Air Force vs Michigan State: 5 bold predictions

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Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) is sacked by Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

5. MSU will hold Air Force to under 150 rushing yards

The Michigan State defensive line has been truly dominant and almost unblockable this season, forcing opposing offensive linemen to hold on nearly every play.

Must Read: Air Force vs Michigan State: Getting to know the Falcons

True sophomore defensive tackle Malik McDowell is looking like a future first-round draft pick, according to Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich. McDowell has been extremely disruptive and played a large role in several key stops against Oregon.

In addition to McDowell, Seniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas have elevated their games to new levels this season. Add in former Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Shilique Calhoun, and you have quite the ‘Fearsome Foursome,’ all of whom will likely be on an NFL roster someday.

It will be up to the defensive line to control the point of attack and avoid Air Force’s cut blocks, which try to take the defensive linemen out  of the play by blocking low and taking out their legs.

So how will the Spartans hold a rushing attack that averages over 400 yards per game to under 150 yards?

Besides the NFL-caliber defensive line, Michigan State has a secret weapon: Ron Burton.

Defensive line coach Ron Burton spent nine seasons with Air Force in the same position from 2003 to 2012. After facing Air Force’s triple option every day in practice for nearly a decade, Burton knows exactly how to instruct his linemen to fight off cut blocks and stay disciplined.

“That’s what the game plan is all about,” Burton said. “This game plan this week is to understand your assignment and be aggressive about it. It’s going to happen for 60 minutes and you have to be able to execute and do your job.”

Michigan State’s linebackers, which have been a pleasant surprise this season, will also play a crucial role in stopping the run.

Middle linebacker Riley Bullough already has 23 tackles and three sacks through two games, and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his 14 tackle performance against Oregon.

Riley certainly looks to be following in the footsteps of his older brother, Max, who was nicknamed “The Computer” for his remarkable ability to read offenses and align the defense accordingly.

Michigan State’s front seven held Oregon’s potent rushing game to just 123 yards on 2.9 yards per rush. Oregon had rushed for 485 yards on 8.5 yards per rush against Eastern Washington the week prior.

Things got a little easier for Michigan State’s defense when it was announced that Air Force’s starting QB would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

His backup is senior Karson Roberts, who started three games his sophomore year. Being a senior, Roberts is obviously familiar with the offense, but losing a starting quarterback is still a tough blow to the chemistry of an offense.

If the Spartans remain disciplined in their assignments, Air Force will not have the talent to rack up over 150 yards on the ground.

Next: 4. Reschke/Frey will combine for 20 tackles