- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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You hear that ticking sound? It's the clock, counting down to the first week of college football. We're getting steadily closer, and we're here to get you ready with scouting reports on each Big Ten team's opening opponent. Let's see what the Michigan State Spartans have in store as they try to defend their share of the Big Ten title.
Week 1 Opponent: Youngstown State
Coach: Eric Wolford (second year, 3-8)
2010 record: 3-8 (1-7 Missouri Valley Conference)
Returning starters: 15 (seven offense, eight defense)
About the Penguins: Jim Tressel's old stomping grounds struggled in 2010, but Wolford -- a former assistant under Ron Zook at Illinois -- did install a fast-paced offense. The Penguins set a school record by averaging 412 yards per game and scoring 31.3 points per contest, fifth best in program history. They held a lead at some point in every game but couldn't close out while losing five conference games by a total of 19 points. The star on offense is junior running back Jamaine Cook. He ran for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago behind a young offensive line. Quarterback Kurt Hess also returns, though he'll have to improve upon his 12-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a freshman. Senior linebacker John Sasson led the defense with 89 tackles in 2010. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Youngstown State from 1986-90.
Random factoid: The Penguins have a Stoops on staff. Linebackers coach Ron Stoops Jr. is the oldest brother in a family that includes Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Arizona coach Mark Stoops and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.
Series with Michigan State: First meeting
Totally unscientific percentage chance Michigan State wins: 97 percent. The Penguins were an FCS force back in Tressel's days at the school, but it's been a while since they've thrown much of a scare into anyone. Wolford showed some promising signs last year, but this is a program still in rebuilding mode. Even though Michigan State might not have its offensive line figured out completely by the opener, the Spartans should have more than enough to win this game with relative ease.
Previously in the series