Michigan State vs. BYU preview: Stop the skid

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
BYU quarterback Taysom Hills is 102-for-171 for 1,117 yards and five TDs through five games.

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-BYU game at Spartan Stadium (3:30 p.m. ABC/WJR)

Cougars to watch

Taysom Hill, QB: The senior has dealt with his share of injuries during his career, but is healthy and a dual-threat sparking a potent Cougars offense. Hill is 102-for-171 for 1,117 yards and five TDs through five games. He’s also run the ball 55 times for 228 yards and two TDs. Hill is 43rd in the nation in total offense (269 yards).

Jamaal Williams, RB: The senior set a BYU record last week with 286 rushing yards and tied a school mark with five rushing TDs. He has 703 yards in five games -- No. 2 in the country -- and is 226 yards from becoming BYU’s career rushing leader. Williams has eight TDs.

Kai Nacua, DB: The senior has been a stalwart at taking the ball away, with six INTs last season and four this year. His 0.8 average is No. 1 in the nation. Nacua’s 12 career INTs are the most by a BYU player since 2010.

Detroit News predictions: Michigan State vs. BYU

Intangibles

Numbers game: Michigan State hasn’t lost three straight since 2009, so halting that skid will be at the top of the list of its priorities.

Title talk: While the chance at repeating as East Division champions has taken a hit, the Spartans still have a path to Indianapolis. How realistic is debatable, but the path is there, and getting the focus back during a non-conference game would be a good start.

One’s the number: This is the first meeting between the programs (Michigan State plays at Provo, Utah, in 2020). It’s also the first year for BYU coach Kalani Sitake, the first Tongan football coach in the NCAA. This is the first top job for Sitake, who played at BYU.

Home turf: The Spartans haven’t been impressive, and they’re hoping to avoid a repeat performance of 2012 when they lost all four conference home games and dropped five overall.

Into the frying pan: Once again, the heat is on fifth-year senior QB Tyler O’Connor, who has taken the bulk of the blame for an under-performing offense. There were some boos from the home crowd two weeks ago against Wisconsin, and keeping the fans on his side could prove critical.

Facts and figures

■ Michigan State’s school record of 46 consecutive weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 ended with last week’s loss at Indiana. The streak began Oct. 27, 2013, and is 12 weeks longer than the previous mark of 34, which ended Sept. 23, 2012.

■ Josiah Price caught his school-record 18th TD pass last week (most for a tight end) and is 28 yards from becoming the fourth tight end in Michigan State history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards.

■ BYU is averaging 425.2 yards offense and scoring 27.6. The Cougars are one of seven teams in the country with a 100 percent red zone rating (18-for-18) with 11 TDs and seven FGs.

■ Michigan State senior WR R.J. Shelton recorded his first 100-yard receiving game last week, making seven grabs for 141 yards, including an 86-yard TD. His previous high was 80 yards this season against Notre Dame.

■ BYU is facing an opponent from the Big Ten, marking the fourth different conference BYU has faced in 2016 (Pac 12, Big 12, Mid-American). The Cougars are 4-8-1 against the Big Ten.