Breaking it down: No. 5 Michigan State vs. Western Michigan
Who: No. 5 Michigan State vs. Western Michigan
When: Friday, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Waldo Stadium, Western Michigan
Spread: Michigan State -17.5
Matchup to watch: Jarvion Franklin vs. MSU D-line
If you don’t know the name “Jarvion Franklin,” don’t worry, because you will by the end of Friday night. The Western Michigan tailback was the first ever freshman to win MAC Freshman of the Year and MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. When you go off for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns, that type of thing happens. Luckily for the Spartans, they have just the answer to contain Franklin. It’s a defensive line that might be the best in the Big Ten. Led by ends Shilique Calhoun, and Lawrence Thomas, nobody was better against the run in college football than Sparty. Add in veteran Joel Heath and future star Malik McDowell and the Spartans aren’t going to be fun for less skilled offensive lines. Franklin could have his hands full before he even crosses the line of scrimmage.
Thing I’m excited to see: Connor Cook back in action
Few offenses were as fun to watch as Michigan State’s last year. Speaking of fun, here’s a fun fact. After an Oct. 4 win against Nebraska, Cook fueled the Spartans to MINIMUM of 34 points in every contest. That includes the 20-point comeback effort in the Cotton Bowl against Baylor. That, however, was eight long months ago. It’ll be nice to see Cook and Mark Dantonio’s offense working again. The Broncos do return seven starters on defense, but only one in the secondary. As long as preseason All-Americans Jack Allen and Jack Conklin take care of the Western Michigan pass rush, Cook and the new-look skill players shouldn’t have too difficult a time dicing up the Broncos’ defensive backfield.
Number to remember: 67.9
That was Zach Terrell’s 2014 completion percentage, which was tied for sixth in the country. On top of that, he threw for 3,443 yards. Why bring up those numbers? Well, as hard as it is to believe, Sparty wasn’t exactly the “No Fly Zone” last year. In fact, Michigan State was 11th in the Big Ten against the pass. And Kurtis Drummond and Trae Waynes aren’t around anymore. Nor is defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. This is as inexperienced a unit as Mark Dantonio has had entering his ninth year in East Lansing. Terrell will try to expose the group as much as possible. But if that dominant Sparty line generates a pass rush, that inexperience will be minimized.
Prediction: Michigan State 42, Western Michigan 21
Yes, this game is a little tricky. A road game against a MAC school that returns a ton of experience isn’t exactly normal for a preseason top five team. But Dantonio won’t have his group overlooking its intrastate foe. The Broncos might make things interesting early before the Sparty defense has a chance to settle in. But once Michigan State starts dominating the line of scrimmage, the rout will be on.