team was a much bigger setback than it is today.
Given the injury issues with the offensive line, what are the big concerns in regards to the MSU offense and how the CMU defense could capitalize?
That's the concern. MSU is strong at every skill spot but that doesn't matter nearly as much if you're offensive line isn't getting the job done. This will be the Spartan's third OL starting lineup in four games, with a redshirt freshman center who has yet to play a down in college. MSU has very high hopes for Travis Jackson, but that's a tough position for a second-year player. If I'm CMU, I blitz often, take some gambles, try to get some sacks and turnovers and really rattle that line.
How is the team dealing with the loss to Notre Dame? Does the fan base already feel like this season is trending toward a disappointment?
A: Well, some fans are going to panic after any loss -- or even unimpressive wins -- but I'd say there's definite cause for concern after the performance at Notre Dame. The defense was not bad but the special teams continue to suffer critical errors and the offensive line ... well, you know. The team seems pretty upset by the loss, and justifiably so. It'll be interesting to see if the Spartans can come with effort and fewer mental errors Saturday.
What concerns did the loss to Notre Dame raise about this team?
A: Again, we're going back to that offensive line. I hate to keep harping on it, but that's that concern. Of course, that was all the talk in preseason camp, too. Special teams would be the area that has been surprisingly poor. Last year, I'd argue MSU had as strong and impactful a kicking game as anyone in the country. Also at Notre Dame, the defensive line wasn't quite as disruptive as it expected to be or needs to be as the season continues.
What chance do you give CMU to win and what are the keys to the game in your eyes?
A: I give CMU a very slight chance. I think in a matchup like this you need a great quarterback playing at the highest level (as we saw with a certain QB for CMU in 2009), and the Chippewas don't appear to have that right now. I agree with you that the start of the game will be very important for CMU's confidence, and perhaps to give the Spartans a little doubt. Radcliff needs to go off, CMU needs to win big in turnover margin and the Chippewas need to batter that offensive line. That's a lot of conditions. I like MSU by about four touchdowns.
Here is the link of my answers to Joe's questions: http://noise.typepad.com/hey_joe/2011/09/lets-talk-central-michigan-and-more.html#more