Stanford Offense vs. Michigan State Defense

Cajuste may be the offensive X-factor

David Lombardi and Sam Fisher check in from Los Angeles with their first comprehensive 45-minute radio preview of the 100th Rose Bowl. This one breaks down the match-up between the Stanford offense and the Michigan State defense. Also, check out the Cardinal's second day in Southern California.

Representatives from Stanford's offense met the media at the Rose Bowl media hotel on Friday after Michigan State's defensive delegation spoke. Cardinal offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren even wore Google Glasses (fitted with a camera) to the podium, bringing back memories of the Farm Boys' press conference following their November 7 win over Oregon.

"It's a way for me to pay homage to Nerd Nation," he said. "I kind of wanted to flip the camera back on these reporters. They're not used to that. So I've got it back on them, so if they misspeak or if they basically go on a 30 or 60-second rant like some coaches do up here at the podium, we're going to put them on SportsCenter."

All joking aside, Stanford's representatives talked about the challenges of facing Michigan State's stout defense on January 1. The Spartans have surrendered only 3.94 yards per play (best in the nation) and 12.7 points per game (fourth). Coordinator Pat Narduzzi's squad has given up 19 touchdowns but scored five of its own, meaning that it has surrendered a net of only 14 touchdowns in 13 games.

Whereas Stanford's defense most resembles the bone-crunching trash compactor from the first 'Star Wars' movie, the Spartans' smaller 4-3 unit attacks in missile-like fashion to wreak similar havoc in the backfield. Since middle linebacker Max Bullough won't play (violation of team rules), Michigan State will rely even more heavily on pass rush specialist Shilique Calhoun (6-4, 250 pounds), outside linebacker Denicos Allen (5-11, 218 pounds), superstar cornerback Darqueze Dennard, safety Isaiah Lewis, and safety Kurtis Drummond.

To combat Michigan State's aggressive, disciplined style, which involves linebackers and even safeties frequently crashing toward the line of scrimmage, Bloomgren has been preaching 'AAA' to his Stanford offense: Alignment, Assignment, Adjustment.

"They can put more guys in the box and still cover downfield," he said.

That means that Stanford's pool of wide receiver talent may come in particularly handy in the 100th Rose Bowl. A healthy Devon Cajuste, who torched Arizona State's aggressiveness in the Pac-12 title game, may see more opportunities in this one.

Be sure to listen to our full breakdown of the Stanford offense-Michigan State defense match-up. As Rose Bowl week progresses, we'll post more exclusive preview audio content.

Today's Activities: Stanford at the Rose Bowl
After the morning press conference, the Cardinal practiced at the StubHub Center for the first time before heading to the comedy club. There are rumors that at least one of Stanford's weekend practices will be open to the public, though no formal announcement has been made yet. Stay tuned.

David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.

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