2012 Fearless Predictions
Week 1 - Boise St at Mich State
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Boise State (0-0) at Michigan State (0-0) August 31, 8:00, ESPN
Here’s The Deal: It might not seem as big as Michigan vs. Alabama, and it might not get the spotlight of Clemson vs. Auburn or Tennessee vs. NC State, but Boise State vs. Michigan State could turn out to be more important.
MSU could turn out to become the best team in the Big Ten with arguably the league’s best defense and a loaded running game, and just about everything in place to get back to the conference championship game and possibly the Rose Bowl – or even be a sleeper in the BCS championship race – but Boise State has made a living off of beating the big teams in the big moments.
Georgia was supposed to kick things off in a big way last year in a home environment against Boise State in Atlanta. 35-21, Broncos.
Virginia Tech was looking to make a statement in what amounted to a home game for Virginia Tech in Landover, Maryland, to kick off the 2010 season. 33-30, Broncos.
Boise State has won its last six games against BCS conference teams – including two victories over Oregon – with the last loss coming to Washington early in the 2007 season. Even more impressive is the overall run the program is on going 50-3 over the last four seasons with the three losses coming by a grand total of five points. If not for two makeable missed kicks, Chris Petersen and his bunch would be on an epic 40-game winning streak.
But this is a different Bronco team that has replace the NCAA’s all-time winning quarterback, Kellen Moore, along with nine starters on defense. This is a rebuilding year for the program as it spends one more season in the Mountain West before going off to the Big East, but don’t be fooled; it’ll be a shocker if Boise doesn’t go 12-0 if it can pull off a big road win.
On the flip side, Boise State is good enough that Michigan State should deserve plenty of credit, but it probably won’t get it. Even now, even after all the big wins, and even with a top 25 ranking, Boise State is still seen by most as just being Boise State making this the worst of all possible worlds for the Spartans. They’re expected to win, but it wouldn’t be a shocker in any way if they lose.
The Big Ten needs as many big wins as possible without a slew of good non-conference matchups to get excited about and with Michigan likely to struggle against the Tide. But this game is about Boise State and whether or not it’s back to form after so many big changes. For those who don’t want to spend the next three months debating whether or not the team deserves to be in the BCS championship discussion, get out the green and white pom-poms.
Why Boise State Might Win: Michigan State is breaking in a new starting quarterback and a brand new group of starting receivers, so it’s going to want to run ball with pounding back Le’Veon Bell working behind a strong, veteran line. Boise State has a brand new starting front seven, so it might be tempting to think that the Spartans should be able to grind it out at will, but the Bronco D has a way of making great ground games look foolish.
Oregon was supposed to run wild on a new Bronco defensive front in the 2009 opener, but LeGarrette Blount was held to -5 yards and LaMichael James gained just 22 yards. Virginia Tech was stuffed in the 2010 game gaining just 128 yards, and Georgia was held to 137 rushing yards in last year’s kickoff. With time to prepare, the coaching staff knows how to get its defense to swarm around the ball, and while the front seven might be full of new starters, it’s a faster, more athletic group with a pair of 300 pounders in Michael Atkinson and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe clogging things up on the inside. If the Spartan passing game isn’t clicking, it’s probably going to be a long day.
Why Michigan State Might Win: MSU is going to have a hard time consistently running the ball, but Boise State could have just as many problems. Boise State was good against the run last year, but Michigan State was great at it allowing just over 100 yards per game with Wisconsin scoring five of the 11 rushing touchdowns allowed. The difference is that MSU, unlike Boise State, is loaded with veterans on the front seven getting five starters back not including the return of Tyler Hoover up front along with 320-pound senior Anthony Rashad-White. The linebacking corps is smart, big and athletic, and while Boise State should get a good season out of running back D.J. Harper, he’s not Doug Martin.
On the other side of the ball, yes, Boise State always comes up with big defensive performance when no one is expecting much, and yes, the line should quickly be fine, but the linebackers are merely average and there could be problems if the D uses a 4-2-5 alignment with a nickel back on a regular basis. Can the MSU line and the 240-pound Bell wear down the Broncos? It’s all relative. If the Spartans can run for 175 yards and keep the chains moving, that might be enough.
What To Watch Out For: And the Boise State starting quarterback will be … ? None of the options have made anyone forget about Kellen Moore this offseason, but Joe Southwick has the potential to come up with a strong season. Unlike Moore, Southwick can run a little bit with the mobility to take off when needed to get positive yards. It was expected that he’d take over the starting job as the apprentice last season, completing 77% of his throws for 198 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Sophomore Grant Hendrick and freshmen Jimmy Laughrea and Nick Patti haven’t really been in the hunt in practices with Southwick looking solid. One win over Michigan State will mean the torch has been passed. Remember, Ryan Dinwiddie led the program to an unbeaten regular season and Jared Zabransky won a Fiesta Bowl.
Michigan State’s bread will be buttered with Bell and the running game, but for the season to be special, Andrew Maxwell has to step in as the new starting quarterback and be solid. He has a little bit of experience completing 18-of-26 passes for 171 yards and a score last season, and he appears ready to step up and produce after working as the apprentice, but now he has to prove he can handle himself under adversity and he has to be consistent. The 6-3, 212-pounder fought through a little bit of a knee injury this offseason but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. All the tools are there with a nice arm and pro passing skills to go along with the size, and with a little bit of time he should shine. It’s his time.
What Will Happen: Everyone keeps picking against Boise State. Everyone disrespects the program and assumes it can’t rise up when faced with an impossible road game. This Michigan State team isn’t quite as good as last year’s Georgia squad or 2010 Virginia or 2009 Oregon, but the defense is terrific. This isn’t going to be a high-flying battle with neither offense likely to put up points in bunches, but the MSU D is better than Boise State’s defense. However, if Southwick comes up with a great performance, the Broncos could pull off the shocker that really wouldn’t be a shocker.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 23 … Boise State 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Michigan State -7.5; O/U: 50
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 5