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Jay’s Gameday Guide: Boise State vs Michigan State

No. 24 Boise State (0-0) at No. 13 Michigan State (0-0)
Time - 6:00 p.m.
Television - ESPN
**True Blue Bronco Pregame Show starts at 5 p.m. MT**

The Boise State football team kicks off the 2012 season against Michigan State on Friday in East Lansing. While it marks the first-ever matchup between the two schools, this will also be the third straight season the Broncos opened up east of the Mississippi River.

This will be the ninth time in program history the Spartans have faced a ranked opponent in their opener and first since 1998 (No. 15 Colorado State). In those games, Michigan State is just 2-5-1. Meanwhile, the Broncos have opened up with wins over a Top 25 opponent for the last three years (Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia).

Position Battles:
OFFENSE
Quarterback
Edge: Michigan State
Both teams enter with first-year starting quarterbacks. Junior Andrew Maxwell is taking over for Kirk Cousins, while redshirt junior Joe Southwick steps in for Kellen Moore.
If this game was being played in Boise, I’d give this edge to Southwick. Instead, Maxwell will be in a familiar environment.

Runningbacks
Edge: Michigan State
Boise State senior D.J. Harper is a great runningback with experience. He is inline for a breakout season after finally earning the starting job, but Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell has a rare combination of size, speed and toughness that will likely land him a big-time roll in the NFL one day.

Wide Receivers
Edge: Boise State
Although the edge went to the Spartans quarterback, this group might swing that into the Broncos favor. Michigan State must replace their top three receivers, while Boise State returns three different players in Matt Miller (62), Mitch Burroughs (49) and Kirby Moore (22) that recorded over 20 catches last year.

Offensive line
Edge: Even
It is to bad the offensive lines do not actually compete against each other because it would be a battle. Michigan State returns experience across the board, as they only have to replace one starter. Boise State is in a similar situation with left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. acting as the leader of this group.

DEFENSE
Cornerbacks
Edge: Boise State
There are not many cornerbacks in the country that are more talented than Michigan State’s Johnny Adams. However, as I believe we will find out this fall, Jamar Taylor is one of them. With the return of Jerrell Gavins at the opposite corner spot and the emergence of Lee Hightower and Jeremy Ioane at the safety positions, I am giving BSU the slight edge.

Linebackers
Edge: Michigan State
Boise State seniors J.C. Percy and Tommy Smith are finally getting a chance to step into the starting lineup. While I predict they will up the level of physicality at the position for the Broncos, it is just tough to beat the talent and experience of the Michigan State duo in senior Chris Norman and junior Max Bollough.

Defensive line
Edge: Michigan State
We will find out a lot about the Boise State defensive line this game. Do they have enough depth? Can Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukuwauku set the edge like Shea McClellin and Tyrone Crawford? In this case, it is the proven versus the unknown. Michigan State junior Williams Gholston is a future first-round pick in the NFL, and sophomore Marcus Rush is a nice compliment coming off the right side (4.0 sacks and 9 quarterback hits in 2011).

Coaching Staff
Edge: Boise State
I do not know how many coaches around the country know the career record of any opposing coach. In this case, Mark Dantonio has pointed out coach Pete’s 73-6 mark numerous times in press conferences this fall camp.
Not convinced yet? Coach Pete is 23-2 when he has 10-or-day to prepare. In this case, he has had 252 days to prepare.


#7SportsInsider with Jay Tust
> Redshirt junior Joe Southwick will make the first start of his career against Michigan State. In 16 appearances over the last two years, Southwick has completed 40-of-54 pass for 400 yards, two touchdown and an interception.

Recent BSU debuts in a season-opener by a Boise State starting quarterback:
Sept. 30, 2008 - Kellen Moore vs Idaho State (W, 49-7)
Stat line: 14-19, 274 yds, 2 td
Sept. 30, 2007 - Taylor Tharp vs Weber State (W, 56-7)
Stat line: 14-19, 184 yds, td
2004 - Jared Zabransky vs Idaho (W, 65-7)
Stat line: 11-16, 234 yds, INT; 7 car, 6 yds, 3 td
Aug. 1, 2001 - Ryan Dinwiddie vs No. 21 South Carolina (L, 32-13)
Stat line: 18-31, 162 yds, td, int
Aug. 4, 1999 - Bart Hendricks vs No. 17 UCLA (L, 38-7)
Stat line: 17-35, 118 yds, 3 int

> Junior tight end Gabe Linehan is not concerned about who is starting undercenter for Boise State:
“We’re going to scheme people … our offense is a system and its a good one. We’re going to plug a QB in and he’s going to be talented.”

> Boise State will look to hit the ground running with D.J. Harper this fall. Offensive coordinator Robert Prince says they will reply heavily on the sixth-year senior, while coach Pete mentioned he is excited Harper’s opportunity to start has finally arrived.

> Along the line, redshirt junior Charles Leno, Jr. is expected to get the start at left tackle. A season after starting every game at right tackle, Leno will take over for Nate Potter, who was a consensus All-American in 2011.
Throughout the early part of fall camp, it seemed like Leno would stay on the right side and redshirt senior Faraji Wright would start on the left. But in the scrimmage two weeks ago, that planned seemed to change when redshirt junior Jake Broyles started at right tackle with the No. 1 offense.
“Our left tackle and right tackle better be equally as good. That makes no difference to me,” says coach Petersen. “Straus (offensive line coach, Chris Strausser) has a preference to where he wanted them in combination with the other five.”

> The Broncos look for a fresh start this season when they could play as many five first-year players against the Spartans. Coach Pete said runningback Jack Field, wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes, tight end Hayden Plinke and linebacker Tyler Grey are all likely to see the field. Coach Pete will wait to make the call on other true freshman, like safety Chanceller James.

Most wins by an FBS program over the last two season:
Rk Team Wins
1. Boise State 24
LSU 24
Oregon 24
TCU 24
5. Stanford 23
Oklahoma St. 23
7. Michigan State 22
Alabama 22
Auburn 22
Oklahoma 22
Virginia Tech 22
Wisconsin 22

Consecutive weeks in the Top 25
- Boise State, 62 (School-record)
- Michigan State, 30 (School-record)

Coaching records in season openers:
- Chris Petersen, 6-0 at Boise State
- Mark Dantonio, 4-1 at Michigan State

> This marks just the 12th night game in the 89 year history of Spartan Stadium. Michigan State is 7-4 in the previous matchups. Three of those have been against ranked opponents (No. 16 USC in 1987; No. 10 Notre Dame; No. 4 Wisconsin 2011).

> Michigan State has won their last 13 home openers. Meanwhile, Boise State has opened up away from Bronco Stadium with three straight wins over ranked opponents.