- Associated Press - Friday, September 28, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - After starting Big Ten play with a win over Indiana, No. 21 Michigan State takes a break from the conference schedule for a matchup with Central Michigan.

Coach Mark Dantonio isn’t exactly thrilled about it.

“I think that that’s not a perfect scenario to go into. I’d rather play our out-of-conference games and go into it,” Dantonio said. “You need to prepare yourself for that mentally and focus accordingly and that’s what we’ll do.”

The Spartans are huge favorites against CMU on Saturday, but any game between in-state opponents comes with some intrigue. Michigan State came away with a sloppy but important road win last weekend against Indiana, and the Spartans now want to avoid a letdown.

The Chippewas (1-3) would obviously love to pull off what would be a monumental upset, but just keeping it close would be a step in the right direction for a CMU team that lost at home to Kansas earlier this month.

“Any time you have a chance to play a Big Ten team, or any of the Power 5 or the autonomous conferences, it’s always a challenge for all of us here in the MAC,” CMU coach John Bonamego said. “It’s something that we gear up for.”

Like Michigan State, the Chippewas started conference play before going back into the nonconference part of the schedule. CMU lost its Mid-American Conference opener to Northern Illinois on Sept. 15, then beat Maine last weekend.

Here are a few things to watch when the Spartans host CMU:

QB SWITCH

After Tony Poljan started at quarterback for CMU’s first three games, Tommy Lazzaro took over and threw for 82 yards and a touchdown against Maine.

“Tommy, that was his first start. I thought he handled everything really well. He’s a very intelligent young man,” Bonamego said. “There aren’t a lot of things that he can’t handle, but it’s good for him to get the first game under his belt.”

STUFFED

Michigan State is No. 1 in the country in rushing defense, and the Spartans have held opponents under 50 yards rushing for five straight games dating to last season.

SHAKY

The Spartans beat Indiana 35-21, but they scored touchdowns on an interception return and a fake field goal, so it wasn’t a great game for the offense. Michigan State turned the ball over four times.

“One or two more touchdowns I think would have been satisfactory,” quarterback Brian Lewerke said.

TEST

Lewerke could face a challenge bouncing back after his three-turnover night last weekend. Central Michigan is allowing only 140 yards passing a game, the nation’s fifth-best mark, and CMU defensive lineman Mike Danna had four sacks against Maine.

KEY FACTOR?

LJ Scott did not play against Indiana, and the Michigan State running back’s status has been uncertain. The Spartans haven’t found a groove yet on the ground.

“It’s so important when you’re running the football that everybody works in sync on that particular play. A couple times got the tailback out in the open one on one with a safety. He’s got to make a play for a bigger gain,” Dantonio said. “So it’s all-encompassing in terms of what you’re dealing with. … I still go back to what I always say when I come to these exciting meetings like this, I say: Hey, run that play again when that guy ran for 25 yards, run it again. But it’s hard to re-enact that.”

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister


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