An early spin through MSU’s football season: A potentially mammoth finale at Penn State

This is the 12th and final entry in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 12: At Penn State
Time and Date: TBA, Nov. 29
Venue: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
TV: TBA

Nittany Lions at a glance
Coach: James Franklin (First season)
Last season: 7-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten (3rd, Leaders Division)
Returning starters: Nine (three offense, six defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten (3rd, East Division); ranked No. 22 nationally
Lindy’s: 4th Big Ten East; ranked No. 38th
Sporting News: 4th Big Ten East

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Other than a win to clinch the share of the Big Ten title in 2010, MSU has had miserable experiences in Happy Valley. The Spartans are 1-8 there since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, with losses by 28, 23, 54, 24 and 31 points among the defeats — though this is a different era for both the Spartans and Nittany Lions.

Penn State may be hindered by scholarship limitations, but it has terrific players and strong position groups, notably sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg and a talented defensive line. That’s a good place to start for any team. Hackenberg was the Big Ten’s freshman of the year, passing for nearly 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Penn State’s top three running backs are back as well, bringing with them more than 2,000 yards rushing combined from last season.

Why they won’t
Depth and timing. MSU gets the Nittany Lions last. By now, with a roster short on scholarship players due to deep-cutting NCAA sanctions, Penn State will have endured almost an entire season.

Just as with Nebraska last season, it’s important MSU conquered its Happy Valley bugaboo in 2010. This staff and its older players — fifth-year seniors who were on that team — will know winning at Penn State has been done. They’ll be able to picture it.

The Nittany Lions also lost substantial high-end talent from last season, including star wideout Allen Robinson, twice the Big Ten’s receiver of the year, and longtime middle linebacker Glenn Carson.

Final analysis
It’s impossible to know the state of the minds, spirits and bodies of these two teams 11 games and more than three months from now. There’s a decent chance, however, MSU is playing this one for the right to play the following week in Indianapolis. For Penn State, it’ll once again be the final game of the season.

Previously …
Senior day against Rutgers on Nov. 22 – Damon Dowdell’s revenge
A venture into the new Big Ten, at Maryland on Nov. 15
Prime-time showdown with Buckeyes on Nov. 8
Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: Senior day against Rutgers on Nov. 22 – Damon Dowdell’s revenge

This is the 11th in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 11: Rutgers
Time and Date: TBA, Nov. 22
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing.
TV: TBA

Scarlet Knights at a glance
Coach: Kyle Flood (third season, 15-11)
Last season: 6-7 overall, 3-5 American Athletic Conference
Returning starters: 14 (nine offense, four defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 4-8 overall, 1-7 Big Ten (7th, East Division); ranked No. 73 nationally
Lindy’s: 7th Big Ten East; ranked No. 74
Sporting News: 7th Big Ten East

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
The Scarlet Knights, potentially, have a go-to running back (Paul James) and, more certainly, a top-tier wideout (Leonte Carroo), along with their entire starting offensive line returning. They hired a big-time new offensive coordinator in Ralph Friedgen — ironically, formerly the head coach at the other incoming Big Ten school, Maryland. It’s an offense capable of keeping pace in the Big Ten. And, on a given day, some places, that might be enough.

Why they won’t
East Lansing, this season, probably isn’t one of those places. And Damon Dowdell — who infamously threw a pick-6 to a defensive lineman the last time these teams met, a decade ago — is no longer the Spartans’ quarterback (though Connor Cook has made a couple of those throws, too).

Mostly, Rutgers’ defense was atrocious last season, ranked near the bottom of the country against the pass, while allowing 30 points a game. There is experience in this secondary, if there’s any confidence, but it isn’t likely to hold up in the Big Ten this season. The Scarlet Knights also have issues at quarterback, where two-year starter Gary Nova was benched late last season. He’s expected back under center this year.

Final analysis
The biggest problem for Rutgers in this game — other than MSU being home for senior day — is its own schedule. Rutgers plays Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana in the five games leading up to its date with MSU. It’s hard to imagine the Scarlet Knights will be in a good place.

