It's the biggest matchup in Michigan this year: Michigan State against Central Michigan, the Spartans against the Chippewas, the Big Ten against the MAC.
Okay, okay, so maybe there will be a slightly bigger clash between Michigan schools later in the season. But this is an excellent chance for the Chippewas to make an early-season statement and pull off a huge upset. For Michigan State, it's a must-win in a season full of expectations.
It's an all-Michigan battle, and those are always fun. Let's take a closer look at this early-season clash.
When: Saturday, September 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Listen: Spartan Sports Network (Michigan State), CMUChippewas.com (Central Michigan), Sirius 134
Live Streaming: WatchESPN
Betting Line: Michigan State (-23.5), according to Bet Online.
Michigan State Injuries (via USA Today)
DE Lawrence Thomas, Concussion, Questionable
T Skyler Burkland, Hand, Questionable
DL Brandon Clemons, Foot Out Indefinitely
OL Blake Treadwell, Shin, Out
Central Michigan Injuries (via USA Today)
No injuries to report
What's At Stake
For the Chippewas, a chance to pull off a huge upset would give them momentum for the team's MAC campaign.
For Michigan State, this is a game they must win, plain and simple. A national championship probably isn't in the cards for the Spartans, but they'll be in trouble once the Big Ten games begin if they can't win this one.
Plus, it's a battle for Michigan bragging rights. Never underestimate the intensity of an in-state clash.
Michigan State Player to Watch: Le'Veon Bell, Running Back
Against Boise State, Bell did serious work, carrying the ball 44 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns. In total, he had 50 touches and 265 yards from scrimmage.
He was considered a very good running back before this game. Now, he might have just entered the (very early) Heisman race.
While I would imagine Michigan State will try to limit his touches more in Week 2, he'll certainly be the key to their attack once again against the Chippewas. And as he proved against a good Boise State team on Saturday night, he's more than capable of carrying the load.
Central Michigan Players to Watch: Zurlon Tipton and Anthony Garland, Running Backs
Tipton and Garland combined for 282 yards and four touchdowns against Southeast Missouri State in Week 1, each finishing with 17 carries. Tipton was the star, rushing for 180 yards and three touchdowns, but the pair will spearhead the Chippewa attack against the Spartans.
While it would be brash to suggest the pair could come anywhere close to the same output in Week 2, they will be the key to Central Michigan's success in this one. If they can get going early, this should be a very fun game to watch.
What They're Saying
All of the talk after Saturday night has justifiably been about Bell. In case you aren't sold on just how impressive his performance was, consider the following from ESPN Stats and Information:
Le'Veon Bell had a career night Friday against Boise State. Bell set career highs in carries (44), rush yards (210), catches (6) and receiving yards (55). The Broncos had a difficult time bringing him to the ground; Bell gained 40 percent of his 210 rushing yards after contact and 52 of his 55 receiving yards after the catch.
Translation: He was freaking awesome.
Key Matchup: Michigan State Defensive Line vs. Central Michigan Offensive Line
The Spartans gave up just 37 rushing yards to Boise State and controlled much of the game with the defensive line. Michigan State may have only squeaked out a 17-13 win, but the defense in general was excellent, especially the line.
Central Michigan will do its best to test that defensive front. The Chippewas rushed for 324 yards against Southeast Missouri State, with Tipton and Garland each rushing for more than 100 yards. If the offensive line can handle the Spartans up front, more success should follow.
That's a big "if." Central Michigan will look to establish its running game early, and if they do, the team might stand a chance. If they can't get anything going on the ground, however, it will be a very long afternoon for the Chippewas. The battle in the trenches will decide this one.
A Michigan State loss in this one would be shocking. Central Michigan won't lie down and die, but they don't have the talent to compete with a very good Michigan State team. Look for the Spartans to take this one easily, 38-10.
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