No. 2 Michigan State hopes to avoid slip-up against CMU
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) It's one loss that really stands out as a head scratcher in Mark Dantonio's tenure as Michigan State's coach.
In 2009, Central Michigan upset the Spartans in stunning fashion, scoring a touchdown and a field goal in the final 32 seconds to win 29-27.
''I remember that date pretty vividly,'' Dantonio said. ''We brought it up. We talked about it a little bit in terms of what went down.''
A lot has changed for Michigan State since then. The Spartans are now ranked No. 2 in the country, and they'll be heavily favored when they host Central Michigan on Saturday. That loss to the Chippewas is still the only time under Dantonio that Michigan State has lost to a Mid-American Conference team. In fact, the Spartans have only lost to teams in power conferences (plus Notre Dame) in that span.
This is a situation the Spartans (3-0) have become used to - having to avoid an upset in a game they're expected to win comfortably. Michigan State hasn't lost to an unranked team since 2012.
''We don't take anybody for granted,'' Dantonio said. ''We take the attitude of respect toward everybody we play and we get ourselves ready to go.''
Michigan State beat Oregon two weekends ago, then took care of Air Force, and now the Big Ten has the top two teams in the AP poll. It's tempting to look ahead to a November matchup between the Spartans and top-ranked Ohio State, but there's a long way to go before then.
Central Michigan (1-2) played Oklahoma State tough before losing in the season opener, and the Chippewas lost in overtime at Syracuse on Saturday. Now comes an even tougher test against the Spartans.
''It's going to come down to minimizing mistakes,'' CMU coach John Bonamego said. ''They're ranked No. 2 in the country and deservedly so. We have to play a very, very good football game in terms of mistakes and we're going to have to execute at a very high level.''
Here are a few things to watch when Michigan State hosts Central Michigan:
IN STRIDE: Michigan State hasn't been ranked this high since 1966, but the Spartans finished at No. 3 two seasons ago and tied at No. 5 last season, so this isn't a huge change from the norm for this group.
''We've played in big-time games being ranked high before, and we've played against highly ranked teams,'' quarterback Connor Cook said. ''We know people are going to give us their best shot.''
STANDOUT: Aaron Burbridge has 20 receptions for Michigan State so far, and the rest of the team has only 30. Cook may need to spread the ball around a bit more as the season progresses.
IN A RUSH: Central Michigan had 30 first downs to Syracuse's 11 last week, and QB Cooper Rush threw for 430 yards. The Chippewas will try to repeat that performance against the high-scoring Spartans.
DEPTH: Michigan State has already had its depth tested on defense thanks to a season-ending knee injury to LB Ed Davis. Now CB Vayante Copeland is out for the season because of a fractured vertebra, and the Spartans have been preparing to play the first half Saturday without LB Riley Bullough, who was ejected last weekend for targeting.
FAMILIAR FOES: Michigan State's biggest in-state matchup, of course, comes next month against Michigan, but the Spartans opened the season with a win at Western Michigan, and now they'll host CMU.
''I think it's good, you know, when games are a little bit more interesting and more personal, it's good for college football,'' Dantonio said.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org