Monday, August 13, 2012

A closer look at non-conference play for MSU & Michigan

The college football season is getting closer and closer with each day.
We are a little under three weeks away from the opening night of games, so I thought I would take a look at both Michigan's & MSU’s non-conference schedules.

Toughest Game – Sept. 1 vs. Alabama - Clearly there is no tougher non-conference game in the country than Michigan’s season opener with Alabama at Cowboys Stadium. Though the Crimson Tide lost a great deal from last season’s BCS National Championship squad, there is no doubt that they should be fully reloaded. A win for Michigan seems very improbable, as they are still in the process of getting back into the elite national picture. On the national scale, a win over Alabama would send a huge message that the Wolverines are “back”.
Easiest Game – Sept. 15 vs. UMass – While UMass has had some success in football, they are making the jump from the FCS to the FBS this season. The Wolverines should have little trouble blowing the Minutemen out of the water at home.
Trap Game – Sept. 8 vs. Air Force – Following what should be a physical battle with Alabama, Michigan returns home the next week to face the Falcons. Air Force has had a winning record the last five seasons and they run the triple option, an offense that can be tough to prepare for when you don’t see it often.
Realistic Record – 3-1 – Michigan also makes the dreaded trip to Notre Dame on Sept. 22. I think the Wolverines should go 3-1 in non-conference play if they hope to have a successful season. A 2-2 start would feel like a step back from last year, but winning against Alabama or at Notre Dame will be a tough task.

Michigan State
Toughest Game – Sept. 15 vs. Notre Dame – While Boise State has been stronger on the national scale, I suspect the Broncos won’t quite be the same given all they have lost. Notre Dame has high expectations this year, as do the Spartans. With the game being in East Lansing, this should be one MSU wins. But, you can never count out Brian Kelly and the Irish.
Easiest Game – Sept. 22 vs. Eastern MichiganThe Spartans host the Eagles at home to close out non-conference play. While Ron English has made some strides with EMU, the Michigan State defense should be able to easily shutdown that run-heavy offense.
Trap Game – Sept. 8 at Central MichiganI know, I know, what a surprise. But, when you look at this game objectively, it really is a trap game. First, this game takes place between the meetings with Boise State and Notre Dame. Second, this game is in Mt. Pleasant. CMU considers it the biggest game in the history of their stadium. That is a tough environment for any team to step into. While the Chippewas have struggled in two years under former MSU assistant Dan Enos, they return a lot of starters this season. I don’t expect CMU to pull off the upset, but I think the setting could make this game a tough one for the Spartans to get past.
Realistic Record – 4-0 – The Spartans have the luxury that the Wolverines don’t in that their two tough games come at home and not on the road. Because of that, Michigan State can go 4-0. Does that mean they will? No. Notre Dame could certainly trip them up, as could Boise State, if the Broncos’ first-year starters can have an immediate impact. Anything less than 3-1 in this stretch would be a disappointment for MSU.  

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