Previously …
A venture into the new Big Ten, at Maryland on Nov. 15
Prime-time showdown with Buckeyes on Nov. 8
Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: A venture into the new Big Ten, at Maryland on Nov. 15

This is the 10th in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 10: Maryland
Time and Date: 8 p.m., Nov. 15
Venue: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
TV: Big Ten Network

Terrapins at a glance
Coach: Randy Edsall (fourth season, 13-24)
Last season: 7-6 overall, 3-5 ACC
Returning starters: 16 (seven offense, nine defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 6-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten (5th, East Division); ranked No. 48 nationally
Lindy’s: 5th Big Ten East; ranked No. 59
Sporting News: 6th Big Ten East

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
The Terrapins are a better team than their record or performances last season. The welcoming Big Ten perhaps sees a middling ACC program, coming off a 7-6 season — one that included a 63-0 loss at Florida State, a 34-10 loss at Wake Forest, a 20-3 home loss to Syracuse and then a double-digit defeat to Marshall in its bowl game. But this could a terrific offense, and a program that surprises a few foes in its inaugural Big Ten season.

Injuries played a massive role in Maryland’s slide after a 4-0 start. The Terrapins lost their top three receivers (two to broken legs), including junior Stefon Diggs, who the Big Ten will learn about quickly. And their most complete running back, Wes Brown, missed his sophomore season due to suspension. All are back. Athletic senior QB C.J. Brown returns, as well, after a 2,000-yard passing season, despite the lack of healthy targets. And four starters return in front of him on the offensive line.

The schedule is also in Maryland’s favor. While MSU is coming off its own emotional prime-time showdown with Ohio State a week earlier, the Terrapins have a bye to prepare and heal, and work their fan base into a frenzy for this mid-November night game.

Why they won’t
MSU is simply the more talented program, and at this point possibly again smelling a division title. Maryland’s lines on both sides of the ball are considered no better than average, even if experienced, and average in the trenches won’t due in November. Not against a team known for its physicality, and with a defense capable of caving on an offense.

The night atmosphere might actually be a detriment to the home side. For an upset, a lazy early start can be better than a kickoff under the lights.

Final analysis
The Spartans will either be walking on air or depressed entering this one — all pending the previous week’s outcome against Ohio State. If it’s the latter, and Maryland still has its spirit, confidence and health, this could be a tough trip.

Previously …
Prime-time showdown with Buckeyes on Nov. 8
Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: Prime-time showdown with Buckeyes on Nov. 8

This is the ninth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 9: Ohio State
Time and Date: 8 p.m., Nov. 8
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV: ABC

Buckeyes at a glance
Coach: Urban Meyer (third season, 24-2)
Last season: 12-2 overall; 8-0 Big Ten (1st, Leaders Division)
Returning starters: 11 (five offense, six defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 12-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten (1st, East Division); ranked No. 3 nationally
Lindy’s: 1st Big Ten East; ranked No. 5
Sporting News: 1st Big Ten East; ranked No. 9

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
It took a special Michigan State defense not to allow it to happen in the Big Ten title game. Gumption won the Spartans that championship. Pound for pound, at third quarter’s end, the Buckeyes were the more talented crew. Without the sweaty equity and sense of determination of that senior-led MSU defense, it doesn’t get done. And so if that is absent this year, more often that not, the Buckeyes probably win.

No single player has befuddled MSU more than Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. He’s back for his senior year, a true dual-threat QB like few others. There were losses at the other skill positions, replaced by more five-star bodies. And defensively, the Buckeyes defensive line might be too much for MSU up front. Beyond talent, the motivational swing is in Ohio State’s favor — MSU won its title, found its paradise, and did so at the expense of the Buckeyes.

Why they won’t
The loss of running back Carlos Hyde is enormous. He, coupled with Miller, were a devastating duo. The Buckeyes also lost four seniors from the offensive line. And, keep in mind, two years ago, when Ohio State finished 12-0 and offensively inept MSU was just 7-6, the Spartans lost 17-16 on a perfect Miller pass — an argument the difference in physical roster talent is less than recruiting rankings. That game was at Spartan Stadium. This will be, too. And at night. If MSU is the team it believes it can be, the atmosphere might tilt the game in its favor.

