MSU mailbag: Containing Wimbush is key for Spartans

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush, right, rushed for 207 yards and four scores in last week’s win over Boston College.

East Lansing — Michigan State had last week off, giving it a few extra days to prepare for Saturday’s matchup with Notre Dame, something that helped last season when the Spartans beat the Irish on the road after an off week.

Whether that helps this time around remains to be seen, but it wasn’t a week off for the mailbag.

From key matchups to freshmen redshirts and even an early peek at the Michigan game, plenty was covered in this week’s mailbag.

What is the single most important thing the Spartans have to do to beat the Irish?@LuGWit

Well, not surprisingly, it’s rarely one thing, but if you’re going to pin me down I’m gonna have to say it’s contain Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush. That means keeping the junior from beating you with his feet, something he’s done in each of Notre Dame’s victories, running for 106 yards and a touchdown against Temple before gaining 207 yards and scoring four touchdowns last week at Boston College. Containing the running game as a whole would be a good step for Michigan State as an experienced offensive line has the Irish gaining more than 330 yards a game on the ground.

But Wimbush, in particular, has been the spark to the Irish offense and he has the ability to beat you with his arm, too, though he is coming along slowly in that category, completing 51.1 percent of his passes while throwing a pair of inteceptions. The good news is this plays into Michigan State’s defensive strength and stopping the run is the primary goal most weeks. Do it this time and it will put Notre Dame in a position to win it with Wimbush’s arm, something that is far from a sure thing.

What is the single most intriguing position matchup of this game?@Adam_Burke_

Building off the fact Michigan State needs to slow the Notre Dame running attack, how the defensive line matches up with the offensive line of the Irish has a chance to be the deciding factor in the game. Notre Dame returns four starters up front, including two preseason All-American on the left side —tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. The two have helped anchor on offensive line that has led the Irish to more than 400 yards rushing in two of the first three games.

Michigan State has been solid in the middle with Raequan Williams and Mike Panansiuk playing well at tackle, rotating with redshirt freshman Naquan Jones and junior Gerald Owens while the ends have been making progress. They’ll need help from the linebacking corps, but winning the battle up front will be critical in this matchup.

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What’s up with Damion Terry? He looked awful on the few plays he was in.@Jessica96203236

Well, as long as Brian Lewerke stays healthy, it probably won’t matter all that much. Look, not every player comes in with a high rating from high school and pans out on the field. It’s not that Terry hasn’t put in the work or that he hasn’t been a great teammate. He’s done both in his five years with the Spartans and that should be noted. As to his play on the field, quite simply, he hasn’t been an accurate enough passer to see any consistent playing time. He’s a dynamic athlete who can make things happen but has never shown the accuracy to beat out others in the program.

And, of course, he’s never been able to stay healthy when he has had opportunities. So, he’s a solid backup to have — a guy who knows the offense and won’t need time getting up to speed if he’s needed in a pinch.

Why burn the redshirt of a player like (Connor) Heyward to play special teams? Especially with the RB situation next year?@sbmpj24

You answered your own question at the end. There’s a decent chance Michigan State will be counting on him to see regular playing time next season and if the staff can get his feet wet now on special teams and in spot reps here and there throughout the season, better than throwing him in with no experience next season.

Now, that hasn’t been the approach with every player throughout the years — see Madre London, who redshirted during Jeremy Langford’s senior season — but it’s one Michigan State has used often. If a freshman is good enough to play on most special teams and will have a better than good chance of playing regularly as a sophomore, he’ll play as a true freshman.

What’s the likelihood MSU pulls off a monster upset over UM?@JohnGuadez

This is jumping ahead a bit, but what the heck, it’s only two weeks from Saturday. First off, I’m not sure I’d call it a monster upset if Michigan State were to win. An upset? Sure. But monster? Not quite. Considering Michigan is far from a well-oiled machine offensively and Michigan State has played well defensively, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t be a close game. I think the key for Michigan State will be if it can move the ball consistently against a pretty solid Michigan defense.

I’d say there’s a decent chance that could happen, and if it does, the Spartans can absolutely win the game. It would be an upset, to be sure, but hardly one no one could see coming.