Friday, September 14, 2012
Who will transform tomorrow?
By Brian Bennett
Each Friday during the season, we'll be taking a look at a Big Ten player to watch when the games kick off Saturday.
This week's selection: Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell
Saturday assignment: home vs. Notre Dame, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Michigan State is the Big Ten's last hope for a BCS title contender this season, and Maxwell is the guy under the most pressure to deliver. After a sometimes shaky opening performance against Boise State (22-for-38 for 248 yards passing, but three interceptions), the redshirt junior had a confidence-building day last week at Central Michigan, when he threw for 275 yards and two scores, with no picks.
There's little doubt that Notre Dame's game plan will be to try and stop running back Le'Veon Bell and make Maxwell win it through the air. The Irish have a strong front seven, led by imposing defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and All-America linebacker Manti Te'o, and they'll likely try to put as much pressure as possible on the Spartans' quarterback. This will be the best and most experienced defense Maxwell has seen, as Boise State was breaking in all new starters in its front seven. But the Irish can be exploited in the secondary, so there should be big plays available, especially on play-action, if Maxwell can connect with receivers like Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett and tight end Dion Sims.
If so, Michigan State has a great chance to win the game. If Maxwell struggles, the Big Ten might be out of national title contenders.