Mount Pleasant, MI – The 11th-ranked Michigan Spartans will look to build more early season momentum when they make their first-ever visit to Mount Pleasant to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The Spartans are now the highest ranked program from the Big Ten in the polls following their hard-fought, 17-14, win over Boise State on Friday and Michigan's loss to Alabama. Coach Mark Dantonio's squad did not flinch on defense, but it let the Broncos hang around by turning the ball over four times. MSU is coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in program history. Dantonio is 24-9 at MSU against non-conference competition.
CMU broke free from its halftime tie with Southeast Missouri State to earn a 38-27 victory in its 2012 season opener on Thursday. Central Michigan's head coach Dan Enos played quarterback for Michigan State from 1987-1990 and served as an assistant coach for the Spartans from 2006-2009. The Chippewas finished 3-9 in 2011 in Enos's second season, but CMU did pull off a thrilling upset of the eventual MAC Champion Northern Illinois in its second home game of the year.
Saturday's contest is a continuation of the 12-game "Celebrate the State" series which includes CMU, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Michigan State. Despite being separated by just 70 miles, the Spartans have never played in Kelly/Shorts Stadium before despite this being the ninth encounter in the all-time series.
The Spartans hold a 5-3 advantage in the rivalry's history after they delivered a 45-7 romp of CMU in 2011's edition of the series.
Michigan State was held to 17 points, but it racked up 461 yards of total offense in its opener. The attack revolved around junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who had a career day. Bell was named the Big Ten's Co-Offensive Player of the Week after he set career highs for carries (44), rushing yards (210), receptions (six), and receiving yards (55).
Although it was a learning experience, QB Andrew Maxwell managed to pick up the win over Boise State in his first career start after spending the past two seasons as Kirk Cousins' understudy. The junior completed 22-of-38 passes for 248 yards, but was picked off three times in the first half. Tight end Dion Sims was MSU's most productive weapon in the passing game with 65 yards on seven catches.
Maxwell has time to develop as Michigan State's defense is not going to need him to put up huge numbers in this one. The Spartans were the first team to hold Boise State without an offensive touchdown since Washington State shut the Broncos out on Sept. 27, 1997. Boise State was held to 206 total yards of offense and 37 rushing yards, which are both lows in the Chris Petersen era.
"Defensively, I thought we played outstanding throughout the entire game, really. They really had one drive down inside into the red zone against us," said coach Dantonio. "Other than that, we sort of responded, but guys tackled well in space, covered well down the field. Got to apply a little bit more pass pressure probably, but we'll get that fixed up."
Max Bullough led the charge with seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss and R.J. Williamson had an interception. The defensive backfield performed well with safety Jairus Jones finishing second on the team with six stops and Darqueze Dennard breaking up three passes.
CMU used a versatile rushing attack to down SE Missouri State in its opener. Zurlon Tipton and Anthony Garland became the first tandem to run for 100 yards each since 1999, as the team racked up 324 total rushing yards with a 7.2 yard per carry average. Tipton led the way with career-highs of 180 yards and three touchdowns
"When you can run the ball on offense, your play sheet is big," head coach Dan Enos said. "You've got a big play sheet, you've got all these things that work. When you can't run the ball those plays are really small in there and you're trying to find something that works and it makes everything better."
Quarterback Ryan Radcliff needs to step up his play this week after being limited by SEMO's defense. Radcliff completed 14-of-23 attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. The Chippewas' QB showed he can move an offense down the field last season with a MAC leading 2,491 yards in league games, but he accompanied his 25 passing touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
Radcliff was ineffective last season against Michigan State, as the Chippewas gained a season-low 112 yards of total offense.
CMU, which allowed 428.8 yards and 33.3 points per game in 2011, gave up only three points in the second half of its opener after allowing 24 to its FCS opponent in the first two periods.
Sophomore LB Justin Cherocci registered a team-high 15 tackles in the victory. Jahleel Addae returned to action after leading the Chippewas in tackles and the MAC in interceptions last season. The senior defensive back had 10 tackles and assisted a sack versus SEMO.