Big things are expected from Michigan State football this season and it has a decent chance to get out on a good foot against a team that went to a bowl Game last year. While Utah State went to a bowl, it slogged through the 2017 season due to inconsistent quarterback play and that may not be a problem this year. Still, the Spartans are hefty -23 point home favorites for the Friday night Game as seen at YouWager Sportsbook.
Michigan State is projected to be a CFP competitor with 18 starters returning on both sides of the ball and that includes junior quarterback Brian Lewerke. He showed flashes at times last year with back-to-back 400-yard Games and 20 touchdowns, but at others he was somewhat miserable and that’s seen in a 59 percent completion percentage. If he can improve behind a stout line with top skill players back around him, this offense could be dynamic. LJ SCott spurned a chance in the NFL for his senior year and big things are expected after 898 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017, while top wide outs Felton Davis, Darrell Stewart and Cody White also return.
Utah State’s biggest weakness last season was a defense that allowed close to 400 yards per Game with 216 of those coming on the ground. The Aggies, like the Spartans, return a lot of talent, but how much will that matter in this Game? Their defense gave up 59 points to Wisconsin in his last year’s opener and then 38 to Air Force in the regular season finale. SCoring only 20 against NMSU wasn’t good in the bowl, either. The returning players are there, but it’s hard to see the front stopping MSU’s rushing attack.
Offensively, there’s a bit more excitement for the Aggies behind sophomore quarterback Jordan Love. He wasn’t the most accurate passer as a freshman (54.9%), but he has big-play ability and is mobile enough to move in the pocket against the MSU defensive front. Getting some kind of ground Game without LAJuan Hunt will be important because Love probably still isn’t ready to sling it 50 times against a good defense. If the Aggies can’t find room on the ground against a defense that was one of the best in the country at stopping the run, this could be a troubling Game. Love may make a play or two to Ron’quavion Tarver and Jordan Nathan, but even with everyone returning on the line, that may not be enough against this defense.
Utah State presents a good challenge for Michigan State in its home opener, but it’s far from an easy trip for the Aggies. While both teams return loads of talent, the Spartans are arguably better on the defensive end and they also have a better running Game that should find room against an iffy USU defense. To cover, Love will have to make some plays through the air. While the sophomore should be improved, it’ll be hard to back him in a tough spot on the road, especially when this team lost by 49 points to a similar Wisconsin team last year.
Our Pick – We ran this Game through Our Score Prediction model using data from last year. The predicted Scorewas 30-14 Michigan State. That would spell a cover for Utah State getting +23. Now, that’s one way to look at this Game, and considering these two are loaded with returning starters, we’d put some validity in that prediction.
The other way to look at this one, is to consider that Utah State stepped up in class twice, early last year, against major Conference opponents, and was blown off the field by both Wisconsin and Wake Forest, 59-10 and 46-10.
We’re going to side with scenario #2 here. Michigan State had trouble putting teamd away and creating large margins last year. That is, until their final two Games which they won in blow out fashion. Look for offense to be a priority right from the get go this year. This one is tight for at least a half, but Michigan State pulls away over the course of the 2nd half. Michigan State -22.5