Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Thirteenth-ranked Michigan State and No. 22 Boise State both feature new starting quarterbacks as they attempt to continue their winning ways in Friday’s high-powered season-opening contest. The Michigan State Spartans are coming off back-to-back 11-win campaigns but no longer have three-year starter Kirk Cousins, the most prolific passer (9,131 yards, 66 touchdowns) in school history. Andrew Maxwell is Michigan State’s new starter. Boise State’s Joe Southwick has even bigger shoes to fill in replacing Kellen Moore, who threw 142 career touchdowns and finished his career as the winningest quarterback (50-3) in NCAA history. The Boise State Broncos are playing a high-profile opener for the fourth straight season, having defeated Oregon (2009), Virginia Tech (2010) and Georgia (2011) the past three years.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (2011: 12-1, 6-1 Mountain West): Southwick is a nimble junior who has attempted 54 career passes. The Broncos also have to replace all-everything running back Doug Martin and will call on sixth-year senior D.J. Harper, who has suffered two season-ending knee injuries during his career. Sophomore Matt Miller (62 catches last season) is the top receiver. The Broncos are in transition on defense after losing several key players. Senior cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins and senior weak-side linebacker J.C. Percy are the top defenders.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (2011: 11-3, 7-1 Big Ten): Maxwell is a strong-armed junior who has attempted only 51 career passes. Junior running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Junior receiver Bennie Fowler is healthy after missing most of last season with a foot injury. The Spartans are stacked on defense after having the nation’s sixth-best unit a year ago. Junior outside linebacker Denicos Allen had 11 sacks last season and junior middle linebacker Max Bullough had a team-best 89 tackles. Junior William Gholston (five sacks) is rated as one of the nation’s top defensive ends, and a strong secondary is led senior cornerback Johnny Adams (eight career interceptions) and hard-hitting junior strong safety Isaiah Lewis (four interceptions in 2011).
1. Boise State and Michigan State have never met – the Broncos lost to Wisconsin in 1997 in their lone game against a Big Ten school and the Spartans are 7-2 against current members of the Mountain West.
2. The Spartans have won 11 consecutive home openers since falling to Colorado State in 1998.
3. The Broncos are 23-2 under coach Chris Petersen when having 10 or more days to prepare for an opponent.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 31, Boise State 23