The Utah State Aggies travel to East Lansing to take on the 12th-ranked (coaches poll) Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium as the two clubs open their respective seasons on Friday night (7 p.m., BTN). The consensus line on the game is Michigan State -23.5, with the total set at 50.5.
Utah State had an encouraging 2017 season overall, going 6-7, but their last two games, including the Arizona Bowl against New Mexico State, saw them cough up late leads.
The Aggies are a team that will win a lot of Mountain West contests, but they appear to be up against it with the Big Ten’s Michigan State. Depth on offense is lacking, as sophomore quarterback Jordan Love, who completed a modest 55 percent of his passes in six games last season, has just two reliable options to throw to in wideout Ron’quavion Tarver and tight end Dax Raymond.
The Aggies will probably go with a running back ‘by committee’ approach after the departure of their top rusher from a year ago, which could spell trouble against the nation’s second-stingiest ground defense last season.
On defense, two of the Aggies’ top secondary players graduated, suggesting that Michigan State could have their way with Utah State through the air. The trends are not in Utah State’s favor either, as they’re 6-14 ATS in their last 20 games.
Mark Dantonio’s Spartans are among the most experienced teams in the FBS this season, as they return 19 starters from a squad that went 10-3 in the ultra-tough Big Ten East a year ago. They capped off their fine 2017 campaign with a convincing 42-17 win in the Holiday Bowl over Washington State.
Versatile quarterback Brian Lewerke is surrounded with all of his options from last season, as only center Brian Allen is missing from last year’s starting 11. Michigan State also boasts a tenacious rushing attack led by L.J. Scott and Connor Heyward, son of former NFL fullback Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who is expected to see significant playing time as a sophomore.
The Spartans’ defense will present a stern challenge to just about any team in college football this year. They were ranked seventh overall last season and have no discernable weaknesses at any position, with the majority of last year’s starters returning. Two of them, namely lineman Kenny Willekes and linebacker Joe Bachie, were named to the All-Big Ten third team defense.
The Spartans have been a great bet at home lately, posting an 8-2 record ATS in their last 10 in East Lansing. Expect them to put a hurting on a overmatched Aggies team.
Prediction: Michigan State wins, 38-13
The play: Michigan State -23.5