The Michigan State Spartans are looking for revenge against the Arizona State Sun Devils. A year after letting one get away from them in the desert, the Spartans welcome Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils to Big Ten country for a fun matchup in Week 3. Can Arizona State pull another stunner against Mark Dantonio’s program to improve to 3-0?
Dantonio shouldn't have to remind his players just how poorly they played last season against Arizona State. In what became the theme of the 2018 season, Michigan State's offense was unable to kick up much dust, and the Spartans came out on the losing end of the kind of low-scoring, scrappy battle they have had go their way many times over the years. But last year, in Tempe, the fates were in Arizona State’s corner as Edwards scored a notable victory over a Top 25 team in just his second game as head coach.
Can Edwards do it again against a ranked Michigan State?
Arizona State at Michigan State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan State -14
When Arizona State Has the Ball
The Sun Devils are looking to get their offense on track after a couple of rough outings to begin the season, but this isn't exactly the best environment in which to do so. Michigan State has allowed just 24 points in the first two games of the season. And considering how inconsistent the Arizona State offense has been, this could be a rough outing for the visitors from the Pac-12.
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels had a 300-yard game last week, and a couple of his targets came close to 100-yard games (Brandon Aiyuk had 98 yards and Eno Benjamin had 94 yards, each on four receptions). Efficiency in the passing game against Michigan State will be instrumental for Arizona State, as the Devils look to move the chains with regularity. Running the football will be the bigger challenge. Michigan State held Tulsa to -73 rushing yards in the season opener, and Western Michigan mustered only 67 rushing yards. That's right: Michigan State has allowed -6 rushing yards on the season.
When Michigan State Has the Ball
Michigan State's running game tends to be a pretty reliable asset, and that has proven to be the case in the early part of this season. Freshman Elijah Collins is one of three rushers in the Big Ten to eclipse 200 yards this season, although he has yet to score a touchdown. The only two Big Ten backs with more yards are Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, which isn't exactly bad company to be in for a freshman. Collins has averaged 8.36 yards per attempt on just 25 rushing attempts.
But the success of Michigan State will likely fall on quarterback Brian Lewerke, who is healthy and looking to bounce back a bit this season. Lewerke has thrown for four touchdowns with one interception, and he is coming off a 314-yard game. Last year against Arizona State, Lewerke had a touchdown and an interception in a 16-13 loss. His stats weren’t terrible, but a tight game like that shows just how costly one mistake can be.
Don't expect lightning to strike a second time for Arizona State. Michigan State at home is a much different animal than on the road, especially on the West Coast. The way Michigan State's run defense has been performing, there may not be much Arizona State can do to find scoring opportunities.
Michigan State may have let its foot off the gas a bit last week against Western Michigan, but the Spartans defense is locked in to start the season. That won’t change this week, as Michigan State handles Arizona State from start to finish in a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Michigan State 34, Arizona State 17
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.