Michigan State vs. Western Michigan: No looking ahead

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

The Detroit News’ Matt Charboneau breaks down Friday’s Michigan State-Western Michigan game at Waldo Stadium (7, ESPNU/WJR)

Broncos to watch

Zach Terrell, QB: The junior had a passer rating of 164.4 last season, good for sixth in the nation and second this year among returning quarterbacks (Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, 169.8). Terrell had 3,443 yards and 26 TDs last season, and has some of his best games against Power Five conference teams (243 yards, two TDs vs. Purdue).

Corey Davis, WR: The junior had 1,408 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, second among returning players in the FBS. Davis is sixth in receiving yards and TD receptions (21) in school history. Along with junior Daniel Braverman (86 catches), Davis forms a solid duo of targets for Terrell.

Jarvion Franklin, RB: The sophomore, on the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Award (top player), had 1,551 yards and 24 TDs last season. Franklin was the first player in Mid-American Conference history to earn freshman and offensive player of the year honors in the same season. He also added a receiving TD, giving him a school-record 25.

Intangibles

Event of the year: Kalamazoo and the Western Michigan campus have been gearing up for this game all summer, and it will be a huge event on and off the field. For a team coming off winning eight games and reaching a bowl, getting a chance to knock off a top-five team in front of the home crowd will be a factor.

Looking ahead: Michigan State has said all the right things, even with a top-10 showdown with Oregon next week. It’s probably good the Spartans are facing a Broncos team on the rise with a potent offense, giving them a good look heading into Week 2 while providing enough of a challenge to keep them from getting overconfident.

On the road: Mark Dantonio has lost one opener since taking over at Michigan State — the last time it opened on the road (2008). Michigan State went on to win nine games and played Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Extending a six-game winning streak in the opener is imperative.

State pride: It’s the second time Michigan State plays on the road against a Mid-American Conference team (42-7 victory at Central Michigan in 2012). The games are part of a series created by Michigan State to face the MAC teams from the state. Eastern Michigan has opted out of its home date with Michigan State.

Coach vs. coach: P.J. Fleck lost to Mark Dantonio in his first game with the Broncos in 2013. Fleck turned things around last season as Western Michigan earned a spot in the Idaho Potato Bowl against Air Force. He has been effusive in his praise of Dantonio and said he is modeling his program after the Spartans.

Facts and figures

*Western Michigan’s nonconference schedule includes two of the top five teams in the country — after taking on No. 5 Michigan State, it heads to No. 1 Ohio State on Sept. 26.

*Michigan State has its highest preseason ranking since 1967 (No. 3). The Spartans have been ranked in the Associated Press poll 26 consecutive weeks, dating to 2013, including 18 straight weeks in the top 10.

*Mark Dantonio is 29-11 against nonconference opponents since taking over at Michigan State, including 7-9 on the road.

*Michigan State’s offense is coming off a prolific season in which it set several school records, including points (559), total offense (6,510 yards, 500.8 avg.), offensive TDs (70), rushing TDs (44), scoring average (43), rushing yards (3,057) and first downs (321).

*The Spartans are the only FBS team to rank in the top 10 in total defense each of the last four seasons. They are also the only team in the FBS to rank in the top 10 in total defense and rushing defense each of the last four seasons.