High-Powered Offenses Lead MSU, Northwestern
The Spartans and Wildcats have combined to average 77 points and 1,077 total yards per game.
Oct. 21, 2005
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton says he doesn't know how many points it might take to defeat Northwestern on Saturday.
But it probably will be a lot.
"(Northwestern) can go in and put up points against anybody," said Stanton, the nation's top-rated rated passer and the trigger on No. 22 Michigan State's high-powered offense. "That's kind of how we feel right now about ourselves. We're going to anticipate we have to put up a touchdown every time we touch the ball on offense."
The Spartans (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) and the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) feature two of the nation's top offenses. The statistics they have racked up are enough to trouble any defensive coordinator.
Michigan State ranks third in the nation in total offense at 548 yards per game. Northwestern is fourth at 529 yards. Only Southern Cal and Texas Tech rank higher.
Michigan State scores an average of 41.83 points per game, best in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation. Northwestern averages 35.17 points, 22nd best in the nation and fourth in the conference.
The defenses can be nearly as bad as the offenses are good.
Northwestern allows 508.5 yards per game, most in the Big Ten and the second-highest total among Division I-A football's 117 teams. The Wildcats give up an average of 35.67 points per game.
Michigan State has been significantly better than that, allowing 402.17 yards and 25.33 points per game. But giving up big plays has been a problem.
Michigan State safety Eric Smith said communication and execution will be vital for success against Northwestern.
"We see it as a challenge," he said. "We've got to get everyone on the same page defensively, and when we get there, make the tackle."
The quarterbacks are crucial to both offenses.
Stanton has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes this season for 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. Stanton airs it out for an average of 301 yards per game.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a quarterback play as efficiently or effectively as Drew Stanton," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said.
Northwestern's Brett Basanez has been spectacular as well. He has completed 66 percent of his passes for an average of 308.3 yards per game, most in the Big Ten. For the season, he has 10 touchdowns and just one interception.
"He makes a lot of happen. He lets the offense work for him," Michigan State coach John L. Smith said of Basanez. "He doesn't do anything stupid with the ball, and his statistics show that."
Both teams run versions of the spread offense, which often relies on multiple receiver formations. But both teams feature solid running attacks as well.
Northwestern freshman Tyrell Sutton ranks fifth in the nation and second in the Big Ten averaging 143.5 yards per game.
Michigan State features three backs -- Javon Ringer, Jason Teague and Jehuu Caulcrick -- to pace a ground game averaging 229.67 yards per game.
The Spartan offense should get a lift with the expected return of tackle Stefon Wheeler. He missed much of last week's Ohio State game with a rib injury.
By TIM MARTIN, The Associated Press