While it’s been fashionable to deride Michigan’s State’s non-conference schedule as weak, in fact this year is unique insofar as there are no cupcakes –no Division I-AA teams, no bottom-of-the-MAC punching bags or distant mid-majors paid to take a dive and pad the win column.
Oregon was of course a major contending and the conclusion of last year’s series. Air Force is the strongest of the service academies (look it up if you don’t believe me) and its triple-option threat gives other teams fits. Finally both of the Directional Schools are rising programs spoiling for an upset and have posted good numbers to date.
In short, none of these contenders could be called cupcakes.
As the Spartans close out their non-conference play, Central Michigan offers perhaps the most conventional opponent to date, and an opportunity for the Spartans to perfect their game. No more cut-blocks or insane Oregon speed offense – this week it is back to a conventional MAC offense.
Normally this might be somewhat of a trap game, since it will lack the excitement of the season opener, the thrill of Oregon and the trickeration of Air Force. However, the Spartans know that Central is not a foe to be taken lightly. This game will be a good test to see if the Spartans can hammer an opponent throughout the game.
It will also test both the pass defense and the running game– two areas of concern. Was the sluggish rushing game against the Falcons a result of being outnumbered at the point of attack or something else? Will Connor Cook finally put together a solid second half drive? Will MSU have enough of a lead for the backups to get some playing time?
What about the secondary? With injuries and inexperience, this game will be a critical test against a pass-happy team that knows how to win in East Lansing (or at least knows their school can do it).
I am as curious as anyone else and while my sense of it is that MSU will step up and finally put together a complete game, I think there will still be breakdowns here and there.
MSU 42, CMU 17
MEANWHILE, IN THE WORLD’S LARGEST WALMART KHAKI TROUSER DISPLAY: When I watched Brigham Young fight it out with Nebraska, I thought to myself (and posted here) that the Mormons were going to destroy the Skunk Bears.
I stand by that prediction. The Wolverine running game remains a question mark, happy talk about “coming together” against a winless Mountain West team notwithstanding.
Indeed, both the Skunk Bear running game and especially its passing game are suspect.
Meanwhile the Cougars have a talented and impressive QB who has tremendous potential. He’s won close games and his only loss (by one point, on the road to ranked UCLA) is proof of his mettle.
BYU will need to take control early and frustrate the Skunk Bear running game, leaving them lobbing haphazard bombs over the field in the waiting arms of their defensive backs.
BYU 38 – UM 12