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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Michigan State Spartans

The week two contest will be the Devils’ first true test of the season.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Washington State vs Michigan State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State 2018 Schedule

UTSA (Sept. 1) - Read

Michigan State (Sept. 8)

At San Diego State (Sept. 15)

At Washington (Sept. 22)

Oregon State (Sept. 29)

At Colorado (Oct. 6)

Stanford (Oct. 18)

At USC (Oct. 27)

Utah (Nov. 3)

UCLA (Nov. 10)

At Oregon (Nov. 17)

At Arizona (Nov. 24)

Spartans in 2017

The No. 15 Spartans recovered strong from a 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten) season the year before to finish 10-3 (7-2) and second in the Big Ten East. They would match up with Washington State in the Holiday Bowl and take home the trophy in a 42-17 victory over the Cougars.

Key Returners

QB Brian Lewerke - Lewerke gave the Spartans hope in 2016 but it was dashed after a season-ending injury. His performance last season was shaky against big clubs like Ohio State and Michigan but he certainly evolved throughout the season. The redshirt junior finished last season with 2,793 completed yards as well as a 20 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio. He is currently on the preseason watchlist for three awards - Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien - heading into this season.

DB Khari Willis - The senior may not be the statistical leader in the defensive backfield but he is crucial to their success as a vocal leader. He was one of the representatives of the Spartans at Big Ten media day and he serves as a keystone part of the secondary for this season. Last season he recorded 71 tackles, five and half for loss and three sacks. He added 2 interceptions and a forced fumble.

Key Losses

OL Brian Allen - It is hard to quantify an offensive lineman by statistics because they hardly rack up statistics, but it is the first line of defense against Lewerke and Allen is now with the LA Rams. The versatile lineman was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 draft and was the only draft pick from MSU this year.

LB Chris Frey Jr. - The other Spartan headed to the NFL is the linebacker now a member of the Carolina Panthers. He finished last season with 55 tackles, four and a half for loss and four sacks. He also forced one fumble and recovered three during the 2017 campaign.

Why ASU could win

Think about what ASU is bringing into this season that was successful last season: Manny Wilkins is once again leading the charge for the offense, N’Keal Harry could easily be the best receiver in the NCAA if he and Wilkins connect as effectively as they have the past three seasons. There is experience in the secondary in Kobe Williams and Chase Lucas that have the ability to shut down opposing receivers. Though there is a lot of new surrounding the Sun Devils, their veterans have the ability to push them to the top.

Why ASU could lose

It seems obvious but on paper ASU doesn’t stand a chance. This is the same team that struggled against their out of conference schedule last season. Poor performance and injury almost caused them to miss out on a bowl game. Michigan State is riding the hot hand with a strong 2017, and with a lot of returners they are primed to once again take down the non-conference opponents.