Football season is finally here! The No. 11 ranked Michigan State Spartans will take on Mountain West Conference foe Utah State Aggies to open the season, with kickoff at Spartan Stadium set for 7 p.m.
This is the first ever meeting between the two programs, so familiarity will be lacking on both sides. The Aggies return 18 starters from last year’s team, and 47 lettermen overall. The Spartans return 19 starters and 48 lettermen.
So, let’s talk about this matchup. As I did throughout the 2017 season, I will be providing weekly game previews prior to the start of each game. Let’s roll:
Tale of the Tape
2017 Record — 10-3, (7-2 Big Ten)
2017 Offense — 383.1 total yards per game, 215.2 passing yards per game, 167.8 rushing yards per game, 24.5 points per game
2017 Defense — 202.2 yards allowed per game, 168.7 passing yards allowed per game, 95.3 rushing yards allowed per game, 20 points allowed per game
2018 Projected S&P+ Rankings: 11th
2017 Record — 6-7 (4-4 Mountain West)
2017 Offense — 397.4 total yards per game, 226 passing yards per game, 171.4 rushing yards per game, 30.2 points per game
2017 Defense — 399.6 yards allowed per game, 182.5 passing yards allowed per game, 217.2 rushing yards allowed per game, 26.9 points allowed per game
2018 Projected S&P+ Rankings: 77th
Series History/All-Time Records
All-time head-to-head record: 0-0
Michigan State all-time: 694-453-44
Utah State all-time record: 540-540-31
Note: Throughout the season, this section will provide information on head-to-head matchups between the two opponents, but this is, of course, the first ever meeting between the two schools. There will also be a “previous matchups” section based on last week going forward, but obviously there are no previous matchups to reference for this entry.
Josh Butler vs. USU wide receivers: With Josiah Scott out with an injury, Butler will get his chance to shine and all eyes will be on him. Jalen Greene is listed as Utah State’s starting “Z” receiver, which likely means Butler will be on him often. Though, he could sometimes be matched up with Jordan Nathan as well. Justin Layne will likely handle “X” receiver Ron’quavion Tarver on most downs, but Butler could see him, too.
Jordan Love vs. MSU secondary: Love is a sophomore, and the returning starter at quarterback for the Aggies. He now has good playing experience and the majority of his offense is back. MSU has one of the most talented secondaries in the nation, and the defensive back group is much more experienced than last year. With Scott out and Butler in, we should get a good read on how this unit will perform in 2018.
MSU offensive line vs. USU defensive line: Utah State returns nine starters on a defense that allowed 217 rush yards, while MSU brings back four starters on the offensive line and LJ Scott at running back. Michigan State should be able to dominate the trenches, and if so, should win this game handily.
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Weather expectations: Mostly sunny, high of 81 degrees (it’s a beautiful day for football!)
Line: Michigan State -23.5
Reminder: If you’re attending the game like me, be sure to wear the proper color. Stripe the stadium: even sections and students wear green and odd sections wear white (yes, my entire MSU wardrobe consisted of only green shirts, so I had to go out and get a white one).
Don't forget #StripeTheStadium is Friday night!#EvenWearsGreen#StudentsWearGreen #OddWearsWhite#Heave pic.twitter.com/0oZieQZXb0— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) August 28, 2018
Michigan State is obviously the superior team here in terms of talent, but Utah State is not some FCS team that the Spartans used to roll over to open the season. The Aggies bring back a lot of experience and could give MSU some problems early on with their up-tempo offense and exotic defensive packages.
I actually am expecting a slow start from the Spartans, as they’re not likely to show a lot of the playbook early on and of course need to find rhythm with each other. But don’t fret, all, Brian Lewerke and the offense will figure it out in the second half while the defense stifles the Aggies throughout the game. Expect the team in green and white to win by at least three scores.
For more on Utah State, check out Matt Hoeppner’s “Get to know the opponent” piece.
I have a feeling that most Spartan fans are pretty confident about this one, but I’ll ask anyway:
This poll is closed