MSU Rushing Attack - It Should Not Be Last In B1G

MSU Rushing Attack - It Should Not Be Last In B1G

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MSU Rushing Attack - It Should Not Be Last In B1G

Michigan State’s struggles in its rushing attack are well known to fans and experts at this point. But has anyone really looked at the fact that the Spartans are LAST in the Big Ten in rushing? It seems as if this is fixable.

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Does Rutgers (having just lost to Kansas, 55-14) have a better overall ground game than Michigan State?

Is 0-3 Purdue 80 yards-per-game better than Michigan State when it comes to rushing?

This Saturday night’s opponent for Michigan State is Indiana – are the Hoosiers 121 yards-per-game better than Michigan State is on the ground?

Illinois is currently 3rd in the Big Ten in the all-important rushing yards category with a total of 729 yards for a per-game average of 243 yards.

Maryland has averaged 239 yards rushing per game through three games.

Sometimes when the stats stare at you in the face, it becomes a bit clearer and maybe even a bit harder for some of us to accept.

SpartansWire isn’t a place where stats are the currency that makes the world of football go – but, every now and then stats can help in the telling of and understanding of the story about a team’s performance.

Through two games that has led Michigan State to a 1-1 record, the most popular topic for the experts, extremists, alarmists, pundits, moon howlers, and stat grabbers has been the Spartans’ inability to run the football the way Michigan State should be able to run the football.

The short yardage and red zone struggles have been a primary area of focus here and everywhere.

Mark Dantonio has made it known that the Spartans are, of course, acutely aware of the ground game struggles.

But has anyone really dug in on this –

Big Ten Team Rushing Statistics – 2018

RK TEAM ATT YDS YDS/A LONG TD YDS/G
1 Wisconsin 141 855 6.1 47 9 285.0
2 Ohio State 135 782 5.8 49 8 260.7
3 Illinois 144 729 5.1 43 6 243.0
4 Maryland 130 719 5.5 38 7 239.7
5 Penn State 122 713 5.8 69 14 237.7
6 Indiana 133 705 5.3 42 5 235.0
7 Purdue 83 585 7.0 76 4 195.0
8 Michigan 109 563 5.2 67 6 187.7
9 Minnesota 136 545 4.0 74 5 181.7
10 Iowa 134 521 3.9 40 7 173.7
11 Nebraska 102 516 5.1 45 3 258.0
12 Rutgers 110 437 4.0 28 4 145.7
13 Northwestern 110 351 3.2 46 7 117.0
14 Michigan State 69 228 3.3 27 2 114.0

Michigan State is dead last in the Big Ten in rushing.

Not only that, the specific yards-per-game average is about as far away from the middle of the pack as I ever was from earning Dean’s List status as a student.

Is Minnesota really 67 yards a game better than Michigan State on the ground?

Nobody would have furrowed eyebrows if Michigan State trailed Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska or Iowa in this statistical category.

But nobody is going to convince me that, in order, Northwestern, Rutgers, Iowa, Minnesota, UMAA, Purdue, Indiana, Maryland, and Illinois all have better ground games than the 2018 Michigan State Spartans.

Schedules are different, teams have played different levels of competition, and, of course, Michigan State has only played two games compared to everyone else playing three games at this point – so, there is relativity to the stats as they stand right now.

But Michigan State is last – 14th in the conference when it comes to gaining yards on the ground.

Last season, Michigan State averaged 167 yards per game on the ground – “good” for 7th in the Big Ten.

Prior to the start of this season, SpartansWire called for the Spartans to make finishing in the top five in rushing in the Big Ten part of the overall priority.

While the struggles speak for themselves, am I the only one who thinks that the 2018 Michigan State offense has more talent, better coaching, and so much more very real, very big things to play for when compared to at least 7 or 8 of the teams that are currently too far ahead of the Spartans in this statistical category for the Spartans to even have them in sight?

Let’s give credit to Illinois and Purdue and the rest of these guys for pounding the ball.

But – come on Spartans – when you look at the statistical grid up there and see all of these programs ahead of you, doesn’t that make you want to throw stuff out the window, kick something (a thing, not a part of a person’s body), bang your head into/through a wall, or at least rub your chin thoughtfully?

I don’t think anyone in Green & White has unrealistic wishes that the Spartans become the nation’s #1 rushing team.

But I also don’t think it’s unreasonable for Spartans of all stripes to think that this team is just too good to be dead last in the Big Ten when it comes to rushing.

We certainly understand that so much of this is more complicated than any of us sitting at our old-fashioned typewriters recognize.

However, when I played tackle football back before the turn of this current century, there were plenty of occasions when things boiled down to some very simple football fundamentals, particularly with regard to running with the football: toughness, focus, determination, and a mindset that included this type of thought that went through my mind as I’d be running with the football: “I’m gonna run through and over these guys and when they try to bring me down they’re going to wish they were on the sideline or in the stands because I’m going to destroy them and gain as many yards as I possibly can because I just can’t let these guys get the best of me right now….”

When those ridiculous thoughts would go through my mind, I didn’t necessarily think that I’d break loose or run over dudes en route to 67 yard touchdown runs.

But, I certainly did think that I’d turn a two-yard run into a four-yard run.

Or that I’d turn a four-yard run into a seven-yard run.

Yes, football is a complicated game in so many ways.

But it’s also not very complicated in a lot of other ways.

Am I tougher than the guy who’s trying to bring me down?

Can I do exactly what I’m supposed to do on this play so that we can gain the three yards we need for the first down?

I see that safety creeping up to the line and this play is a handoff to me and I’m supposed to run right where he is right now – I’m gonna right right over him no matter what.

This isn’t to suggest that the Spartans don’t think all of these things on every play.

But maybe when we look at the statistical grid up there and we see Maryland and Illinois and Purdue so far ahead of the Spartans it suggests that maybe there are ways to crank up the intensity and the focus and the toughness and the determination.

Michigan State has a great opportunity this Saturday night in Bloomington to show that it’s not the team with the worst running attack in the Big Ten.

Get after it, fellas.

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