YSU -Fourth-year starting quarterback Kurt Hess has plenty of experience in big games such as this one, and he's enjoyed some success. In games against Penn State, Michigan State and Pitt, he's a combined 51 of 83 (61 percent) for 469 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Hess, the school record-holder for touchdown passes, shook off an ugly season-opener with a solid performance against Morehead State, connecting on 16 of 19 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns. The Penguins will need him to play efficiently to have a chance against a vaunted Michigan State defense.
MSU - The Spartans have played three quarterbacks in their first two games, and none have done well enough to earn the starting job. In fact, MSU coach Mark Dantonio added a fourth quarterback to the mix this week: true freshman Damion Terry. Sophomore Connor Cook, a Walsh Jesuit High?School product, started last week and will likely be the man today. The strong-armed Cook is 12 of 27 for 74 yards through two games?(he didn't start Week 1). No Spartan quarterback has thrown a touchdown yet this year.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - Youngstown State leads the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing, averaging 363 yards per game, but that came against two non-scholarship schools (Dayton, Morehead State). Warren G. Harding graduate Demond Hymes, who entered camp as the starter but injured his ankle in early August, practiced this week for the first time since the injury. It would be a bit surprising to see him play today because of the possibility of re-injury. Adaris Bellamy is the best remaining all-around back and, despite an undisclosed injury, will likely start against the Spartans.
MSU - The Spartans have produced some great running backs over the years, and they're hoping redshirt freshman Riley Bullough is next in line. Junior Jeremy Langford leads MSU with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, but Bullough's size (6-2, 230) and potential are hard to overlook. He could get the start this week. Langford probably won't be fazed out of the offense because he has good hands (a team-leading seven catches) and could be used in multiple formations.
EDGE - MSU
YSU - The receiving corps looked much better against Morehead State than it did against Dayton. There is plenty of talent on the outside, but aside from Christian Bryan, a junior, they lack big-game experience. That doesn't take away from their talent, however. Sophomores Marcel Caver - who leads the team in catches (6) and yards (126) - and Andrew Williams (six catches, 91 yards) are big, fast targets, but they've never seen defensive backs as good as what MSU has to offer. Fellow sophomore Andre Stubbs has breakaway speed but lacks size (5-7, 165). Senior Jelani Berassa is still working his way back from knee surgery, but did record a catch last week.
MSU - The Spartans returned all of their receivers from a year ago, but the inconsistent play at quarterback has slowed their progress. The fact that Langford leads the team in catches further illustrates the lack of a passing game. Senior Bennie Fowler is a returning starter, but he has just two catches for 34 yards. Still, he possesses the talent to have a big day. Sophomore Aaron Burbridge is another legitimate threat. Burbridge and junior Keith Mumphery lead MSU's receivers in catches (5), and the Spartans recently moved speedy running back R.J. Shelton to wideout to add some versatility.
EDGE - Even
YSU - YSU coach Eric Wolford was quick to say that the battle up front - on both sides of the ball -?will be the most critical matchup to watch. Wolford gained a reputation as being a great offensive line coach prior to joining YSU, and he hasn't disappointed. That said, the front five is going to have a major challenge today. It's not necessarily MSU's size that could give YSU problems, it's the speed and athleticism of the Spartans. With three new starters in 2013, the line is only in its third game playing next to one another, so their continuity will be tested.
MSU - The Spartans are a bit young on the offensive line, but they're big and talented. Redshirt freshman Jack Conklin (6-6, 326) won the starting left tackle job in fall camp, and fellow tackle Donavon Clark (6-3, 308), is just a sophomore. But they've had help from senior captain Blake Treadwell, junior center Travis Jackson and senior guard Dan France, all starters in 2012. The group has allowed just two sacks.
EDGE - MSU
YSU - The defensive front endures one of the most difficult tasks today. A mostly inexperienced group must contain the ground game and also find a way to pressure whatever quarterback the Spartans throw out there. The line, led by senior defensive end Kyle Sirl, has done well in the first two games, forcing opposing quarterbacks into tough throws and bottling up the run game. One asset they have is depth. Putting fresh bodies against a big and powerful MSU?line could help late in the game.
MSU - This is another area Michigan State is known for, as the Spartans have produced numerous NFL prospects. MSU?has eight sacks (5.5 by linemen) in 2013. Monstrous tackle Tyler Hoover (6-7, 290) has two sacks, and defensive end Marcus Rush (good name for a D-lineman) has two as well. Fellow end Shilique Calhoun, a sophomore, possesses tremendous athleticism. He scored on an interception and twice on fumbles this year - leading the team in TDs.
EDGE - MSU
YSU - Teven and Travis Williams have played exceptional at middle and weak-side linebacker, respectively. Their quickness to the ball was evident from day one. Senior captain Dom Rich, a good run stopper, has shown improvement in coverage, and the Penguins have several viable options off the bench. Travis leads YSU in tackles (12) and tackles for loss (2.5).
MSU - Senior middle linebacker Max Bullough, a first-team all-Big Ten player in 2012, is a highly regarded NFL?prospect. He leads the team with 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He headlines a corps many consider to be one of the best in the country. Strong-side linebacker Denicos Allen registered 10 tackles for loss in 2012 and has two sacks this year, while weak-side linebacker (called Star in the MSU defense) Taiwan Jones (6-3, 250) is a budding star.
EDGE - MSU
YSU - The Penguins' secondary has been up and down so far, but there have been more ups than downs. With 2012 starter Dale Peterman, a corner, still recovering from a knee injury, Bowling Green transfer DeVon McKoy has filled in well. Fellow corner Julius Childs, also a starter last year, was burned for a TD last week, but that's his only major blemish. Strong safety Donald D'Alesio is one of the team leaders.?He'll continue to help bring along first-year starter Jameel Smith, a freshman.
MSU - This is the strength of one of a defense ranked third in the nation. Hubbard High School graduate Kurtis Drummond, a free safety, has developed into one of the better secondary players in the Big Ten (check out his one-handed pick on the Internet). Strong safety Isaiah Lewis and corner Darqueze Dennard were named to the preseason all-Big Ten team. Sophomore Trae Waynes is a first-year starter.
EDGE - MSU
YSU - Punter and kickoff specialist Nick Liste has started off great, averaging 48.3 yards per punt and 10 touchbacks on kickoffs. Field-goal kicker Joey Cejudo made his first career field goal last week (37 yards)?and is 12 for 12 on point-after attempts. The coverage units can't allow any big plays.
MSU - Punter Mike Sadler is one of the best in the country, with 10 punts landing inside the 20 already this season. Kevin Muma is in his first year kicking field goals. He's 2 for 3, missing a 25-yarder last week. Andre Sims Jr. is in his second year returning punts.
EDGE - MSU
It might be a stretch to think YSU?could upset a FBS school for a second straight year. Actually, it is a stretch. Michigan State is pitiful on offense right now, but its defense is phenomenal at nearly every level. The Penguins are a solid FCS team, but they're not ready to knock off a team as with as much talent as the Spartans.