College Football
Preview
Furman at Michigan State
When: 7:00 PM ET, Friday, September 2, 2016
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan

Despite a 36-5 record over the past three seasons, No. 11 Michigan State heads into its 2016 season opener with visiting Furman on Friday night with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. The Spartans have been Big Ten champions two of the last three years and come in off an appearance in the College Football Playoff semifinals, but they are once again being overlooked in the conference in favor of Ohio State and Michigan.

It doesn’t help that coach Mark Dantonio’s squad lost 14 starters from last year, including Connor Cook, the winningest quarterback in school history, as well as three multiple-year starters on the offensive line and star defensive end Shilique Calhoun. But the cupboard isn’t bare for the Spartans, especially on the defensive side of the ball, with junior nose tackle Malik McDowell making a number of preseason All-American teams and senior linebacker Riley Bullough returning after leading the Spartans in tackles (106) in 2015. Tyler O’Connor, who started Michigan State's upset win at Ohio State a year ago, is Cook’s successor under center, and he’ll likely be handing the ball off a lot with the Spartans returning three running backs who each rushed for at least 500 yards a year ago. The Paladins have a potentially potent passing game behind whoever coach Bruce Fowler names as his starting signal caller -- either senior Reese Hannon (5,274 career passing yards) or junior P.J. Blazejowski (2,092), who started four of the last five games a year ago.

TV: 7 p.m. ET. Big Ten Network. LINE: Off

ABOUT FURMAN (2015: 4-7): Fowler has a good and bad problem at quarterback, where Hannon is healthy after two concussions sidelined him last year but Blazejowski is also an experienced player that is battling for the starting nod. Days before the Paladins open the 2016 season, Fowler still had yet to name a starter, and it could be like this for a few weeks until one of the two signal callers makes it impossible to sit him down. "Just like every other position, there's a lot of competition to see who's going to play," Fowler told the Greenville News. "If we have those two healthy all year long, we're going to be a better football team."

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (2015: 12-2): While Bullough and O'Connor were obvious choices to be captains of the Spartans this year, the third player chosen, Demetrious Cox, wasn't as much of a given. But the senior safety is making his mark on the defense unit, keeping up a tradition under Dantonio -- a former college defensive back. "(Cox) is doing the things (current NFL player and former Spartan) Kurtis Drummond used to do -- understanding the defense to the point where he is helping others, calling out things before they happen, seeing things before they happen," co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett told the Lansing State Journal. "He has done an outstanding job so far."

EXTRA POINTS

1. Michigan State senior Josiah Price has the most touchdown catches (16) by a tight end in school history.

2. This is the sixth straight year the Spartans have opened the season on a Friday night, going 5-0 in the previous outings.

3. Sophomore RB LJ Scott led Michigan State in rushing in 2015 with 699 yards and ranked second on the team in scoring with 66 points.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 48, Furman 14
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Furman 0-0 - 0.0 0.0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Michigan State 0-0 - 0.0 0.0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Last Meeting
Furman Michigan State
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
No previous meeting.
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Furman N/A
Michigan State N/A
Quickchart Matchup
Furman Furman Off vs  Michigan State Michigan State Def
Furman 0 yards
Michigan State 0 yards
Furman 0 yards/rush
Michigan State 0 yards/rush
FurmanMichigan State
Michigan State Michigan State Off vs  Furman Furman Def
Michigan State 0 yards
Furman 0 yards
Michigan StateFurmanMichigan StateFurman