MSU vs. Furman preview: No looking ahead to Irish
Matt Charboneau breaks down Friday's Michigan State-Furman game at Spartan Stadium (7 p.m., BTN/WJR).
Paladins to watch
Trey Robinson, S: The senior has started 22 of 33 games during his career and is a preseason all-Southern Conference honoree (first team) and FCS All-American (second team). Robinson had 68 tackles in 2015 and four INTs. In a victory over Central Florida, he had 10 tackles and two INTs.
Carl Rider, LB: The fifth-year senior had 105 tackles last season and is a preseason all-Southern Conference honoree (first team). He missed most of 2014 with an injury, but had 136 tackles on the 2013 team that won the Southern Conference title.
Darius Morehead, RB: He’s a true freshman. As a senior at Ensworth High in Nashville, Tennessee, he was a first-team all-state pick who also won the state 100-meter championship as a junior (10.87 seconds). During his high school career, Morehead ran for 3,092 yards and 42 TDs.
Quick start: Michigan State hasn’t exactly lit up its competition early, regardless of what level the opponent plays, the exception being Jacksonville State in 2014. It has taken Michigan State time to get rolling, which has led to a pair of tough games with Western Michigan in 2015 and 2013 as well as a tighter than expected win over Youngstown State in 2011.
Playing for TV: Playing night games is great for the fans, but it can be tough for players to kill time as they wait to take the field. The 7 p.m. kickoff is even tougher because it comes on a Friday, unlike the typical Saturday schedule when a full slate of games are on TV. Michigan State is getting used to it, however, as the trend continues toward prime time.
Time for a break: The Spartans will have to deal with a bit of a quirky schedule this year as their bye comes in the second week of the season. Normally, it can be counted on later in the year, but Michigan State will use it as an extension of camp as it continues to evaluate younger players headed into the rest of the season.
Here come the Irish: After that strange bye comes a trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame, and avoiding the urge to look past an FCS opponent toward a potential top-10 matchup can be difficult. The Spartans, however, have done a good job of taking each week as it comes, and that will be tested again this week against the Paladins.
New starts: The jitters can get to any player, especially in the opener. But Michigan State will be counting on some new faces — some young, some not-so-young — to be key contributors. It’s the first home start for fifth-year senior QB Tyler O’Connor while graduate transfer DT Kevin Williams should start. True freshmen like WR Donnie Corley and DT Mike Panasiuk will also be in Spartan Stadium for the first time.
Facts and figures
▪ Michigan State is 98-21 in home openers, including a 17-game winning streak that began with a victory over Oregon in 1999. It is the third-longest streak in the nation and coach Mark Dantonio is 9-0 in openers at Spartan Stadium.
▪ This is the first meeting between Michigan State and Furman and will be the last game against an opponent from the FCS for the near future as the Big Ten is requiring teams to schedule from the FBS. Michigan State has won its previous five meetings with an FCS team.
▪ Michigan State has been ranked in the AP poll 42 straight weeks, and the last time Furman played a team ranked as high (No. 12) was in a 41-7 loss to No. 11 Clemson in 2012. Furman’s last win against an FBS team came last year over Central Florida.
▪ Michigan State is opening the season at home for the seventh time in eight seasons, the only road game being last year at Western Michigan. This is the 86th time the Spartans have opened the season at home and are 78-7.
▪ This is the 19th night game in the history of Spartan Stadium and the Spartans are 12-6. Six of those victories have come against ranked opponents, including a win over No. 7 Oregon last season.