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Week 2: 5 Matchups to Watch for Western Michigan versus Michigan State

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NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans are coming off of a dominating performance against Bowling Green, for the most part. This week, the Spartans take on yet another Mid-American Conference foe in Western Michigan, but WMU is likely to be a much more formidable opponent.

The Broncos traveled to southern California in Week 1, and gave the No. 4 ranked USC Trojans all they could handle. The Broncos and Trojans were tied at 21 points a piece heading into the fourth quarter, and WMU kept pace with its Pac-12 opponent until late in the game, but USC would eventually win by a score of 49 to 31.

The Spartans definitely have their work cut out for them in Week 2, and head coach Mark Dantonio is well aware of the potential challenges his team is facing. He had nothing but praise for the Kalamazoo University.

So, then, what should the Spartans be looking out for this Saturday in Spartan Stadium? Here are five key matchups to watch.

1. Struggling QB Jon Wassink versus young MSU secondary

It was painfully evident for the Broncos in Week 1 that Zach Terrell and Corey Davis have moved on from the program. While Western fared well overall last week, Wassink did not have a great showing, or not even a mediocre one. The redshirt sophomore completed just 50 percent of his passes (11 of 22) for 67 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He averaged just three yards per attempt. He did score a pair of touchdowns, though (one rush, one reception).

Meanwhile, the young MSU secondary played pretty well against Bowling Green. Dantonio said he was pleased with their effort, but it wasn’t perfect. Josh Butler was torched on a 45-yard reception and Bowling Green was able to get one-on-one matchups. But they weren’t able to convert much with those. Tyson Smith had a pick-six and Justin Layne played well.

Advantage: MSU

2. Kick returner Darius Phillips versus MSU special teams

Cornerback Darius Phillips is an electrifying return man for the Broncos. He took a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against the Trojans and (though there’s an outlier here) averaged 42 yards per return on four attempts. Phillips still haunts Dantonio’s dreams.

When the two teams last faced off in 2015, Phillips took the opening kickoff 70 yards deep into Spartans’ territory. He later returned a kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown. The Michigan State kickoff team and punt team needs to stay disciplined, do their jobs and make sure that Phillips is not a factor in this game.

Advantage: WMU

3. Brotherly Love: Trishton Jackson versus Obbie Jackson

Michigan State sophomore wide receiver Trishton Jackson will potentially be lining up against a familiar foe. Perhaps familiar is an understatement. Trishton’s older brother, Obbie Jackson, is a starting cornerback for Western Michigan. The former West Bloomfield High School teammates will get a chance to face off against each other.

Trishton wants to score on Obbie. Obbie will focus on locking down his little brother and any other Michigan State wide outs he sees. Though Trishton obviously knows his brother’s tendencies, he been watching film on him for extra preparation. This should be the most fun matchup to watch on the field this Saturday.

Advantage: Even

4. Western Michigan running game versus Michigan State front seven

Simply put, the Broncos ran all over the highly touted USC front seven last weekend. As a team, WMU rushed for 263 yards on 48 carries, averaging 5.5 yards per tote. The Broncos’ ground game also got them in the end zone twice. Sophomore running back LaVante Bellamy led the way with 102 yards on just nine carries, which averages out to a ridiculous 11.3 yards per carry. Junior Jamauri Bogan had 77 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, while Wassink ran in the other score on the ground.

Michigan State’s front seven is young, especially on the defensive line. It is not as vaunted as the USC defense, but it will need to defend the run a lot better if the Spartans want a shot at winning this game. MSU rotated several players on the interior of the defensive line in Week 1 and those players will need to eat up gaps and clog the running lanes against the Broncos.

Advantage: WMU

5. Michigan State rushing attack versus Western Michigan defense

As impressive as the Western Michigan rushing attack was on offense, its rushing defense was as equally unimpressive. The Trojans carved up the Broncos on the ground, galloping for 232 yards on 34 attempts (6.8 yards per attempt) and a ridiculous six touchdowns. USC’s Ronald Jones II lead the way with 159 yards and three touchdowns.

MSU has one of the most capable backfields in the country with L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London. Scott struggled in the opening game, fumbling twice and amassing just 39 yards, but I don’t expect that trend to continue. Holmes and London both averaged more than four yards per carry in Week 1 and Brian Lewerke’s legs were just as big of a weapon as him arm. The offensive line is young, but expect Michigan State to control the tempo.

Advantage: MSU

I expect the Spartans to win, but I also expect this to be a closely contested game all the way through. Let us know in the comments section what matchups you’ll be paying attention to on Saturday

Poll

What will be the outcome of this Week 2 contest?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Michigan State wins, easy
    (120 votes)
  • 59%
    Michigan State wins, close
    (326 votes)
  • 3%
    Western Michigan wins, easy
    (19 votes)
  • 15%
    Western Michigan wins, close
    (85 votes)
550 votes total Vote Now