Final analysis
MSU will have a week off between Michigan on Oct. 25 and Ohio State on Nov. 8. It’s one of many kind elements to MSU’s schedule this season. This one has the makings of an epic battle, if the key figures on both sides are healthy.

Previously …
Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25

This is the eighth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 8: Michigan
Time and Date: TBA, Oct. 25
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV: TBA

Wolverines at a glance
Coach: Brady Hoke (fourth season, 26-13)
Last season: 7-6 overall; 3-5 Big Ten (5th, Legends Division)
Returning starters: 15 (seven offense, eight defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten (4th, East Division); ranked No. 32 nationally
Lindy’s: 3rd Big Ten East; ranked No. 20
Sporting News: 3rd Big Ten East

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
“This is Michigan,” as Hoke once said. And there’s a ton of real talent behind that brand. After last season’s humbling and demoralizing thumping, how U-M views this rivalry differently than ever. Hoke’s job, the program’s sliding credibility, 2014 relevance — there’s a lot on the line for the Wolverines.

As a practical matter, this shouldn’t be a bad Michigan football team. Senior quarterback Devin Gardner was terrific at times last season, before he lost his confidence — partly his own inadequacies reading defenses, and more so the relentless pounding he took. Running back Derrick Green reported to camp out of shape a year ago, but he was still the top running back recruit in the country. If Green learned his lesson, he could be a ferocious downhill runner. And tight end-turned-wideout Devin Funchess is a game-changer as much as any pass-catcher in the Big Ten. Defensively, eight starters are back from a unit that was sound against the run the majority of last season.

Why they won’t
No matter how motivated and desperate Michigan becomes in this rivalry, I don’t think a Mark Dantonio coached team is ever going to get arrogant about its standing in this rivalry. Dantonio knows the rise of his program began with changing the tide against the Wolverines. From a football standpoint, Michigan lost so badly last year because its offensive line couldn’t hold up against a storied MSU defense having a defining moment. MSU’s defense may not be able to replicate Nov. 2, 2013, but it won’t matter if U-M’s offensive line is worse. The Wolverines O-line was porous, despite having two first-three-round NFL draft picks as its tackles.

Final analysis
At some point, U-M will even out this series a bit, maybe even win a couple or three in a row. And when it happens, the media will overreact and make proclamations, the trash-talk will switch sides, etc. — as is the nature of this sick-in-the-head rivalry. But this probably isn’t the year.

Previously …
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18

This is the seventh in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 7: Indiana
Time and Date: 3:30 p.m., Oct. 18
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
TV: ABC, ESPN or BTN

Hoosiers at a glance
Coach: Kevin Wilson (fourth season, 10-26)
Last season: 5-7 overall; 3-5 Big Ten (4th, Leaders Division )
Returning starters: 16 (seven offense, nine defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 5-7 overall, 2-6 Big Ten (6th, East Division); ranked No. 58 nationally
Lindy’s: 6th Big Ten East; ranked No. 69
Sporting News: 5th Big Ten East

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
No offense has given MSU more trouble over the last two seasons. The Hoosiers’ tempo, creativity and underrated skill-position talent put up a combined 55 points against the Spartans in 2012 and ’13. Indiana led the Big Ten in scoring last season at better than 38 points per game, and returns its leading rusher (Tevin Coleman), a big-play receiver (Shane Wynn), three offensive linemen and one of its two starting quarterbacks (Tre Roberson). If this defense is at all improved, the Hoosiers will play a role in determining the East Division, even though they aren’t ready to challenge for it.

Why they won’t
Even in causing MSU headaches, the Hoosiers haven’t beaten the Spartans. In fact, MSU under Mark Dantonio has never lost to Indiana, while scoring 40 or more points all but once. Indiana has a lot of its defense back, but it also has a lot of its defense back — a crew that gave up more than 7 yards per play last season. The Spartans won’t be scared of a shoot-out and should be the more complete team, playing in an atmosphere that’s far from intimidating. 

