The months between the Super Bowl and the kickoff of college football are the saddest of the year. Soon enough, the leaves will be changing, there will be a briskness in the air, and the sound of cleats stamping over cement; these can only mean one thing: football is back.
The Michigan State Spartans are heading into the 2018 campaign with high expectations, returning 19 starters from a 10-win team. Their first game of the year is against the vaunted Aggies of Utah State. Utah State finished up last season 6-7 and lost the Arizona Bowl to New Mexico State in heartbreaking fashion.
(Side note: I believe this is the only time back-to-back kickoff return touchdowns has occurred in a bowl game. Please prove me wrong.)
Michigan State enters the game as 22.5 point favorites, and this game should be an easy early-season tune-up before they take on Herm Edwards and Arizona State the next week. However, Utah State should not be slept on. After going 3-9 in 2016 (like the Spartans), they are on the up-and-up, and return 18 starters including quarterback Jordan Love, who set the school-record for passing yards in a season by a freshman last year despite splitting time with another quarterback.
Love is very accurate on the home run ball, and the above receiver is Savon Scarver, a former state champion track runner from Nevada who is poised to improve entering his sophomore season.
With this being said, the Spartans have no reason to be worried about Utah State. The Aggies gave Wisconsin a little scare last year as they were tied 10-10 at halftime of the first game of the season, but the Badgers ended the game scoring 49 unanswered and won 59-10. Utah State is a good team for the Mountain West and has the potential to make a charge at a conference crown, but they have no business playing a team from the Big Ten. Utah State’s offensive coordinator has coached a Heisman Trophy-finalist and multiple NFL quarterbacks, but these accolades will not be enough to pull off a shocker in week one.
Week one of last year the Spartans defeated Bowling Green 35-10 despite fumbling four times. Running back LJ Scott was no stranger to these issues, fumbling four times in the first five games. Scott reconciled these issues by carrying around a football every time he stepped into the team’s facilities, an activity heavily encouraged by the running backs coach Dave Warner.
Hopefully the Spartans can hold onto the ball this Friday, because the only thing that could prevent them from starting the season with a tally in the W column is turnovers.