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Detroit News scouting report: Rutgers at Michigan State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Rutgers at Michigan State

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

TV/radio: Big Ten Network/760

Line: Spartans by 13

Rocky Lombardi

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down the Spartans’ Week 1 matchup with Rutgers:

Key matchup

MSU’S OFFENSIVE LINE VS. RUTGERS DEFENSIVE LINE

Taking a glance at last year’s statistics, it would be hard to figure why this might be one of the most critical matchups considering the Scarlet Knights were last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 36.7 points per game, and run defense, giving up 201.8 yards a game. They also gave up 433.6 total yards a game, ranking 12th in the conference.

But Michigan State hasn’t exactly controlled the line of scrimmage the past two seasons, meaning each week is a test. The Spartans are finally healthy up front and feature eight players with starting experience. How they choose to use all those parts is unknown, though seeing multiple combinations seems likely, especially in the opener.

With a talented back like Elijah Collins running the ball and plenty of help behind him, expect MSU to try and establish the ground game. And if the offensive line gains even a slight edge against a host of new players up front for Rutgers — Michigan transfer Michael Dwumfour included — it might be all the Spartans need to earn a victory.

Subscribers: Detroit News predictions: Michigan State vs. Rutgers

Scarlet Knights to watch

Noah Vedral, QB: There hasn’t been an official announcement, but there’s a good chance the Nebraska transfer gets the call as the starter on Saturday. Vedral appeared in 15 games for the Cornhuskers, including a pair of starts last year against Minnesota and Indiana while he also orchestrated a game-winning drive in the final minute to beat Northwestern. He’s thrown for 723 yards and ran for 196 in his career, which began at UCF before his transfer to Nebraska.

Isaih Pacheco, RB: The Scarlet Knights’ leading rusher last season, Pacheco gained 729 yards on 169 carries with seven touchdowns. His 66.3 yards a game ranked sixth in the Big Ten and he was also second on the team with 812 all-purpose yards. in 23 career games, Pacheco has gained 1,280 rushing yards and has gained more than 100 yards in a game five times.

Tyshon Fogg, LB: His 104 tackles last season led the team and ranked third in the Big Ten as Fogg earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2019. Fogg has started 12 of his 30 career games and his 170 career tackles are the most on the active roster. In seven games, he has led or tied the team lead in tackles in a game.

Subscribers:'Meat and potatoes' Mel Tucker has Spartans eager to dive in to new era of MSU football

Facts and figures

►The game marks the return of Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, who had a 7-4 record in season-openers when he led the Scarlet Knights from 2001-11. Included in that run was  19-14 victory over Michigan State in 2004. His first go-around also began on the road as Rutgers beat Buffalo, 31-15, on Aug. 30, 2001.

Greg Schiano

►Two of the biggest wins in Rutgers history came against Michigan State. The win in 2004 was one of them, but the first came at Spartan Stadium in 1988. The Spartans had just won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl the season before and the Scarlet Knights earned a 17-13 victory over No. 15 MSU, led by receiver Eric Young, who had nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown.

►Michigan State enters the game winners of 21 straight home openers, tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the nation behind Florida, 31; Oklahoma State, 25; Wisconsin, 24; and Illinois, 22. Arizona State has also won 21 in a row. MSU is 102-21 (.829) all-time in home openers while first-year coach Mel Tucker won his only other home opener as a head coach as Colorado beat Colorado State, 52-31, last year.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau