TRACKING THE TERPS: Obviously the meaning of Saturday's game for Michigan State changed drastically after the Spartans' loss to Ohio State. What has the mood been like up there this week, and do you expect any carryover effect in this game?
JOE REXRODE: It's hard to get a great read on things but it's pretty business-like. There's no question that loss devastated the Spartans. This team is full of Ohio guys who didn't have Ohio State offers, and this team thought it was good enough to compete for a national championship. Pat Narduzzi's defense hasn't been worked like that in years – Oregon had big plays and scored 46 points, but the Spartans at least stopped the Ducks for a good chunk of that game. This was thorough domination. So the two most likely responses are letdown and anger. My guess is anger. Mark Dantonio has been very good at steering his teams from letdowns throughout his MSU tenure.
This year's Spartans have had some trouble with dynamic offenses like Oregon's and Ohio State's. We're not putting Maryland into that category, but with a mobile quarterback and a few playmakers, can the Terps give Michigan State some problems?
Yes, though I'd feel better about that if Stefon Diggs were on the field. Still, C.J. Brown has other weapons and plenty of motivation to beat his childhood team. And the Spartans have yielded big plays to pretty much every opponent but Michigan this season. This is not a great defense. My question is whether the Terps can move it consistently, finish drives with touchdowns and score enough points to keep up with Michigan State's offense. Last week aside, the MSU defense usually makes some big plays, too.
We're still trying to find out where Maryland slots into the Big Ten pecking order, and obviously the headlines after the Penn State game were mostly about the Terps' behavior before the game. What's the feeling about Maryland football from your area of the country?
I wouldn't say there's much of a feeling yet. The Rutgers and Maryland additions were met mostly with shrugs and Jim Delany insults in the Midwest, though Maryland is certainly the more respected of those two. Big Ten people don't have much regard for ACC football –- much like the rest of the country doesn't have much regard for Big Ten football. So they fit well together. When I think of Maryland football, I think of Boomer Esiason and the revival Ralph Friedgen engineered. And I couldn't tell you much of what happened in between. But I must say, that pregame scene at Penn State was interesting! Maybe the Big Ten could use a little more nastiness.
Can you give us a key player on the Michigan State side who we should keep an eye on Saturday night?
There are several offensive players to watch, led by Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford and Tony Lippett. But I think Maryland's offense against MSU's defense will determine whether this game will be competitive, so keep an eye on linebacker Ed Davis, No. 43. He's an emerging playmaker who seemed to have the night off against Ohio State, but he's usually a lethal blitzer. MSU's linebackers – including DeMatha product Darien Harris, No. 45 – have been all over the map in terms of performance this season.
I'm going 38-20 Michigan State. I just don't see anything from Maryland's defense that tells me it can slow down the Spartans – great win at Penn State, but that's a bad offense. If MSU wasn't playing catch-up for the entire second half against Penn State, it would have gone well over 200 yards on the ground against Ohio State. This is Mark Dantonio's best offensive line and offense. I think Maryland will have some success and score some points, but it's going to take a near-perfect night to keep pace.