1. MIKE BARROW - Barrow was the Idaho kicker/punter who has tore an anterior cruciate ligament this fall. How good was he? Barrow was selected as the Preseason All-WAC kicker after hitting on sixteen of nineteen field goals, and 21 of 23 points after touchdowns. He also was ranked the 30th ranked punter in the NCAA last year.
Although MSU is a heavy favorite, and the game is not expected to come down to the kicking game, this should give MSU a huge advantage in terms of field position. Matt Greg and Tino Amancio have battled as the place kicker to replace Barrow. Amancio has won the job. TJ Conley will handle the punting duties. Vincento Rico will kickoff to explosive MSU return man Javon Ringer.
2. IDAHO BECOMING ONE-DIMENSIONAL - Idaho has thrown the ball all over the field this fall, and in fact netted 490-yards passing alone in their first fall scrimmage. Head Coach Dennis Erickson has been pleased with the execution and the ability to throw and catch the ball.
Quarterback Steve Wichman is poised to have a big year, and they have quality receivers with good hands, led by tight end Luke Smith-Anderson, and big play receivers Wendell Octave, Max Komar, Marlon Haynes, and DeAngelo Ramsey.
However, at the same time, Idaho has struggled to establish a solid and consistent running attack this fall. Jayson Bird, Rolly Lumbala, Brian Flowers, and freshman Deonte Jackson will hope to give the Vandal offense some balance. They have plenty of talent up front on the offensive line.
Center Adam Korby was named to the Rimington Trophy list. The left side of the Idaho offensive line is their strength led by left tackle Nate Vanderpol, and left guard Jade Tadvick. Both are seniors, and both have started since their freshmen year. Expect the Vandals to become a "left-handed" team in critical run/pass situations.
MSU's secondary will get an early test this season, however, if the Vandal offense is one demensional, they should be able to key on stopping the pass. Wichman has been prone to interceptions previously, so much will depend on the defensive pressure the Spartans apply to a very good Vandal offensive line. One advantage for the Spartans is that the Vandal offensive line has been prone to false start penalties this fall.
Idaho has plans of shortening the game, maintaining the ball, and keeping it away from the Spartans. This is easier said than done without an adequate running game. So expect that Idaho will use the short passing game, and throws to the tight end (Luke Smith-Anderson and Keith Greer) to try to accomplish this goal.
3. SPARTAN DEFENSE NEEDS TO STEP UP - There is little chance of Idaho stopping the vaunted Spartan offensive attack. In fact the only chance Idaho has is if the Spartan defense let's the Vandal offense stay on the field and chew up clock. This simply cannot happen.
The MSU defense must get stops, and get off the field. Otherwise they face the possibility of not only keeping the Vandals in the game, but wearing down against the wide open offensive attack that the Vandals possess.
4. VANDAL CORNERBACK REGGIE JONES - Mr. Jones is going to have a busy day, not only is he the starting cornerback, but will be the kickoff and punt returner for Idaho. In other words, he probably is going to wear down as the game goes on chasing receivers, and if you throw in return duties, he won't have much left by the fourth quarter.
5. VANDAL LACK OF DEPTH - Coach Erickson has been pretty vocal about the drop off to the second and third units. You wouldn't expect a non-major college to have a lot of depth to begin with anyway. However, the lack of depth for even a WAC team has Erickson worried. A key injury or two early on could spell trouble for Idaho.
6. VANDAL DEFENSIVE LINE - While this group gave up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground last year. The defensive front seven also combined for nineteen sacks, and 63 tackles for loss a year ago. Expect a solid and aggressive defensive front wall, especially at defensive end with Ben Alexander (4 sacks, 7 tackles for loss), Charles Campbell (two sacks, three tackles for loss), Josh Shaw, and Juco transfer George Fa'avae.
At defensive tackle, Siua Musika has good size at 293-pounds. Noseguard Jon Dominguez is undersized at 252-pounds, but is very quick in the middle. Outside of two long runs in fall camp, they haven't given up a lot on the ground. Of course that could change with Ringer, Caulcrick, and Jimmerson.
However, the MSU offensive line did not exactly blow open a lot of holes in the spring. So MSU's best advantage at this point in the season should be via the air. And although MSU should do most of it's damage via the air, expect MSU's offensive front, led by guard Roland Martin, to pop a few big runs, but not as many as expected.