Friday, September 7, 2012

Q&A with Detroit Free Press' Joe Rexrode

Here is a Q & A with Joe Rexrode, Michigan State football beat writer for The Detroit Free Press. I asked him questions as well, which can be found on his blog here.

1. With the Spartans opening up against Boise State and having Notre Dame on the docket in week three, is there any chance of Michigan State looking past its little trip to Mt. Pleasant? Or are the BCS game aspirations going to keep them focused against a team they are heavily favored against?

It's impossible to say for sure, but MSU certainly is caught between big games here. And a 45-7 win over CMU a year ago is the prevailing memory this team has of the Chippewas -- most of these Spartans had nothing to do with the 2009 home loss to Dan LeFevour and Co. That said, I'm guessing the atmosphere will actually serve to help them fight complacency. It will pump up the Chippewas but it may also remind the Spartans that they need to play. This team seems pretty focused overall and has good leadership.

2. How do you think Andrew Maxwell performed in week one? Was it a case of him shaking off some rust after throwing only 26 game passes since high school or could Michigan State have issues at the quarterback position?

I think MSU is in good shape at the position with Maxwell. He fought through some mistakes -- though only one of his three picks was purely his fault -- and played well in the fourth quarter. He threw the ball well for most of the night. Now if you want to ask if MSU has issues in the passing game, I'll pause on that. Maxwell and his receivers need to improve their chemistry, and quickly.

3. Dan Enos said Wednesday that he would not be shocked if Le'veon Bell had another 44 carries Saturday. Is there any conceivable way Mark Dantonio would allow his star running back to touch the ball that many times two weeks in a row?

If this is a close game, sure. If Bell is running like he did the other night, MSU is struggling to pass it and CMU is hanging around, I'm sure Dantonio will take everything Bell has to give. I'm sure he'd much rather give him about 20 carries, win big and let his backups get some work.

4. Is Michigan State's defense as good as advertised or did it appear better than it really is because of Boise State's issues offensively?

Well, we knew MSU's defense would be good this season -- nine starters back from a defense that ranked No. 6 in total defense in 2011. Will it be great? Two big questions are at defensive tackle and free safety, and Micajah Reynolds and Jairus Jones both looked good in those respective roles last week. Boise State was breaking in a new quarterback but was proven everywhere else, and MSU's defense gave up two short field-goal drives. The evidence we have so far tells us very good, chance to be great.

5. Where is Michigan State's biggest vulnerability in your mind? Where is an area Central Michigan could attempt to exploit and possibly have success with?

Biggest vulnerability, I have to go back to the passing game. MSU struggled to protect Maxwell at times and there were miscues in the aerial attack. So if I'm CMU, I stack the box against Bell, I gamble with a lot of blitzing, I try to force MSU into passing situations and I hope I don't get burned on the back end. With those safeties, I know I've got experience downfield. Swarm the run, get some sacks, get some turnovers and bank on Maxwell and his receivers not making me pay.

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