MSU heads to Yankee Stadium for battle in the Big Apple

MSU takes on Wake Forest in New Era Pin Stripe bowl on Friday evening.

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Credit: Keyur Patel / Red Cedar Log (Instagram: _keyurpatel_)

Joe Dandron, Football beat writer

NEW YORK — Many things hang in the balance on Friday evening as Michigan State (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten) prepares to take on Wake Forest (8-4, 4-4 ACC) in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

The Spartans, with a loss, would fall below .500 for only the third time since the 2007 season when they went 7-6, ironically the first year Mark Dantonio took over the helm in East Lansing. 

On the other side the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest are reeling after a masterful 7-1 start in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They proceeded to go 1-3 over their last four games — losses to Clemson, Syracuse and Virginia Tech only mitigated by an eighth win over Duke.

But these two teams had very different paths this year. The Spartans had expectations to improve upon last year’s fall from grace, returning nearly all their starters. 

So, here’s a breakdown of what both teams bring to the table in the 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.

The New Era Pinstripe Bowl will kickoff at 3:20 p.m. EST at Yankee Stadium and can be viewed on ESPN. You can listen to Impact89FM’s broadcast of the action on our FM airwaves in the Greater Lansing area: WDBM 88.9 FM

Offense

Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman is projected to play, but that is still up in the air until game time. He has only thrown 10 interceptions this year, and is hoping to help the Demon Deacons win their fourth consecutive bowl game with Dave Clawson as head coach.

An offense that is 12th in the NCAA in yards per game is a force to be reckoned with. The Spartans struggled with teams that were capable of moving the football through the air. However, Wake’s leading receiver Sage Surratt is out for the season with a shoulder injury and fellow receiver Scott Washington’s availability is also in question. 

If Wake Forest is without Washington and Newman, it seems as though the Spartans may have an easier time containing what was an explosive offense for much of the year.

On the other side, MSU struggles mightily against athletic and physical secondaries. Mainly a product of the poor offensive line play and injuries throughout the team, there has been much inconsistency on the offensive side for the Green and White.

Will MSU play just Brian Lewerke at quarterback? Can Elijah Collins build off his breakout season and carry this team to a bowl victory and another 7-6 season? Those are the questions that MSU will have to answer at Yankee Stadium.

Defense

MSU’s Kenny Willekes is a man amongst boys. 

The 2019 Burlsworth Trophy award winner is amongst the top defensive linemen in not just the Big Ten but the entire NCAA. He isn’t Chase Young — granted no one is — but he wreaks havoc on offenses. 

Can he close out his storied career at Michigan State with a win and can he make the plays we saw in 2018 and early in 2019 that changed the outcomes of games?

Wake Forest will need this one to be a shootout. If the Demon Deacons can’t stop Brian Lewerke and an offense that ranks outside the top 100 in team passing efficiency and converts less than 37% of its third down attempts, then they might not be able to stop anything. 

Lewerke has little help outside of Collins and receivers Cody White, Jailen Nailor, Julian Barnett and Tre Mosley. If Wake Forest can limit those players from making a few game-breaking plays, then it will be a good day for the Demon Deacons.

Prediction: Wake Forest 21, Michigan State 10 The Spartans struggle to get into the endzone, Elijah Collins scores their only touchdown and Wake Forest falls back on the run with the noticeable injuries in the passing game. 

Joe Dandron is a football beat writer, columnist and station manager at Impact89FM. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephDandronMI or contact him at dandronj@msu.edu.