Boise State looms large in MSU's future

April 11, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Reset the clock, the Spartans are officially in countdown mode.

Or maybe it is the countdown to countdown mode. Either way, the football vibe is back in East Lansing.

The Spartans are a week out from drafting their spring game rosters and two weeks away from their annual spring instrasquad matchup.

As of Wednesday, Michigan State is 141 days away from the season opener, a somewhat daunting matchup at home against Boise State on Aug. 31.

It is too early for predictions -- it's almost too early for a trustworthy depth chart -- but some Spartans have noticed a change in the way the team has been preparing.

"It's exciting, I don't think you could script a better opening game," said junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who is scheduled to make his first career start against the Broncos. "I think it just centers our focus as a team through the offseason, through spring and through camp knowing that we're going to have to be sharp and ready to go day one.

"Boise State, their recent success speaks for itself. They're a top-15, top-ten program in this country so with them coming into Spartan Stadium, for me personally, it's exciting to have that be my first start.

"And for this team, I think it's a great statement to where we are as a program that we're scheduling these kinds of games early in the season as a test. It's just a great opportunity for our football team."

Maxwell's sunny disposition might have him saying the right things, but it isn't exactly traditional for a big-program quarterback to make his first career start against a team that has gone 38-2 over the last three seasons.

To add a bit more weight to MSU's burden to bear, the Broncos have made a habit of slaying Goliath and his extended family over the past half-decade (see: Fiesta Bowl, 2006).

And while its 2-0 BCS record speaks for itself, recent history shows that Boise State has made mincemeat of college football's power conferences during opening week: In the past three season-openers, they beat Oregon 19-8, Virginia Tech 33-30 and Georgia (in Athens) 35-21.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio hasn't put too much thought into Boise State, yet.

"We've gotten five practices down, a sixth today," Dantonio said in a Tuesday teleconference. "And we've always looked at spring ball the same and we'll continue to do what we do here, in terms of improving our fundamentals.

"While Boise is in the back of our mind, and we will prepare for them, whether we've started to prepare already or we do more here in the summer and fall camps, our focus is still getting better as a team.

"The season is predicated on our seniors, they get everything rolling. The chemistry starts with them and builds from them, and we have a great group of seniors to lean on."