It's finally here.
Michigan State's 2014 football season starts tonight at 7:31 PM. Ready or not, it's time to buckle the seat belt and get ready for the thrill ride.
The Spartans' opening day opponent is the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, a team that--despite being at the FCS level--should not be taken lightly.
A quick Wikipedia search yielded the following information about Jacksonville State: First of all, the school is located in Alabama and NOT Florida. So let's get that straight right away. JSU's most famous alumni are author Rick Bragg and former Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Todd Jones. Ashley Martin, the first female to ever score a point in NCAA football, was a Jacksonville State player.
The Gamecocks have been playing football since 1904 and have an overall program record of 521-366-40. Not too shabby. They have won 18 conference titles, and since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003, have won their league three times. Jacksonville State is currently riding a streak of eleven consecutive winning seasons, and entering the 2014 season are ranked #6 in FCS. They are coming off an 11-4 2013 season.
The Spartans better strap on their helmets tightly.
Jacksonville State is led by first-year head coach John Grass (who, coincidentally, is two days older than yours truly). The Gamecocks feature a quick strike offense led by senior running back DaMarcus James, who rushed for 1477 yards in 2013. JSU also piled up 3033 yards through the air last season.
MSU should have enough to win this game, but it may not be easy. With some new faces in the Spartans' defensive backfield, I could see some missed assignments or miscommunication leading to some big plays for Jacksonville State. The Spartans may also have some first-game jitters that may not disappear until after the first quarter.
Expectations are so high for MSU, that the Spartans may try a little too hard to look good and may stumble a bit in the early going of the game. By the second half, however, Jacksonville State should wear down and MSU should get it fully rolling. I see the Spartans winning this by a score of something in the neighborhood of 41-17. 41 points may be a bit too high for MSU's point total, but the Spartans' offense should be able to score on Jacksonville State. If anything, I may be lowballing the Gamecocks' total. Depending on how MSU's revamped defense performs (with a secondary that is replacing Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis, as well as a linebacking corps that lost Max Bullough and Denicos Allen), JSU could go over 20 points. Though I'm not certain of the score, I'm confident that Jacksonville State will be no pushover.
In any case...