Michigan State vs. Central Michigan: Maintain focus
Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Central Michigan game at Spartan Stadium (noon, BTN/WJR)
Chippewas to watch
Cooper Rush, QB: The Charlotte native will be fired up to play near his hometown. Last week against Syracuse, the junior was 37-for-51 for 430 yards and two TDs. He has started 26 games dating to 2013, and is Central Michigan’s career leader in TDs (47), passing yards (6,489) and pass completions (510). He threw for a school record 493 yards in last year’s Bahamas Bowl, including an NCAA record seven TDs.
Ben McCord, TE: The senior leads the nation in receiving yards for tight ends with 306, and is 19th overall. The Warren native had 10 catches against Syracuse last weekend, the most by a Central Michigan tight end in a game
Kavon Frazier, S: The senior leads the team with 26 tackles, including 13 in the opener against Oklahoma State that earned him Mid-American Conference West Division player of the week honors. It was a career-high for Frazier, who had 11 tackles against Toledo in 2013. The Grand Rapids native ranks 10th in the nation in average solo tackles (7) and 58th in total tackles (8.7).
Proving ground: Many Central Michigan players want to prove they should have been on Michigan State’s radar out of high school, and will be out to make this game memorable —75 players on the roster are from Michigan and 10 are from the Lansing area.
Upset special: Nobody on either team was playing in college in 2009, but rest assured they all know it was the last time Central Michigan beat Michigan State. There is a history of upsets in the series as the Chippewas knocked off the Spartans in consecutive seasons in 1991 and 1992. Michigan State won the next four before Central Michigan’s stunner in 2009.
Keep focused: It’s the second straight week Michigan State has dealt with talk of a letdown, and it will be a topic of discussion the next few weeks as it opens Big Ten play with Purdue and Rutgers, two teams that are having issues. Throw in the fact the Spartans are No. 2, and it will be a challenge not to look toward bigger games down the road.
Linked: There are all sorts of connections between the coaching staffs. Current Michigan State WR coach Terrence Samuel worked at Central Michigan in 2010 under Dan Enos, the former Spartans quarterback. Current Central Michigan offensive coordinator Morris Watts had three stints at Michigan State, while secondary coach Archie Collins was a graduate assistant under Mark Dantonio with the Spartans. RB coach Gino Guidugli was the quarterback at Cincinnati in 2004, Dantonio’s first season there, while DL coach George Ricumstrict was an assistant at Michigan State in 1996.
Filling in: Michigan State’s depth is being challenged — junior MLB Riley Bullough will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting last week and will be replaced by sophomore Shane Jones; fifth-year senior Arjen Colquhoun starts at cornerback with the loss of redshirt freshman Vayante Copeland.
Facts and figures
*At No. 2, Michigan State is enjoying its highest ranking in the Associated Press poll since ending the 1966 season No. 2. The Spartans have been ranked for 29 straight weeks and has been in the top 10 for 21 of those weeks. Under coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State is 43-11 as a ranked team, 31-1 against unranked teams.
*Michigan State senior WR Aaron Burbridge was the Big Ten offensive player of the week after catching eight passes for 156 yards and three TDs against Air Force. All were career-highs for Burbridge, who tied the school’s game record with three TD receptions.
*Michigan State is 39-6 against members of the Mid-American Conference. It is 6-3 against Central Michigan, which has beaten Michigan State more than any other MAC team.
*Fifth-year senior QB Connor Cook is 26-3 as a starter, and a win Saturday would move him into a tie with Kirk Cousins for the most in Michigan State history. His 26 victories are tied for the most by an active FBS quarterback with Stanford’s Kevin Hogan.
*Central Michigan is second in the MAC in passing, averaging 341 yards, while QB Cooper Rush is second in the conference averaging 327.7 yards. On the other side, the Chippewas are No. 2 in the MAC in total defense and No. 30 in the nation, allowing 308.7 yards.