While there has been a lot going on for Michigan State football off the field, there is still a game to be played in Spartan Stadium this Saturday afternoon, and it's the biggest contest of the year at that.
MSU will be taking on a top 10 team in Washington, the same Washington that beat last year's Spartan team by 11 points in Seattle, marking the first loss of seven for the green and white in 2022.
A lot of things have changed since last year’s matchup though, with the transfers of Payton Thorne and Keon Coleman, the suspension of Mel Tucker and the return of Mark Dantonio.
The Huskies, like last year, are led by Heisman candidate Micheal Penix Jr. The senior and former Indiana starting quarterback threw for 397 yards and four touchdown passes against MSU last time out, shredding a very poor pass defense. Michigan State is also very familiar with his top two targets in sophomore receiver Ja’Lynn Polk, who caught six receptions for over 150 yards and three touchdowns in the 39 point showing from the Huskies last season, as well as junior projected NFL first round pick Rome Odunze.
The Spartans will need their defense to continue to show out if they want to have a chance at slowing down one of the top passing attacks in the country. They currently rank fifth in the nation in pass and total defense, as well as second in sacks with five per contest.
Redshirt junior QB Noah Kim and redshirt junior running back Nathan Carter have spearheaded a potent Spartan offense through the first two weeks of the season, with Kim taking home Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for his week two performance along with Carter being tied for first in the conference in touchdowns with four. Kim completed a record setting 15-straight passes to close the win against the Richmond Spiders last weekend to go along with his three touchdown passes, while Carter added a hat trick of his own on the ground.
Saturday will mark Harlon Barnett’s first game as head coach of Michigan State, as the 15-year staff member was chosen to take over in place of Mel Tucker. It will also be Dantonio’s first game back with the green and white since his resignation in 2020, but this time in the role of Associate Head Coach.
Dantonio last faced Penix Jr. in 2019 when his squad came out victorious by nine points in Spartan Stadium.
This weekend, on top of all the other firsts, will also see alcohol being served inside the stadium. They will not be sold at concessions, but instead at fixed locations throughout the concourse.
MSU is just 1-3 against Washington in the all-time series, with their only win coming on the first time they squared off in 1969.
This is the first time an AP Top 10 non-conference opponent will visit East Lansing since Oregon in 2015, where MSU pulled away with a three point victory.
This year's rematch will also serve as the ten year anniversary celebration of Dantonio's 2013 Rose Bowl winning squad.
The matchup of the unbeaten is set to kick-off at 5 p.m. on Peacock.
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