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Wyoming Cowboys vs. No. 9 Michigan State game preview

The Cowboys will look to pull the upset using the Spartans' own football identity against them.

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

WEEK 5: Wyoming Cowboys (MWC) at #9 Michigan State Spartans (Big 10)

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 27th at 10:00 a.m. MST

WHERE: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, MI)

Line: Michigan State by 31


The Wyoming Cowboys and Michigan State Spartans have quite the list of football commonalities.  They share the same hard-nosed, physically suffocating defensive approach, pro-style offense and a football way of life that is considered "old school" or outdated by much of the country.  They prefer to out-work, out-discipline, overpower and grind their opponents into submission rather than rely on flash, trickery or smoke-and-mirrors to fool opponents.  In summary, these teams are willing to show you their cards, and then challenge you to stop them after they've told you how they intend to beat you.

Another set of uncomfortable traits these teams share are that they both played at Oregon, they both led Oregon early on, and both endured very ugly losses at Oregon; 46-27 for the Spartans and 48-14 for the Cowboys in consecutive weekends.  However, both teams have moved on and notched another win or two prior to Saturday's match-up.

What to expect: Michigan State

Reigning Big 10 coach of the year, Mark Dantonio, brings his reigning 2013 Big 10 champs into the matchup with the mindset of this being an opportunity to improve as a team prior to entering conference play against #21 Nebraska next week.  Wyoming will actually provide some looks that resonate much more closely to what they will see from their Big 10 foes compared to the spread attacks they have competed against the past three games.  Though the Spartans are favored by more than four touchdowns on Saturday, they are not taking taking the Cowboys lightly.  Dantonio readily admits when referring to the Cowboys - "Wyoming is a very well coached football team" and "They are probably more like us than anybody we've played (this year)".

That being said, this is an extremely tough and talented Spartans team.  Junior quarterback Connor Cook has played very efficient by completing almost 70 percent of his passes and averaging 15.5 yards per completion.  His abilities and experience have allowed the Spartans to open up the playbook a bit and move through the air more than they have in previous years.  Michigan State also boasts the eighth best defense in the land and couldn't have a more ideal "scout offense" in their own, considering both teams run a near identical pro-style scheme.

What to expect: Wyoming

Ironically enough, Dantonio allowed the current Wyoming staff to visit Michigan State to study their offense while the Cowboy coaching staff was at North Dakota State.  Needless to say, viewers will see a near mirror image of offensive play by both teams.  Statistically, Wyoming stacks up rather well with Michigan State with total yards offense (Wyo: 1407, MSU: 1527), passing yards (Wyo: 819, MSU: 857), rushing yards (Wyo: 588, MSU: 670) and average points allowed (Wyo: 23.0, MSU: 22.3).  The level of competition both teams have faced to date is also relatively comparable, however the clear delineating statistic for these teams is average points per game (Wyo: 17, MSU: 48.3), in which Michigan State has won games in much more convincing fashion.

It's no question that Wyoming will have a difficult game against the Spartans.  What has to be more concerning for the Cowboys is the inconsistent play from quarterback Colby Kirkegaard last week against Florida Atlantic, where he posted 88 of his 161 total passing yards on a single play to seal the come-from-behind victory late in the fourth quarter.  Wyoming is going to have to control the possession battle and look to expose some rare defensive holes in the talented Spartan defense with their talented dual-threat running game of D.J. May and Shaun Wick.

Prediction:  MSU 38, Wyo 13 - Though Wyoming matches up rather well with Michigan State in many statistical categories, the one that truly matters (points per game), will prove to be the difference in this game.  Until the Cowboys can figure out how to capitalize on more of the opportunities presented to them, an upset will be unlikely at Spartan Stadium.