Michigan State Football: A deep dive into hypothetical 2013 national title matchup

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 02: Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines is sacked by Shilique Calhoun #89 of the Michigan State Spartans as teammates Micajah Reynolds #60 and Denicos Allen #28 celebrate in the first quarter at Spartan Stadium on November 2, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 02: Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines is sacked by Shilique Calhoun #89 of the Michigan State Spartans as teammates Micajah Reynolds #60 and Denicos Allen #28 celebrate in the first quarter at Spartan Stadium on November 2, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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STATE COLLEGE, PA – NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans congratulates Jeremy Langford #33 of the Michigan State Spartans after his touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on November 29, 2014 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA – NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans congratulates Jeremy Langford #33 of the Michigan State Spartans after his touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on November 29, 2014 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Recipe for MSU success vs. Florida State

1. Time of possession

keep the offense on the field and FSU’s offense on the sideline. MSU won the time of possession battle in all but two games, averaging well over 30 minutes. Between Jeremy Langford behind the bruising MSU offensive line and the big run play potential of Delton Williams and RJ Shelton, the Spartans could keep the drive alive when they needed it most.

2. Turnovers

Jameis Winston was good for about one turnover a game against ranked opponents with a few two-interception games against No. 7 Miami and No. 20 Duke. Turnovers create a short field and make easy work for even the most average of offenses. On the flip side, Connor Cook took care of the ball, only throwing six interceptions, and only two of those coming in the last five games of the regular season. Michigan State also fumbled only 10 times all season, however, they only recovered their own fumble twice out of those 10 times. Limit turnovers and get one against Winston and the momentum shift comes up huge for the Spartans.

3. Red zone scoring

Florida State scored a touchdown or field goal on 98 percent of its red zone trips while averaging about five trips per game. Michigan State only scored points on 76 percent of their trips inside their opponents’ 20 and only got there three times a game. Even the mighty Spartans would still give up about four trips to the red zone against FSU, so let’s say they give up 20 points (minimum) in those four. Let’s also say that MSU makes their average of three trips to the red zone, but only score 10 points, getting a touchdown and field goal while staying true to their red zone percentage and missing out on one of those opportunities.

With the exception of that Notre Dame game, Michigan State won every game where Vegas considered them an underdog. The 2013 Michigan State team had the ability to punch above their weight class and hang around with the best of teams. A lot would have to go right for the Spartans to win this game, which happened a lot during the season and I could see them winning about 3-4 games if they played the Seminoles 10 times.

But in one shot, the goliath Seminoles would still win, but by the skin of their teeth, 28-24.

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