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Eastern Michigan Eagles At Michigan State Spartans: A Way Too Early Non-conference Preview

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A battle of Michigan state colleges.

Jeff Gross

The final non-conference matchup on Eastern Michigan's regular season schedule is against the Spartans of Michigan freaking State. This makes me angry because Donald Scott dropped the damned ball about four yards short late in this game back in 2012. It could've been huge, but the Eagles (most specifically Donald Scott) went home empty-handed, losing 23-7. I know what you're thinking, but if you had actually watched this game, it was much closer than what the final score shows.

Michigan State Spartans 2013 Rewind:

Last year was a fantastic year for Michigan State. I use the word fantastic loosely. Let's think of 2013 as the new ride at Cedar Point, that's bigger than the Millennium Force, faster than the Dragster and makes you regret eating those french fries with vinegar about 20 minutes before riding it. But once you ride that scary ride, you can say to yourself "I'm so glad I rode that shit."

The Spartans finished 13-1 losing only to Notre Dame, was heavily led by their ferocious defense. They beat rivaled Michigan 22-9, won the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State 34-24 and ended up making a ton of noise in Pasadena, California on New Years Day. We'll get to that in a minute.

Mascot:

Did you know Eastern Michigan was once known as "Michigan State Normal College"? Did you know that MSU changed their name to "Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science" in 1925? At that point, they were known as the Aggies for obvious reasons, but that nickname sucks (again, for obvious reason). A nickname contest was held, with ballots of "Michigan State Sport Ons" and "Michigan Staters" as some of the requests. Yada yada ya, officials decided to go with "Spartans" to make big history thing out of it. It stuck, it sticks, and it's better than the Aggies.

Sparty has been around since 1943 when it was just a statue, but World War II happened so it had to be cast in terra cotta. The 40's were too crazy to keep up with. He eventually became a bronze replica and eventually became a costumed mascot during the 1989 football season.

Head Coach:

Mark Dantonio is what this program needed. Hired in near the end of November in 2006, Since then, he's won three shares of Big Ten titles including one outright championship (2013). The Spartans have had a 5-2 record against Michigan during his tenure, and is 3-4 in bowl games. He's won his last three bowl appearances.

Last Bowl Appearance:

The Granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl. The last time MSU went to one of these was back in 1988 where they beat USC 20-17. New Years Day 2014, Dantonio and the Spartans won the 100th Rose Bowl over Stanford 24-20. Connor Cook was the offensive MVP after having the game of his life, throwing 22-for-36 for 332 yards and two scores. Kyler Elsworth was the defensive MVP with four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, but most importantly was responsible for stopping Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney on a late fourth-and-one run, which ended up being the deciding factor of the game.

The game was great, couches in East Lansing were burnt to a crisp, but this is still the best part about that Rose Bowl:

MSU Football Rose Bowl Post Game Locker Room Celebration (via MSUSpartanAthletics)

Five Key Players:

Connor Cook

Jeremy Langford

Macgarrett Kings Jr.

Riley Bullough

Kurtis Drummond

Offense:

Connor Cook may not be the best quarterback the Big Ten has to offer, but the kid can battle. Second team All-Big Ten accolades by the coaches (honorable mention by the media), he came up big in the Rose Bowl as well as the Big Ten Championship game, completing 24 passes for 304 yards. With Jeremy Langford in the backfield (1,445 rushing yards last season), their one-back, punch-you-in-the-mouth style of football is meant to wear defenders down.

Last season, MSU finished 82nd in the nation with 385.5 yards per game, averaging 29.4 points per game.

Defense:

Per cfbstats.com, MSU had the second best total defense in the nation, averaging only 252.2 yards per game off of 873 plays (Louisville was first, averaging 251.5 ypg off of 779 plays). Even without Darqueze Dennard, this is still a defense that is going to be hard to beat for anybody in the nation, let alone Eastern Michigan.

They still have Kurtis Drummond, who is basically a first team everything safety that has 87 career tackles with eight interceptions.

Special Teams:

Macgarrett Kings Jr. is a junior receiver, who has 47 career catches for 538 yards. While he makes a lot of noise on the offense, he plays a key role as MSU's punt returner. Last season, he had 20 punt returns for 206 yards.

As a freshman, Michael Geiger did a very good job on the field goal unit. 15-for-16 in field goals, his only miss was between 30-39 yards, while he went 8-for-8 beyond 40 yard attempts.

Early Prediction:

2012 leaves a sour taste in my mouth, thanks to Donald Scott. Just because EMU doesn't have its weakest link, doesn't mean that they now stand a chance against MSU. The whole "sure this defense is good, but they've never seen Creighton's offense" just doesn't work here. The Eagles just don't have the talent to beat MSU this year, but thanks for the payday game. MSU wins 34-14.