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MSU, UM face ‘brutal’ nonconference schedules

The Detroit News

Can Michigan State duplicate its success from last season? Can coach Jim Harbaugh make Michigan a team to watch in his first season?

College football fans apparently won’t have to wait long to find out.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports ranked the “most brutal” nonconference schedules among teams in the Power 5 conferences, and the Spartans and Wolverines both rank in Feldman’s top 10. Michigan State is fourth, while Michigan is tied for eighth with Virginia and South Carolina.

Michigan State opens its season Sept. 4 with a road game at Western Michigan, before playing host to national runner-up Oregon in a rematch of last season’s game in Eugene. Michigan State also has home games against Air Force and Central Michigan.

“The Spartans have four non-conference games, and all four are FBS programs that had winning records last season,” Feldman wrote. “Combined they were 38-16 (6-1 in conference) against ranked opponents.”

Meanwhile, the Harbaugh era officially begins Sept. 3 at Utah before home games against Oregon State, UNLV and Brigham Young.

“Harbaugh doesn’t have that much wiggle room here aside from a UNLV team digging out of a deep hole,” Feldman wrote.

Utah won last season’s meeting in Ann Arbor, 26-10, en route to a nine-win season that included victories over USC, UCLA and Stanford. Utah ranks No. 7 on Feldman’s list of toughest nonconference schedules.

Oregon State is coming off a 5-7 season, but boasts new coach Gary Andersen, who coached two seasons at Wisconsin. BYU is coming off an 8-5 season, despite missing star quarterback Taysom Hill for most of it because of a broken leg.

“The fourth game (against BYU) will be a handful,” Feldman wrote. “It’s against a very physical BYU squad that was a top-20 team and 4-0 last year till ... Hill got hurt. He’s back — and so are most of the Cougars’ top players from last year.”