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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

UTSA v Arizona State Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Week 2 of college football is upon us, and the Michigan State Spartans are getting ready to square off with the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe late Saturday night.

Both schools enter the matchup with 1-0 records. ASU won in convincing fashion over a lesser opponent in the University of Texas at San Antonio, while MSU struggled against a lesser opponent in Utah State.

Saturday marks the first meeting between these two programs since 1986. Let’s see what the second game of the season has in store for us.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2018 Record — 1-0 (0-0 Big Ten)

2017 Record — 10-3, (7-2 Big Ten)

2018 Offense (through one game)— 452 total yards, 287 passing yards, 165 rushing yards per game, 38 points scored

2018 Defense (through one game)— 344 yards allowed, 319 passing yards, 25 rushing yards allowed, 31 points allowed

2018 Projected S&P+ Rankings: 11th

Arizona State
2018 Record — 1-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

2017 Record — 7-6 (6-3 Pac-12)

2018 Offense (through one game) — 503 total yards per game, 237 passing yards, 266 rushing yards, 49 points scored

2018 Defense (through one game)— 220 yards allowed, 218 passing yards allowed, 2 rushing yards allowed, 7 points allowed

2018 Projected S&P+ Rankings: 57th

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: 1-1
Last Michigan State Win: Sept. 14, 1985 (12-3)
Last Arizona State Win: Sept. 13, 1986 (20-17)
Michigan State all-time record: 695-453-44
Arizona State all-time record: 608-388-24

Previous Game Results (Quick Hits Recap)

Michigan State 38, Utah State 31
Michigan State had a tougher test than anticipated against Utah State. The Spartans struggled defensively against the Aggies up-tempo offense and underneath routes, and had difficulty getting off of the field on third down. Offensively, poor offensive line play, turnovers and penalties contributed to MSU’s woes. Michigan State was poised, though, and able to take the lead late in the contest and win the shootout. Joe Bachie sealed the deal

Arizona State 49, UTSA 7

The Sun Devils trampled the Roadrunners, allowing just 220 total yards and seven points, while recording nine sacks. Taking into account all of those sacks, the Sun Devils only gave up a net of two yards rushing. ASU was humming offensively as well with quarterback Manny Wilkins at the helm. N’Keal Harry is a problem. The wide receiver had six catches for 140 yards and two scores, which includes juking out the entire UTSA defense on one play.

Key Matchups

Justin Layne vs. N’Keal Harry: Layne is likely going to be on Harry in most cases against ASU’s “Air Raid” offense. Layne, or whichever player is guarding him, can’t give up space to Harry. The key is to be physical and play with good technique. Harry is a big target at 6-foot-4, but Layne is 6-foot-3 himself, so perhaps he can match up well. Layne wasn’t tested deep much last week, as Utah State destroyed MSU on underneath routes. This week will be more challenging for him.

MSU offensive line vs. Arizona State defensive line: As mentioned, the Sun Devils recorded nine sacks and allowed just two rushing yards last week. I would be shocked if ASU can come anywhere close to that against the Spartans, however, a big concern following last week’s game was the play of the offensive line. MSU gave up two sacks, and often struggled to generate any push up front or open up holes for LJ Scott in the running game. Hopefully Cole Chewins is able to play this week and give the Spartans a boost.

Eno Benjamin vs. Michigan State front seven: The Arizona State running back also had a big game against the lowly Roadrunners. Benjamin has 131 yards on just 16 carries (8.2 yards per rush) and scored a touchdown. He added a touchdown through the air as well. Michigan State shut down the running game last week, allowing just 25 yards, but face a much tougher test against Benjamin. If MSU is too focused on stopping the pass, Benjamin could burn them on the ground.

Game Info

Time: 10:45 p.m. EST (7:45 p.m. PST)
TV Channel: ESPN
Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
Weather expectations: High of 106 degrees (expected to be around 100 degrees at kickoff) with low humidity. Light wind.

Reminder: If you’re attending the game in Tempe, wear white to combat Arizona State’s “black-out” crowd as Spartan fans attempt to “Storm the Desert.”


In what is a homecoming of sorts for Brian Lewerke, the obvious concerns for MSU are outside factors such as the desert heat, the time zone change, the raucous atmosphere, etc. And yes, Big Ten teams are 0-9 when playing at Sun Devil Stadium. On the field, Arizona State is also going to test Michigan State with an up-tempo offense, but one that implements much more vertical concepts compared to Utah State. On the flip side, Michigan State is the more experienced squad and should be the more physical team. MSU also dominated its last Pac-12, Air Raid opponent (Washington State).

In order to be successful, the Spartans need better play from the offensive line, better third-down defense and more from LJ Scott in the running game. I expect a close game that may come down to a game-winning field goal. I believe the Spartans pull it off, though.

For more on Arizona State, check out Matt Hoeppner’s “Get to know the opponent” piece.

This seems to be a much trickier matchup this week. Let us know who walks away with a victory.


Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Michigan State
    (269 votes)
  • 24%
    Arizona State
    (89 votes)
358 votes total Vote Now