Boise State v Michigan State

Sparty’s defense proves to be the difference against Boise State


Unless you noticed the different uniforms, stadium and names, you could have flipped on tonight’s game between No. 13 Michigan State and No. 24 Boise State and thought, even if only briefly, that you were watching a replay of Thursday’s game between South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Down to the 17-13 final score, tonight’s season opener in East Lansing shared a few qualities from the SEC’s weeknight introduction: turnovers, huge momentum swings, but little in the way of effective passing games. But, my oh my, can Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell carry the rock. Fourty-four times, in fact, for 210 yards — four more yards than Boise State had all night.

Which leads me to the real difference in tonight’s game: Michigan State’s defense. It was everything as advertised. Sparty kept Boise State to just 37 yards rushing, less than 50 percent completion percentage and no offensive touchdowns. The only time the Broncos found the end zone all night was on a Jeremy Ioane interception returned 43 yards for a touchdown. It was one of three picks made by Boise on the night.

So, yes, Andrew Maxwell struggled mightily at times in his first start replacing Kirk Cousins. That’s where Bell came in to save the day, but that needs to change eventually. Even at nearly 250 pounds, Bell can’t realistically average 40 carries a game. No one can.

Sure, Maxwell needs to improve, but he needs help too. Sparty’s O-line underachieved against an unproven Broncos D-line, and the passing game needs a new name outside of Bell (six catches for 55 yards) and tight end Dion Sims (seven grabs for 65 yards).

The turnover at quarterback and receiver was a concern heading into tonight, and it was certainly validated, but it’s impossible to know just where Michigan State stacks up in the Big Ten Legends division. Not tonight, anyway. For one, no one else in the Big Ten has played yet, but like we mentioned in the Wazzu-BYU post game report, opening week games are terrible gauges for the rest of the season.

All anyone really knows about Michigan State is the defense is much farther along than the offense — but that was expected. What wasn’t so much was how close Boise State kept the score. Again, that’s a tribute to Chris Petersen. Simply put, the guy is one of the best damn coaches in the country.

Think about it. Boise State lost 17 starters from a group that won 50 games together — though it should be pointed out that many on the field tonight played a role in those wins — and (again) somehow managed* to hang with a supposedly superior opponent without a single offensive touchdown.

(*Something about Michigan State turning the ball over four times.)

But I digress…

Michigan State’s defense is good enough by itself to give Mark Dantonio‘s team a shot at a Big Ten title. The focus for the Spartans now centralizes on making a young offense more cohesive.

That simply comes with time. When you have a defense like Michigan State does, that’s a luxury you actually do possess.

Lamar Jackson turns in another Heisman-worthy performance as Louisville drubs NC State

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 22:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Send Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to New York now. Maybe get the nameplate for the Heisman Trophy ready too. Jackson continued to pad his Heisman profile with another stellar performance, this time against NC State (4-3, 1-1 ACC). Jackson and No. 7 Louisville (6-1, 4-1 ACC) blew out the Wolfpack, 54-13 Saturday afternoon.

Jackson wasted little time in having an impact on the game. On the fourth play of the game, Jackson ripped off a 36-yard touchdown to give Louisville a quick 7-0 lead. The Heisman frontrunner ended his day having completed 20-of-34 pass attempts for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also rushed for a score and 76 yards before getting an early rest in the second half. Jackson completed touchdown passes to Jaylen Smith, Jamari Staples and Cole Hikutini.

Louisville jumped all over NC State in the first half with a dominating start. The Cardinals led at halftime 44-0. The Cardinals had a little more than a 300-yard advantage in total offense over NC State at the half and that continued in the second half. Louisville was so dominant that even 12 penalties for 94 yards didn’t seem to bother them (although it surely is not to be overlooked). Louisville also had a pair of turnovers, but they also recovered three turnovers.

The Jackson Heisman Tour will take to the road the next couple of weeks. Louisville plays at Virginia next week and at Boston College the following week before returning home to wrap up its conference schedule against Wake Forest. It’s hard not to look ahead to the mid-November game at Houston, but Louisville will remain in the playoff hunt as long as Jackson keeps playing the way he has.

NC State will look to bounce back from back-to-back ACC losses next week when they host Boston College.

Kansas State holds off Texas, 24-21

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Jesse Ertz #17 of the Kansas State Wildcats warms up before the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Wolverines 31-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but Kansas State (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) will take it. The Wildcats took control of the time of possession in the first half and held off a bit of a second-half push by Texas (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) to pick up a 24-21 victory Saturday afternoon.

Kansas State certainly gave Texas opportunities. The Wildcats had three turnovers, but Texas followed those Kansas State turnovers with two turnover-on-downs and one missed field goal. Jesse Ertz was efficient in the passing game for Kansas State, completing 20 of 27 pass attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown (one interception). Ertz also accounted for two rushing touchdowns and 78 rushing yards.

Despite missing on a number of opportunities, Texas did still manage to push Kansas State to the end of the game with a pair of second-half touchdowns. Shane Buechele‘s six-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Leonard in the back of the end zone was upheld by a video replay and cut the Kansas State lead to three after an extra-point conversion. Buechele completed 17-pf-24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. D'Onta Foreman led all players with 124 rushing yards, and Tyrone Swoopes added a rushing touchdown. Charles Jones was Kansas State’s leading rusher with 81 yards on 12 attempts.

Texas will return to Austin next week to host Baylor. Entering this weekend, Baylor as undefeated and looking to make a push in the Big 12. Texas stunned a depleted Baylor last year, so Baylor will be looking for revenge. Once again, Texas head coach Charlie Strong looks to be in need of a big win to save his job.

Kansas State hits the road next week for an early kickoff at Iowa State. The cyclones entered this week with a record of 1-6, with a record of 0-4 in Big 12 play.

WATCH: Purdue honors the late Sam Foltz prior to Nebraska game

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Students of the Nebraska Cornhuskers honor deceased player Sam Foltz with a banner before the game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten has fully embraced honoring the memory of Sam Foltz, and Purdue became the latest to do as much.

Like Illinois before them, the Purdue captains presented their counterparts at Nebraska with a No. 27 jersey at midfield as the two teams met for the ceremonial coin toss prior to the Big Ten contest.  The coin used, incidentally, featured Foltz on one side and Mike Sadler on the other.

Foltz, who would’ve been Nebraska’s punter this season, and Sadler, a former Michigan State punter, were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

Jeff George Jr. will reportedly get the start for Illini vs. Michigan

Illinois athletics

If you’re in the mood to feel old, here ya go.

Illinois has been hit hard by injuries at the quarterback position, with season-opening starter Wes Lunt dealing with a back issue while Chayce Crouch, last week’s starter in place of Lunt, hurt his shoulder against Rutgers.  Neither of those signal-callers are expected to be available for today’s game against Michigan.

So, just who will line up under center against the No. 3 team in the country in the Big House?  According to the Champaign News-Gazette, that honor will fall to Jeff George Jr., the son of former Illini great Jeff George.

The 6-3, 205-pound George was a two-star recruit in 2014 who took a grayshirt that year before enrolling at Illinois in 2015.  He took a redshirt his true freshman season, and has not thrown a pass at the collegiate level.

Obviously, this will mark his first career start, and it will come against a team with which his father had some familiarity.  From the News-Gazette:

George’s dad, who was scheduled to be at today’s game, started twice against Michigan in the late 1980s.

He had 135 yards in a 1988 loss and threw for 253 yards in a 24-10 loss in 1989 at Memorial Stadium.