The much-anticipated match-up between the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans and the No. 22 Boise State Broncos is only one day away, finally. Although the Broncos have opened up the last three seasons by beating a ranked opponent, the Spartans have the edge in this game in terms of experience. Here is my breakdown and prediction:
Boise State offense versus Michigan State defense
Junior quarterback Joe Southwick is listed as the starter for Boise State, but who knows what Head Coach Chris Petersen has up his sleeve. The Broncos use a lot of different formations and schemes in their offense, but junior safety Isaiah Lewis says the Spartan defense just has stick to what they know.
“There’s probably more (preparation) ’cause they do so much, motioning around and switching around, but at the end of the day you just gotta focus on your keys and do what you gotta do,” Lewis said.
He’s right. Lewis is one of eight returning starters from last year’s best defense in the Big Ten. Whatever Boise State throws at them, each player on defense must know their role and make plays.
Anthony Rashad White, who actually has four career starts, will fill in this year at nose tackle. At defensive tackle, junior Micajah Reynolds OR fifth-year senior Tyler Hoover will get the start, while at free safety, junior Jairus Jones OR sophomore Kurtis Drummond will start.
Boise State returns three of their top four receivers, in terms of yardage, from last season. Senior D.J. Harper, who rushed for 557 yards and 9 touchdowns last year, will start at running back.
Michigan State offense versus Boise State defense
With a powerful and experienced offensive line leading the way for the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Le’Veon Bell, I foresee a very productive night on the ground for the Spartans. They will line up against a Bronco defense that returns just two starters from last season.
The question continues on how junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell and his inexperienced receiving corps will perform. I predict that it takes a couple games for Maxwell to get comfortable, since he really has no game experience. However, I do see junior tight-end Dion Sims having a huge night. He will be Maxwell’s primary target.
Two other concerns are how redshirt freshman Jack Allen and sophomore Niko Palazeti perform in their first career start. Allen is filling in for the injured Blake Treadwell at left guard. Palazeti will be leading the way for Bell at the fullback position.
Also something to note, there are six fifth-year seniors on Boise State’s defense according to their depth chart against Michigan State. Maybe they’re not as inexperienced as advertised.
My Predictions: MSU 30, Boise State 16
Boise State is pretty tricky, but so is Michigan State’s defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. He will be sending blitzes all night and will let his defensive backs make plays on the ball in single coverage. I predict the Broncos will have some long possessions and will make some big plays, but the swarming, fundamentally-sound Spartan defense will create some turnovers as well.
On the other end, Bell will rush for over 100 yards, while Larry Caper and Nick Hill see some action as well. Like I said, Sims will have a big night, but it will take time for Maxwell to get in the groove.
Look for Hill to make plays as a kick returner and punt returner too. His 999 kick-off return yards last season are the second most in single-season school history behind Devin Thomas. He’s primed to break one open.