Final analysis
This game ought to scare MSU fans — the back end of two straight road games, a week before Michigan’s visit to Spartan Stadium. The Hoosiers aren’t Purdue. If MSU sleeps on this game, at all, it’ll likely come limping home with an unexpected loss.

Previously …
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11

This is the sixth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 6: Purdue
Time and Date: TBA, Oct. 11
Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
TV: TBA

Boilermakers at a glance
Coach: Darrell Hazell (second season, 1-11)
Last season: 1-11 overall; 0-8 Big Ten (6th, Leaders Division)
Returning starters: 12 (six offense, six defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 3-9 overall, 0-8 Big Ten (7th, West Division); ranked No. 80 nationally
Lindy’s: Tied-6th Big Ten West; ranked No. 92
Sporting News: 7th Big Ten West

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
They weren’t far from doing so last year, when MSU beat the Boilermakers 14-0 with a dismal offensive effort in mid-October. The Spartans — and QB Connor Cook — were never that bad again. But it showed that the difference between a unfocused emerging contender and a motivated cellar-dweller isn’t extreme. This game has all the makings of a letdown for MSU, which will be coming off a prime-time home game against Nebraska a week earlier. Purdue also has a manageable schedule early, and could have confidence remaining when the Spartans visit.

Sophomore quarterback Danny Etling showed promise and an arm as a freshman, and Purdue’s backfield has potential, with seniors Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert, a Big Ten champion sprinter. And defensively … well, maybe Cook will revert back 12 months, if only for a day.

Why they won’t
Purdue is in for a long season. Two Big Ten wins would be an accomplishment in Year 2 for Hazell. One of them probably isn’t here. The Boilermakers’ wideouts didn’t scare anyone last season, averaging 6.1 yards per catch. And if your wideouts can’t stretch the Spartans, your ground game has little chance at consistent movement, especially behind a relatively young offensive line. Purdue’s losses on defense included its best two players, corner Ricardo Allen and tackle Bruce Gaston. And MSU is likely to look at Purdue and remember its performance a year ago. Cook especially.

Final analysis
Road games in the Big Ten should never be taken for granted. As long as the Spartans don’t, they should be fine.

Previously …
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: No easing into Big Ten play – Huskers visit Oct. 4

This is the fifth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 5: Nebraska
Time and Date: 8 p.m., Oct. 4
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV: ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

Huskers at a glance
Coach: Bo Pelini (seventh season, 58-24)
Last season: 9-4 overall; 5-3 Big Ten (tied-2nd Legends Division)
Returning starters: 12 (five offense, seven defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 9-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten (3rd, West Division); ranked No. 29 nationally
Lindy’s: 2nd Big Ten West; ranked No. 21
Sporting News: 1st Big Ten West; ranked No. 17

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
The Huskers’ offense could be dynamic, if sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong doesn’t hold it back. Senior running back Ameer Abdullah returns for his 14th season (or seemingly so). He’s an incredible talent and a proven big-time back, leading the Big Ten with nearly 1,700 yards rushing last season. Wideout Kenny Bell also returns for his senior year. If Nebraska’s young-ish offensive line gels in September, this is an offense that could again give MSU fits, as it did each of the last two seasons — more so over that span than anyone else.

If not for four fumbles (mostly unforced), the Huskers might have consecutive wins against the Spartans, the most recent with Armstrong under center. Nebraska was the first team to have success running against MSU last season, rushing for 182 yards — against a defense the Spartans probably won’t be able to replicate this season.

Why they won’t
If Armstrong doesn’t become something more than he was last year, or Pelini’s defense remains the bugaboo of his tenure, Nebraska won’t come out of the West, and likely loses in East Lansing. The Huskers are no longer a nemeses for the Spartans. Last season’s win in Lincoln proved to MSU it could indeed defeat Big Red. Belief is important. So is having almost every significant offensive skill position player back from that game.

