Breaking it down: MSU on verge of non-conference benchmark
Who: Central Michigan vs. No. 2 Michigan State
When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, Michigan State
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan State -27.5
Matchup to watch: Cooper Rush vs. MSU secondary
Believe it or not, Michigan State is ranked 107th in FBS in passing yards per game allowed, and that’s including Saturday’s contest against triple-option based Air Force. The season-ending injury to Vayante Copeland didn’t help a unit that is still figuring things out. Rush, on the other hand, can sling it. He threw for 430 yards at Syracuse last week and is among the nation’s leaders in passing. If the Chippewas have any chance in this one, it might be working downfield and taking some shots deep.
Thing I’m excited for: More of Aaron Burbridge
No receiver in the B1G has been better than Burbridge this season. That diving catch in the end zone last week? Phenomenal. His two other scores weren’t bad either. It’s still hard to believe that this guy was arguably Connor Cook’s fifth-best option last year. It’s clear that the senior, who has 20 catches for 374 yards, is the go-to guy. He’s Cook’s first — and usually last — read on the deep ball. No Spartan has double-digit catches or 100 yards receiving this season. His emergence is only going to add to the productivity of R.J. Shelton and Macgarrett Kings Jr. to work the underneath routes. Burbridge should be in line for another big day against a CMU squad that hasn’t faced a wideout with his skill set yet.
Number to remember: 5
That’s how many years its been since MSU got out of non-conference play undefeated. That seems crazy given the fact that the Spartans have had double-digit wins in four of their last five seasons. The narrative of Mark Dantonio’s teams has been they’ve had that one early-season hiccup and have worked their way through it to prove they’re one of the nation’s best by season’s end. On the surface, it’s another game against an in-state MAC school that the Spartans should whoop on. In reality, it’s a chance for MSU to enter B1G play with more momentum its had in the history of the program.
Prediction: No. 2 Michigan State 42, Central Michigan 14
Speaking of believe it or not’s, MSU actually hasn’t covered a spread this season. Naturally, I’m picking Sparty to cover by .5. Despite the issues in the secondary, I think the Spartan line dominates this one and makes Rush, well, rush. Turnovers prevent CMU from keeping this one close and MSU rolls to 4-0.