East Lansing – — By the end of preseason camp, most teams are ready to play against someone other than themselves.
After weeks of banging into the same guys and seeing the same formations on both sides of the ball, facing something different is typically a welcome sight.
For No. 9 Michigan State, it will enter today's game against Wyoming with a sense of relief it will see something it is familiar with. After three straight games against offenses dominated by spread formations, the Spartans will finally face a more traditional, pro-style set, like they run, against the Cowboys.
"They are probably more like us than anybody we've played," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "I think that's a positive for us. They run the power. They're going to keep it tight in the A gap, be a downhill run team … They want to be a two-back team, they have a good fullback, they've got two good tailbacks, they want to run the football. A lot of what they do is similar to us in that respect.
"I think it helps. I don't know how many teams out there are like that. The only focus I really have is, what does it do for us this game?"
What is does is give the Spartans (2-1) a chance to shore up some things on defense. After falling apart late against Oregon, the defense was solid against Eastern Michigan except for a pair of breakdowns in the secondary on the two touchdowns allowed.
The Spartans have continued to be solid against the run, ranking fifth in the nation at 71.7 yards allowed per game. They'll be put to the test this week by Wyoming's Shaun Wick, who is averaging 6.1 yards a carry and gained 122 yards on 16 carries against Oregon.
Michigan State made some changes to its starting defensive lineup last week inserting sophomore Riley Bullough for junior Ed Davis at the "money" linebacker position. Davis is slotted to start today, but that Bullough should get plenty of playing time.
And he believes this is just the type of game he and his teammates will relish.
"This is the kind of football I love, the kind of football I grew up going against," Bullough said. "So it's familiar to me and I don't have to be spread out covering receivers and tight ends. I love to hit, our defense loves to hit, so going against a traditional, pro-style offense will be fun."
And while it will look familiar to many of the Spartans, it will be a similar feeling for the Wyoming coaches.
Craig Bohl is in his first year with the Cowboys (3-1) after a successful run at North Dakota State that included three straight FCS national championships. During that time at North Dakota State, he and his staff spent time with the Michigan State staff in the off-season.
"Our offensive staff has spent extensive time with the Michigan State staff over the years," Bohl said. "A lot of the schemes are similar."
But that doesn't mean there won't be any surprises from Michigan State.
"People evolve," Dantonio said. "We've changed, things of that nature. In the end it comes down to players making plays on the field. You can draw them all up anytime you want. If you get your guys playing hard, they tackle, block well, catch the ball well, good things are going to happen."
Wyoming at Michigan State
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Line: Michigan State by 28
Records: Wyoming 3-1, No. 9 Michigan State 2-1
Series: Michigan State leads 2-0 (Michigan State 34-16, Sept. 24, 1977)
Did you know? Wyoming and Michigan State had a common opponent — both lost to No. 2 Oregon.