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What you need to know: BYU vs Michigan State

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars and Michigan State Spartans have never met on the football field and this will be the Cougars first trip back to the state of Michigan since the disaster last year at the hands of the Wolverines. The Spartans started playing football in 1896 and have an overall record of 669-439-44, and have won six national championships, the last of which was 1966.

The Outlook

The Cougars finally found their way back to a win as they outlasted the Toledo Rockets in an offensive shootout resembling the old WAC games. BYU surprised everyone as they put up 55 points against an FBS team for the first time since 2010. Although the offense began to click, the defense took a step backwards against a quality offense for the Rockets.

The Positives

The game ball (and goalposts, and stadium) belong to Jamaal Williams as he scored five touchdowns and ran all over the Toledo defense to the tune of 286 yards. As Williams is gunning for the title of all-time rushing yards leader at BYU, he weaved and darted into the record books as the single game rushing leader at BYU. In his onslaught he had touchdown runs of 62 yards and 48 yards to electrify the crowd.

The Negatives

The defense, missing some key players, gave up 52 points. Toledo has a great offense, however, the Cougars defense has now looked porous for two weeks in a row and look to still be without key players in the coming weeks. 52 points given up to anyone is unacceptable and once again the missed tackles played a huge part in the score. The defense needs to find a way to dominate like they did in the first three games or the Cougars will struggle to become bowl eligible.

The Match-ups

The BYU Defensive Line vs Michigan State Offensive Line:

In order for the Cougars to have a chance to win this game the pass rush needs to improve. Through five games the defense has only recorded eight sacks, resulting in less than two sacks per game. If the defensive line can control the line then the ensuing pressure will lead to mistakes and rushed throws, putting BYU in a good position to pull an upset.

The Keys to Watch

When the Spartans have the ball:

Watch for duel threat quarterback Tyler O'Connor to stretch the Cougars defense in more ways than one. On the year he is completed 60% of his passes and should eclipse the 1000 yards passing mark against BYU. Along with the passing threat he has also recorded the second highest rushing attempts on the team with 34. The Spartans have two running backs that must be planned for as LJ Scott has rushed for 302 yards while Gerald Holmes has added another 151. The pair of running backs have combined for more than half of the teams rushing attempts and all four of the rushing touchdowns.

Watch for the Cougars to pressure O'Connor as they try to bait him into mistakes. His eight touchdowns to five interceptions shows that he can be vulnerable to pressure, and the Cougars need to take advantage. Watch for the Cougars to pay special attention to O'Connor in the rushing game as his 2.8 yards per rush isn't terrifying, but can be devastating if let loose on third down. Don't be surprised if one of the Cougars linebackers hangs back as a spy and follows O'Connor wherever he goes.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to stick with Jamaal Williams and the run game even when the yards are tough. If Williams can get a few tough yards after contact it will allow the offense to open up their game plan against a tough run defense. Watch for the Cougars to once again utilize the tight end in their game plan, building on a great performance against Toledo. With Williams drawing the linebackers into the line, the Cougar tight ends could once again find themselves open in the middle of the field.

Watch for the Spartans to play on their strength and look to neutralize the Cougars running game. If the Spartans can force Hill to win the game, the defense will be in a good position. Although Hill finally found a receiver with the long ball last week, don't look for the Spartans to be overly scared of the pass beyond 7-8 yards. The secondary will look to force the receivers into bad routes and dropped passes as they play physical and knock off the Cougars timing.

Interesting Tidbit

The Spartans have one of the oddest stories when it comes to their nickname. In 1925 the college was changing from Michigan Agricultural College to Michigan State College and decided to hold a contest to pick the nickname. The winning nickname ended up being the "Michigan Staters" but that didn't fly with a Lansing sportswriter as he found it too cumbersome for the newspapers. After going through the other entries he found the "Spartans" and stated using it in his baseball game recaps. After another paper picked it up, and later the school newspaper, the name stuck and has been the nickname ever since. For more on this story and the history of the Michigan State Spartans take a look at their official website.

Next Meeting

The Cougars and Spartans will next clash in September of 2020 when Michigan State pays a return trip to BYU at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:30 PM MT

Where: Spartan Stadium-East Lansing, Michigan

TV: ABC

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here