On the other side, Stanton will face two inexperienced safeties, a returning senior and a pair of corners that would appear to be overmatched going against the Spartans group.
Idaho head coach Dennis Erickson understands this, but he's playing the hand he was dealt. "Shiloh Keo, who is a freshman from Everett (WA), and (backup) Adam Anderson were really the two safeties that we had. Both of them have emerged. Shiloh has had a great fall camp. When they had the opportunity, they've played very well."
Keo, (5-foot-10, 175-pounds) got his chance when D.J. Dykes, a preseason all-WAC safety, who would have been heading into his junior season, elected to transfer to Colorado, leaving the Vandals thin along the backline.
"He just wanted to transfer," Erickson told the Idaho Statesman. "He didn't want to be here. It was a surprise that kind of came out of nowhere. I know he had talked to players about leaving every year that he's been here. For whatever reason, I guess he didn't like it here."
Keo teams with Tone Taupule, a senior and the only returning member from last season's secondary, to form the backline while two juniors corner Reggie Jones (5-foot-10, 201-pounds) who redshirted in 2005 and Stanley Franks, a junior college transfer from Long Beach (5-foot-11, 167-pounds) will man the corners. The other true freshman, safety Adam Anderson, will be in reserve.
Erickson admitted, he's worried about the threat MSU poses. "You're playing against one of the better quarterbacks in the country. You've got two young safeties that have never played a college game and you're playing back at Michigan State against one of the better Big Ten teams. The scenario is not very good if you look at it that way. We're looking at our guys to step it up."
Erickson appears to be looking for his young pups to grow up quickly and improve as the season goes along. "Shiloh is the starter and has played very well and done some good things. Like all of them, we'll find out more about him in this game. I'm not afraid to play him out there. He'll go out there and play hard. He's very athletic. He'll make some plays. We'll see where he's at."
Keo and Taupule could find their heads on a swivel. MSU runs out a potent group of receivers, perhaps the best in the nation against the pair. It starts with seniors Matt Trannon (6-foot-6, 235-pounds), Jerramy Scott (5-foot-10, 186-pounds) and Kerry Reed (6-foot-2, 198-pounds). Adding to the threat is junior tight end Kellen Davis(6-foot-6, 253-pounds), set for a breakout season off the edge.
The surprise is the emergence of true freshman T.J. Williams into the playing group, along with rising junior Terry Love and sophomore Devin Thomas. Williams, a (6-foot-3, 184-pound) freshman from Tallahassee, FL., made a huge leap during fall camp. Williams is electric once he catches the ball, possessing 4.4-40 yard speed, and is a true home run threat.
PICK: Idaho doesn't stand much of a chance to win this battle. The Vandals gave up an average of 237.7 yards per game a season ago, while MSU averaged 295.5 yards through the air. With their best defender gone and so much inexperience going against a senior NFL quarterback prospect and three senior NFL quality receivers, the Vandals could be in for a long day.
MSU 49 - Idaho 17
Editor's note: A matchup article appearing in Tuesday's edition was in error. Safety D.J. Dykes transferred to Colorado a month prior to fall practice and obviously will not appear in this game. GSN apologizes for this error. Thank you to those who brought it to our attention