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Michigan State Football: Previewing MSU vs. Western Michigan

Gregory Shamus

Game time: 8 p.m. ET, Friday
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online Streaming: BTN2Go
Opponent blog:
Hustle Belt
Game Week Q&A: Here
Pete's EL Visitors Guide: Here
Line: MSU -28

It was a long, long offseason, but football is finally back, and it's time to get on the field and start hitting.

MSU opens on Friday night for the third straight year, a tradition I'd like to see continued. The opponent this year is Western Michigan and new head coach P.J. Fleck. The Broncos are coming off a 4-8 season, while MSU went 7-6. The road to redemption and Roses starts tonight. I should warn those of you going that the forecast isn't looking great.

If you haven't gone through my position-by-position breakdowns, please do. Of note on injuries, RG Jack Allen is likely out and RT Fou Fonoti likely won't start. DTs James Kittredge and Lawrence Thomas are working back from injuries. Not sure on their availability.

By the numbers:

0: The number of games as a head coach for Fleck, who is 32 years old and comes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rutgers before that.

107.41: MSU's quarterback rating as a team last season, which was No. 117 in the country.

135.25: Quarterback rating for opponents against Western Michigan last season.

274.4: Yards per game allowed by MSU's defense last season, No. 4 in the country.

439.3: Yards per game for Western Michigan's offense last season, No. 38 in the country.

5.60: Yards per play allowed by Western Michigan last season, No. 66 in the country.

67: Catches for MAC Freshman of the Year Jaime Wilson last season, but he's out with a broken ankle.

Three keys for MSU:

Turnovers: MSU is more talented and shouldn't have much trouble. But if they give free possessions to the Broncos, especially in bad areas, it could keep WMU around.

Fast start for the offense: The pressure is on this side of the ball, especially quarterback Andrew Maxwell, and people will be ready to pounce if they start with some three-and-outs. Picking up some early first downs and scores could get the ball rolling with confidence and knock WMU out.

Defense does what it does: This should be an elite unit, but they can get overaggressive and too cocky at times. I wouldn't be surprised to see WMU use a few screens early to try to catch them off-guard. It's really hard to know what WMU is going to look like from a schematic standpoint because of Fleck's inexperience.

Three keys for WMU:

Turnovers: Always key to an upset.

Win up front: MSU is dealing with some OL injuries already and has some new starters in new spots, so there's an opportunity for WMU's front seven to create some pressure. MSU struggled to protect the QB and make holes for running backs last season.

Early lead: The longer WMU is in this game, they more they'll believe. If they can keep sticking around or even take a lead, it will get Spartan Stadium nervous.

Prediction: MSU 31-7

The line is 28 points. MSU scored more than 28 just twice last season. I'll believe this offense can really bury a team when I see it. If it's raining, that could really affect things. MSU has proven nothing with its running game, and that would put pressure on them and the injured offensive line. WMU's best weapons in the receiving game are out, so I'm expecting MSU's defense to have a field day. I'm just finally excited to see this new-look offense. The potential is there, and the coaches are going to make sure 2012 doesn't happen again.

We've talked and debated enough. Let's play.

Here are some more videos to get you hyped. Feel free to add some in the comments.