The arrival of the college football season is an exciting event by itself, and marquee matchups—like Michigan State versus Boise State—in the season's opening week only add to that fervor.
Michigan State enters the season ranked No. 13. Despite having to replace Second Team All-Big Ten quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Spartans are a dark horse in the national picture this season.
The Broncos are also replacing a quarterback. Joe Southwick will undertake the tall task of taking over for Boise State's all-time wins leader Kellen Moore.
College football is finally here, and Week 1 has several matchups that are worth watching.
For now, let's break down this game specifically.
When: Friday, August 31 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan
According to Bovada, the Spartans are favored at -7. Boise State will enjoy another solid season, but there's no doubt that they have taken a step back.
With the home crowd behind them, I would take the Spartans to cover here. This game will be close, but Michigan State has too much on both sides of the ball for Boise to handle.
Bovada has the over/under set at 47. It's hard to see these two squads not clearing that mark, so I'd take the over.
Both teams are capable of scoring points in bunches. Look for each team to score 25-30 points in this one. The Spartans' defense is very good this year, but Boise still knows how to score.
USA Today reports that the Broncos will be without wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn. He isn't injured, but he will miss the first four games of the season for violating NCAA rules.
The Spartans are expected to be without offensive tackle Skyler Burkland, who is suffering from a hand injury. Fellow offensive lineman Blake Treadwell is out for a few more weeks with a shin injury.
It's early to discuss BCS implications, but let's briefly talk about it anyway.
The Broncos are always behind the eight ball when it comes to postseason berths, and this year will be no different. Considering their current rank, an opening-week loss would be catastrophic to their BCS bowl hopes.
The Spartans are one favorite to win the Big Ten and push through to the Rose Bowl. A loss wouldn't hurt their conference record, but at-large bids are always up for grabs as well.
Bottom line: no one likes to lose. This isn't college basketball, and every loss hurts.
Keys for Michigan State
Michigan State is one of the best teams that no one is mentioning this season. They have talent on both sides of the ball, and they bring a blue-collar attitude to the gridiron every week.
The Spartans need their run game and defense to win this game for them. Andrew Maxwell is a capable pocket passer, but he's only attempted 51 career passes.
The Spartans will rely on 240-pound bulldozer Le'Veon Bell and his counterpart Larry Caper to carry the ball this year. Bell ran for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, while Caper added another 116 yards and a touchdown.
The two-headed run game will be complemented by a stellar defense. They boast talent at all three levels, and they will not be pushed around.
William Gholston is one of the best pass-rushers in the nation this year. Johnny Adams is extremely physical on the perimeter from his cornerback spot, and Denicos Allen is a tackling machine at linebacker.
For Michigan State to win, they must play their game. Bell and Caper can control the clock if Maxwell keeps the Broncos' defense honest.
Keys for Boise State
The Broncos don't have an electric stable of running backs to lean on like the Spartans, but they do have a new quarterback to break in.
You could argue that Chris Petersen's system is of the "plug and play" variety. At times, it seems to run itself regardless of who is on the field.
Nonetheless, Southwick is inexperienced and filling massive shoes behind center. He has two career touchdown passes, one in each of the past two seasons.
The Broncos don't have Doug Martin to lean on in their run game this year, but oft-injured D.J. Harper is back in the fold. According to The Idaho Statesman, he is ready to go.
Southwick's responsibility is huge compared to Maxwell's. He will need to adjust quickly, and he won't have nearly as much help as his opponent does.
The Broncos need their defense to contain Michigan State's run game and force a few turnovers if they want to win this game.
It's going to be an uphill battle, and they will need a couple breaks to go their way. The one and only key is Southwick's ability behind center.
As i said earlier, I think Michigan State covers the spread and wins the game. East Lansing is not an easy place to play, and they know how good their team can be this season.
The Spartans have a Big Ten title on their minds, and their powerful run game will be too much for a young and rebuilding Broncos front seven.
Score: Michigan State 34, Boise State 24