Friday, September 7, 2018

Green's five things to watch for in Saturday's Michigan State/Arizona State game

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart- Getty Images
By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Fresh off wins on opening week, the Michigan State Spartans (No. 15 AP, No. 10 CSO Mock CFP) and the Arizona State Sun Devils collide in a late-night affair at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday. Here are my five things to for in this Big Ten-Pac-12 encounter.

1) N’Keal Harry:

Arizona State sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry had a coming out party in the 49-7 victory over Texas-San Antonio on Sept. 1 with 140 yards on six receptions and a pair of touchdowns.

Harry’s stats were gaudy, but the highlight was a 58-yard touchdown reception which started as a routine screen to the left off Manny Wilkins Jr’s pass. The receiver then escaped a defender and outran the UTSA defense from one side of the field to the other for the score, which garnered a lot of highlights across the country.

Expect Harry to face a more potent challenge as he will be matched up with Michigan State cornerback Justin Layne. Layne stands 6-foot-3 and used every bit of height to be physical with a Utah State receiver and got flagged for it in last Friday’s game. Expect the brash play of Layne to potentially throw off the 6-4 Harry at times.

2) Brian Lewerke’s homecoming:

It is no secret that Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke played his high-school football at Pinnacle in Phoenix and Saturday’s game will serve as a homecoming at Sun Devil Stadium.

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards praised Lewerke and his ability to adapt under pressure when most quarterbacks might crumble.

“In uncomfortable moments, [Brian] keeps his poise pretty well and makes a lot of plays outside the pocket,” Edwards said in Tuesday’s Pac-12 teleconference. “He knows the offense pretty well and doesn’t panic, which gives him a great grasp of the offense.”

3) Dry heat:

Tempe is known for its near never-ending dose of dry heat and Saturday’s game will be no different as temperatures are expected to hover around 100 degrees at kickoff. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio does not make many trips out to the west coast, but will turn to his depth and maximizing the value of each player in those conditions.

“There is a different type of heat down there and I know it will be a bit of a challenge,” Dantonio said in Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference. “I think we will be ready for those conditions. We have a lot of players back and have plenty of depth, so we will try to take that approach.”

4) Sun Devils’ dominance against Big Ten teams at home:

Arizona State’s history against Big Ten opponents have proven to be kind at Sun Devil Stadium with a 9-0 mark all-time as one of those victories came against Michigan State, 20-17 in 1986.

In order for the Sun Devils to make it a perfect 10, they will have to overcome a top 15 opponent in the Spartans. ASU has proven in recent history that it can knock off a premier team as the 13-7 win against then fifth-ranked Washington on Oct. 14, 2017 serves as proof.

5) Arizona State’s defense vs Michigan State’s offense:

The Sun Devils’ defense played lights out as they forced nine sacks in the victory against UTSA and most of the credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales. Gonzales installed the 3-3-5 defense, which saw a lot of linemen move around before the snap to keep Texas-San Antonio’s offense on its toes.

On the other hand, Michigan State’s offense looked out of sync and needed a late rally to defeat Utah State, 38-31 last Friday. Arizona State could take advantage of potential open gaps if MSU’s offensive line fails to make the proper adjustments, which could lead to a long night for Lewerke.

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