Michigan St another challenging opener for Broncos

Over the last few years, perhaps no program has invested more in

Week One of the college football season than Boise State.

This is when coach Chris Petersen’s group travels across the

country to play one of the nation’s top teams on hostile turf,

trying to make the most of a rare chance to prove itself against

elite competition.

The names have changed – especially at quarterback – but the

scenario remains the same. This time it’s Michigan State the

Broncos will take on first, in a Friday night showdown under the

lights at Spartan Stadium.

”The one thing you notice about Boise right off the bat

defensively is they play extremely hard and with a great amount of

toughness,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ”Their

special teams, much the same, very cutting-edge in every phase –

play extremely hard and will come and get you. So we’re looking

forward to a great football game.”

The Broncos entered the last two seasons in the national

championship discussion with Kellen Moore at quarterback. They beat

Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., to open in 2010 and had little

trouble with Georgia last year in Atlanta. It ended up not being

enough when Boise State lost later in those seasons.

Moore is gone now, and so is standout running back Doug Martin.

The Broncos enter this opener ranked 24th in the nation. No. 13

Michigan State is favored by around a touchdown.

Joe Southwick is taking over at quarterback for Boise State. He

was Moore’s backup a year ago, mostly playing in fourth-quarter

mop-up duty.

”I don’t think words can ever describe what Kellen did for this

program,” Southwick said. ”But for me personally, I’m just going

to control what I can control. That’s preparing as much as I can

before the game and controlling what I can and not worrying about

other things.”

Michigan State is in a similar situation. Kirk Cousins

quarterbacked the Spartans to within an eyelash of the Rose Bowl

the last two seasons, but he’s in the NFL now. Andrew Maxwell

replaces Cousins after backing him up, taking a handful of snaps

each of the last couple seasons.

”It’s kind of the stages of learning,” Maxwell said. ”You

don’t know what you don’t know. There are so many things that as a

high school player coming out you don’t even recognize are part of

the game that you need to know.”

Michigan State also lost talented receivers B.J. Cunningham and

Keshawn Martin, meaning the Spartans may have to lean on the

running game early on. They also return eight starters on defense,

including lineman William Gholston and linebacker Denicos

Allen.

”The problem is they are very good at rushing the passer,”

Petersen said. ”They are not going to give you anything easy on

defense. The ball is going to have to be there on time and it’s

going to have to be accurate. So as you’re working your way into

being this guy, you’d like a little more leeway. But that’s just

not going to happen this game.”

The game will be only the 12th one played at night at Spartan

Stadium, though Michigan State has played a memorable one each of

the last two years. The Spartans beat Notre Dame in 2010 on a fake

field goal in overtime, and they edged Wisconsin last season with a

44-yard touchdown pass on the final play.

Considering Boise State’s own penchant for wacky plays and wild

finishes, this could be another opening night to remember.

”It’s something special. I think Spartan Stadium at night is

one of the best atmospheres in college football that you’re going

to find. It’s so special because it doesn’t happen that often,”

Maxwell said. ”We’re not a team that’s going to have a night game

for no reason. When we have a night game, it’s for a good reason, a

big game, a big opponent.”