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Friday, August 31, 2012
Boise brings 'A' game vs ranked opponents

By ESPN Stats & Information

For the fourth straight season Boise State
is opening with a top-20 opponent, as the 24th-ranked Broncos face 13th-ranked Michigan State on Friday at 8 ET on ESPN.

However, this will be the first time the Broncos have played a true road game in the season opener since a loss at Georgia in 2005.

BOISE STATE

Over the last 10 seasons, no team has won more games or had a better win percentage than Boise State.

And the Broncos have been at their best against AP Top 25 opponents, winning six of seven games since the start of 2009. They're 5-0 in these games when they have more than two weeks to prepare, including 3-0 in season openers. Boise’s passing has been the key. The Broncos are averaging 270.6 pass yards per game against AP Top 25 teams since the start of the 2009 season.

The Broncos have won six straight and eight of their last nine games against BCS teams. Of those eight wins, six have been against ranked teams.

But this is a different team than it was the last four years. Joe Southwick will be Boise State’s starting quarterback. He has big shoes to fill, as he tries to replace Kellen Moore, the all-time winningest quarterback in FBS history with 50 victories.

Southwick does have some playing experience. He has played in 16 games as a backup over the last two seasons, completing 40-of-54 passes for 400 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

This is just the second time the Broncos will face a Big Ten team – they lost at Wisconsin in 1997.

Boise State’s average drive started at its own 39-yard line last season, the best starting field position in FBS. Its opponents started at their own 24, which was the best defensive field position.

MICHIGAN STATE

Field position may be tough to come by at Spartan Stadium, where Michigan State’s 14-game home win streak is the fourth-longest active streak among FBS teams. The last time the Spartans lost at home was in 2009 against Penn State.

Boise State isn't the only team in this matchup with a new quarterback replacing a stalwart. Andrew Maxwell will be Michigan State’s starting quarterback. He will be replacing Kirk Cousins, the Spartans’ all-time leader in wins, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

In addition to losing Cousins, the Spartans also lost their top-four pass catchers (by receiving yards) from last season: B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol and Brian Linthicum. Specifically the loss of Cunningham will hurt the Spartans downfield attack as Cunningham had 17 more 20-plus yard receptions than any other Spartans receiver since the start of 2010.

Michigan State is opening the season against a ranked opponent for the first time since 1998. That season, the Spartans hosted 15th-ranked Colorado State and lost 23-16.

The Spartans are ranked 13th in the preseason AP Poll. That is the highest the Spartans have been ranked in the preseason since 1979 when they were ranked 10th.

Michigan State is ranked in the preseason AP Poll for the second straight season, something that hasn’t happened since 1997-98.