Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio figures his Spartans could benefit from a road trip not many teams would agree to.
On Saturday, the 11th-ranked Spartans will play at Central Michigan. It's the type of game Mid-American Conference schools rarely have a chance to host, but Michigan State is playing it as part of a decade-long series with three in-state opponents.
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"I sort of shrugged my shoulders when this was thrown out there," Dantonio said. "We get an opportunity to do something for the state of Michigan, which is what we've always tried to do here as people and as individuals."
Michigan State is playing a "Celebrate the State" series of 12 games total against Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan from 2011-2020. By the time that span is over, the Spartans will have played a road game against each of those teams.
Michigan State edged Boise State 17-13 in its season opener. Now the Spartans head on the road for the first time, although the journey from East Lansing to Mount Pleasant doesn't figure to be a grueling one.
"If we're going to play an away game, I'd rather play 60 miles up the road in state and make that our first away game of the season with the new quarterback," Dantonio said. "I would imagine there would be a lot of Spartan fans up there as well."
Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell threw three interceptions last week in his first start after replacing Kirk Cousins at quarterback. The Spartans overcame Boise State thanks to running back Le'Veon Bell, who ran for 210 yards on 44 carries behind an experienced offensive line.
The Michigan State defense was pretty much as advertised, not allowing an offensive touchdown against the Broncos. That's what Central Michigan (1-0) is up against in this unique opportunity.
"As somebody from campus told me ... this will be the biggest event on campus -- maybe ever," Chippewas coach Dan Enos said. "I think it's going to be a wonderful environment."
Enos played at Michigan State from 1987-90, and he was a two-year starter at quarterback. More recently, he was an assistant there under Dantonio before taking over at Central Michigan.
"You want him to do well. You want Central Michigan to do well, but you have to take care of business on your side, so obviously you want to win," Dantonio said. "But when you get to games like this, you line up, you play, you get your football teams ready, and you respect who they are and you play on. It's one week, one day."
Zurlon Tipton ran for a career-high 180 yards and three touchdowns last week in Central Michigan's 38-27 victory over Southeast Missouri. The Chippewas will face a much more formidable defensive front this time, and they may need a mistake-free game to have a chance.
Central Michigan didn't have a single penalty in its opener.
Michigan State, on the other hand, beat Boise State despite a number of mistakes, including four turnovers. This will be a chance to clean up some of those errors -- and yes, there's some pride on the line against a neighboring school.
"A lot of my good friends go to Central, so they'll be in the student section, and that's going to be fun," Maxwell said. "It's going to be a cool atmosphere, and a lot of Michigan State fans will make the trip. I think that stadium will be about as full as it's ever been, so it will be a cool experience for both teams."