The 2018 season opener couldn’t have gone much better for Arizona State. Fans and coaches can nitpick the penalties, but it was as complete a performance the Sun Devils have put together in years. Here comes the first challenge.
How will the Sun Devils try and shut down the No. 15 Michigan State Spartans? The task won’t be easy, and the Spartans will come to the desert hungry for a signature win.
Experience vs. Youth
The Spartans return 10 starters on the offensive side of the ball, highlighted by junior quarterback and Phoenix native Brian Lewerke. Head coach Mark Dantonio’s team is back among the better programs in the country, and boasting an experienced roster the Spartans have high expectations for the 2018 season.
The Sun Devil defense dominated a punch-less UTSA offense, by swarming to the football and shutting down the rushing attack. The challenge this Saturday will be much greater, as MSU will be looking to throw the ball down the field to receivers Felton Davis and Darrell Stewart.
ASU cornerback Chase Lucas thrived against the Roadrunners, and he will have his hands full trying to contain either Davis or Stewart.
Attacking the Spartans’ D-Line
This will be the big matchup on Saturday night.
MSU’s defense was ranked seventh overall in the nation last season, and were second best at limiting the run. ASU’s running backs will be challenged after performing well against UTSA.
Eno Benjamin rushed for over 100 yards in his first collegiate start, and Isaiah Floyd was a good change of pace back for ASU’s offense.
The Sun Devil offensive line will need to be up to the task when going up against Michigan State’s defensive linemen Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams. Both have next-level potential and will be tasked with making sure ASU’s backs aren’t able to get outside and run along the sidelines.
N’Keal Harry vs. Justin Layne
There aren’t many defensive backs in the nation that can limit N’Keal Harry. Limit is the key word, because no player has figured out a way to shut him down.
Michigan State’s Justin Layne could be up for the task.
For starters, Layne can match Harry’s size at 6-foot-3 185 pounds, he will be able to match his height and will be fast enough to keep up with his speed.
It’s not everyday you get to see two players with pro potential battle it out, but this battle should be a treat.
How does the heat factor in the outcome?
This is far-and-away ASU’s biggest advantage. The forecast predicts a high of 107 degrees on Saturday in Tempe. When 7:45 rolls around it’ll likely drop all the way down to the high 90s.
Midwest teams have struggled historically playing in the heat of the desert, but I wouldn’t bank on the Spartans rolling over due to the elements.
They’re coming off nearly being upset by Utah State, and know they must win against ASU to have a real shot at the College Football Playoff.
Do they thrive in the desert? Or do the Sun Devils send another team home packing with a perfect home record against the Big 10?