Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MSU must overcome Georgia's size to win battle in the trenches

(This story originally appeared on

You thought Wisconsin's offensive line was big.

Now Michigan State has to prepare for an even bigger line in Georgia. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi couldn't believe it.
"Someone said they’re considered the biggest offensive line in the country," Narduzzi said. "They’re bigger than Wisconsin? Are you kidding me?"
Georgia's offensive line starters average more than 6-foot-3 in height and an incredible 329 pounds in weight. By comparison, no MSU offensive line starter weighs more than 315 and the starters average out to 301 pounds. That's some big-time size from the Bulldogs.
In a game with two pro-style offenses, the battle in the trenches will determine the winner. A year ago, Alabama's size overwhelmed the Spartans, literally pounding then into submission in the Capital One Bowl. 
This year, the Spartans seem more equipped to handle some of that SEC size, and it helps that Georgia isn't stacked with NFL-bound players like Alabama was a year ago.
Going up against that monstrous Georgia offensive line will be MSU's stout defensive front seven. The Spartans tied for seventh in the nation in sacks per game and finished 12th in rush defense. Georgia was 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and 41st in rush offense. 
The Spartans will need to time its blitzes right because Georgia likes to throw quick passes. The defensive line is going to need to get pressure on its own. The average weight of MSU's defensive line starters is 289 pounds. Three of the four are 6-foot-3 or less and William Gholston, at 6-foot-7, skews the average height.
If you do the math, Georgia's offensive line averages out to have a 40-pound edge. That means players like 6-foot-2, 250-pound Marcus Rush are going to have to try to take advantage with their speed. That's right. A Big Ten team is going to have to take advantage of an SEC team with speed.
On the other side, Georgia runs a 3-4 defense with a 351-pound nose tackle. MSU played against two 3-4 defenses in Florida Atlantic and Notre Dame. Against the Irish, the Spartans ran for just 29 yards on 23 carries. But there were injuries along the offensive line in that game. Currently, that group is playing its best football.
The size difference won't matter as much as how well State is able to pick up Georgia's blitzing linebackers. 
Also, MSU's rushing game finished 11th in the Big Ten, but averaged 171.2 yards in the last four games. 
There are no fancy spread offenses here. Trenton Robinson said Georgia has one of the simplest offenses to prepare for. But you can't prepare for an offensive line of that size. The Outback Bowl will be won in the trenches, and the Spartans will have to beat an opponent whose size they've never seen before.

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