Jacksonville St. vs. Michigan St. College Football Week 1

Willie Bee

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2:50 PM GMT

Off a No. 3 ranking in last year's BCS, the Michigan State Spartans begin their 2014 NCAA football betting schedule with a Friday night visit from Jacksonville State.

An 8-month hiatus ends for college football this week when the 2014 schedule kicks off, the first season to employ the new playoff system. Top 20 matchups are part of schedule, including Thursday night's SEC clash between Texas A&M and South Carolina. Several other big games also fill the opening NCAA football betting card.

This isn't one of them.

Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans would like to be part of the new 4-team playoff format as they come off an outstanding 13-1 campaign that included a perfect 9-0 Big Ten record and Rose Bowl victory over Stanford. The Spartans will knock off a little rust at home against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Friday, the Big Ten Network providing the broadcast at 7:30 PM (ET).

Not only does this matchup fail to make the list of interesting clashes in Week 1, it also failed to make SBR's live college football odds board, not uncommon for this early in the year when several glorified scrimmages also pop up among the few marquee battles.

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State Has Holes To Fill On Defensive Side
The Spartans weren't just winners on the field last year, they also posted a 9-4-1 ATS record to the delight of bettors. A big part of their success was the amazing defense Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had at their disposal, a unit that ranked in the top 3 nationally in scoring, total yards, passing and rushing. A few key faces on that side of the ball have moved on, but five starters do return and several sophomore backups in 2013 should fill in just fine.

Ends Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush top the list of returnees, along with LB Taiwan Jones. The Spartans also have DB's Kurtis Drummond and Trae Waynes back in East Lansing.

Finding replacements for three holes along the offensive line will be at the top of the list of things to do for co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman. Assuming that task is accomplished, there is a lot of experience coming back at the skill positions, starting with Quarterback Connor Cook and tailback Jeremy Langford. Among Cook's familiar targets are Tony Lippett, who came up big in the Rose Bowl victory, and Keith Mumphrey. Macgarrett Kings Jr., second on last year's squad with 43 catches, is questionable for Friday's game after being suspended from the team for a DUI in the spring.

 

Gamecocks Coming Off Best Season Ever
While Michigan State was one bad game against Notre Dame away from facing Florida State in the final BCS Championship, Jacksonville State fell just two games shy of going to the FCS title game. The Fighting Gamecocks enjoyed their best season ever with an 11-4 record that ended with a 35-24 loss to Eastern Washington in the quarterfinal round, and set nearly 50 school records along the way under 1st-year head coach Bill Clark.

Unfortunately for JSU, that will also be the last year under Clark who moved on to the head coaching job at UAB. The good news is there shouldn't be a huge learning period under Clark's replacement, John Grass, since it was Grass who orchestrated the high-scoring offensive unit last year as the coordinator.

Grass will have his top two signal callers from 2013 back, Max Shortell and Eli Jenkins, plus top RB DaMarcus James (1,540 yards, 29 TD). Jenkins also ranked second on the team in rushing with 1,053 yards. But cranking that offense up against the Spartans' defense, even with some of the uncertainty surrounding new starters on the unit, will be a whole 'nother story than facing the likes of Austin Peay, Samford and Eastern Kentucky.

We'll keep an eye on the betting board in case we have a chance to make a college football pick if this game doesn't sneak into the picture later, though that doesn't seem likely. We'll also be watching the weather with the current forecast listing a 50% chance of rain in East Lansing on Friday. If there's even the hint of a slippery field, Dantonio isn't going to leave his starters out there long at all, which could help Jacksonville State keep this inside of 40 points.
Free MLB pick: No Line
Season: 0-0