The 8 p.m. start, coupled with a crowd thirsty for a competitive home game, ought to create a difficult road atmosphere. And with home games against Eastern Michigan and Wyoming leading into MSU’s Big Ten opener, there’s no reason the Spartans won’t be a confident group.

Final analysis
This will be Nebraska’s fourth straight challenging game and second in Big Ten play, following contests at Fresno State and then at home against Miami (Fla.) and Illinois. We’ll know a ton about the Huskers at this point, for better or worse. Armstrong is the key.

Previously …
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit

This is the fourth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 4: Wyoming
Time and Date: Noon, Sept. 27
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV: ESPN, ABC or BTN

Cowboys at a glance
Coach: Craig Bohl (first season)
Last season: 5-7 overall; 3-5 Mountain West (5th, Mountain Division)
Returning starters: 14 (six offense, eight defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 4th, MWC Mountain Division; ranked No. 94 nationally
Lindy’s: 4th, Mountain Division; ranked No. 95
Sporting News: 4th, Mountain Division

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Their coach certainly knows how to win with less, and do so on the road against an unsuspecting favorite. Bohl coached North Dakota State to the last three FCS national titles, going 43-2 in from 2011-13 with the Bison. They won at higher-division foes Minnesota, Colorado State (both rather easily) and Kansas State during that span.

The Cowboys return junior running back Shaun Wick (101 yards against Nebraska last season) and three starting receivers, including senior Dominic Rufran, who caught 75 passes last season. And junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough should be a legitimate test of MSU’s offensive tackles. There are pockets of talent on this roster, perhaps enough to better than projected.

Why they won’t
They’re not North Dakota State. Bohl would have a better chance if he were still coaching the Bison, or if junior quarterback Brett Smith hadn’t strangely bolted for the NFL (only to go undrafted). Bohl’s pedigree is on defense. Unfortunately for him, “pedigree” can’t make a tackle. To steal a line from Jud Heathcote: The good news, the Cowboys have almost everyone back on defense; the bad news, the Cowboys have almost everyone back on defense. Wyoming allowed 220 yards per game on the ground last season.

Final analysis
By this point, the Spartan Stadium crowd will be getting restless for a challenge and for Big Ten play. Is this a letdown game? It has the makings of a listless afternoon. MSU will know exactly what it’s facing at this point, because Wyoming plays at Oregon two weeks earlier and one week after the Spartans’ trip to Eugene. This is a good year to catch the Cowboys, before Bohl — a wonderful hire — has a chance to put his stamp on Wyoming’s program.

Previously …
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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An early spin through MSU’s football season: New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20

This is the third in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 3: Eastern Michigan
Time and Date: TBA, Sept. 20
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV: TBA

Eagles at a glance
Coach: Chris Creighton (first season)
Last season: 2-10 overall; 1-7 MAC (5th West Division)
Returning starters: 13 (eight offense, five defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 2-10 overall; 1-7 MAC (6th, West Division); ranked No. 124 nationally
Lindy’s: 6th, MAC West; ranked No. 120
Sporting News: 6th, MAC West

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
They won’t. Not even if Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford and Tony Lippett miss the game with the flu, and the Trae Waynes comes down with a grass allergy.

Why they won’t
The Eagles have experience on offense, including a relatively heralded recruit at quarterback, Brogan Roback, returning for his sophomore season. Unless Roback suddenly becomes the next Peyton Manning, there’s no overcoming this Eagles defense, which allowed more than 500 yards and 45 points per game last season and isn’t expected to be considerably improved.

Worse yet for the Eagles, MSU isn’t likely to overlook them, the memory of 2012 and an early bye both hurting the chances of a letdown game.

Final analysis
Two years ago, MSU nearly lost at home to Eastern Michigan — and might have, if not for a dropped touchdown pass in the second half. It was among the many signs of trouble for MSU in 2012. The Spartans are a completely different offense these days and the bulk of the roster remembers that scare. It won’t come close to happening again. This is likely the bottom of the MAC vs. the top of the Big Ten, or close to it.

Previously …
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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