GAME NOTES: The Michigan State Spartans have joined the top 25 for the first time this season and will put their new ranking on the line this weekend, when they welcome FCS foe Northern Colorado to East Lansing.
The 25th-ranked Spartans are a perfect 3-0 on the young season and enter this contest following a thrilling 34-31 overtime win against Notre Dame last week, thanks to a fake-field goal in the extra session. It was a gutsy call by head coach Mark Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack later that day that required a cardiac catheterization procedure. Dantonio was released from the hospital on Tuesday and will continue to rest at home. He will have no part in this week's game, as offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will lead the team against the Bears.
The outpouring of support has been simply overwhelming and comforting," said Dantonio. "My family and I have received countless cards, e-mails and text messages. It's impossible for me to express just how much the support and encouragement means to me and my family."
Scott Downing's Bears are 2-1 on the season. The team opened the 2010 campaign with a 54-0 shutout of Adams State. Their first road contest resulted in a 50-47 shootout loss at Weber State, but the team bounced back last weekend with a 35-21 victory over Idaho State.
This marks the first meeting between these two teams on the gridiron.
The Bears have put up some big offensive numbers this season, but a lot of that has to do with the lack of competition. The team has enjoyed a balanced attack though, with UNC averaging just over 200 yards rushing (201.7 ypg) and passing (203.3 ypg).
Tailback Andre Harris has been the driving force on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards per carry thus far and 91.7 yards per game. Harris is responsible for six of the team's 10 rushing scores to date.
Quarterback Dylan Orms has completed 56.3 percent of his passes and has a solid TD-to-INT ratio with six touchdowns and just one pick. Jace Davis has been the go-to-guy down the field, hauling in 14 receptions, for 281 yards and four TDs in the first three games.
The Bears defense will certainly be facing its toughest challenge to date and with the team yielding 23.7 ppg, it will really need to play above its heads to keep this one competitive. John Eddy and Matt King have led the way on this side of the football. Both players have recorded 26 stops. Eddy has three TFLs and two sacks to his credit, while King has one INT and one fumble recovery. Korey Askew (17 tackles) has made some big plays as well, leading the squad in both INTs (two) and fumble recoveries (two).
The Spartans have rushed for over 200 yards in each of the first three games (241.7 ypg), so it is no secret as to how MSU will move the football this weekend. The team boasts of a pair of standout rushers in Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell. Baker has gotten the three starts thus far and is averaging a hardy 130.0 yards per game. Despite not starting a single game this season, Bell is also over the century mark, adding 101.3 yards per game. Both players have scored four times.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins hasn't had to do a lot thus far. Still, he has completed an efficient 63.4 percent of his passes, for 573 yards, with four TDs. When the team does go vertical, WRs Keshawn Martin (10 catches, for 149 yards, one TD) and B.J. Cunningham (10 catches, for 147 yards, two TDs) are the primary targets.
The Spartan defense has done a nice job this season against the run (74.0 ypg), but has had some issues in terms of pass defense (287.7 ypg). The result is a scoring defense of 20.7 ppg. While the team will have a chance to improve on those numbers this week, the Big Ten slate will not provide many opportunities to survive with such generous numbers.
All-American Greg Jones is the centerpiece to the Spartan defense. The 6-1, 240-pound senior already has 29 tackles on the year, with one sack. He is followed closely in terms of tackles by sophomore LB Chris Norman, who has 26 stops.
The Spartans will be without their head coach for this one, but that shouldn't matter as they are better than the Bears in every facet of the game. There is no estimateon Dantonio's return.
"I haven't established a timeline for my return, but I have the utmost confidence in Coach Treadwell and the rest of the coaching staff to carry on with business as usual in my absence," Dantonio said. "I know that I must gradually work my way back onto the sidelines."
Expect MSU to put up some gaudy numbers on the ground, en route to a lopsided victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 44, Northern Colorado 10