PREVIEW: #8 Washington to visit Spartan Stadium for last time as Pac-12 member

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Emily Lance

Spartan QB Noah Kim lines up for a pass against Central Michigan on Sept. 1.

Spartan football has gotten off to a flying start in 2023, winning their first two games in convincing fashion. Week three, however, holds their biggest challenge of the new season, a matchup with eighth-ranked Washington. 

Most players on the team will not need to be reminded of last year’s trip to Seattle. The Huskies drove the ball as they pleased and went on to win by a score of 39-28. 

If Michigan State has any chance of avoiding a repeat of that matchup on Saturday, they’ll have to stop Washington’s pass-heavy offense led by senior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Last year against the Spartans, Penix torched the Michigan State defense for 397 yards and four touchdowns in the convincing win. This year, he’s gotten off to an even better start, throwing for 450 and 409 yards against Boise State and Tulsa respectively. The former Indiana quarterback also racked up a combined eight touchdowns in those two games. 

Penix had the help of receivers Jaylen McMillan, Rome Odunze, and Ja’Lynn Polk, all of whom tallied over 100 yards in at least one of the Huskies’ first two games. It’s clear that the Spartans’ defensive gameplan will begin and end with containing the electric Washington passing game.

On the Spartans’ side of the ball, the offense has made its own strides to start the new season. Coming off the win against Central Michigan in week 1, Noah Kim had a day to remember against Richmond last weekend. Completing 18 of 22 pass attempts for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Kim could do no wrong as the Spartans cruised to the resounding victory. 

Running back Nathan Carter had his own stellar performance against the Spiders, picking up three touchdowns of his own to go along with 111 yards. Michigan State’s offense soared last Saturday, and though it was against an FCS opponent, the performance posted on the offensive side of the ball inspires confidence that a victory may await the Spartans this weekend. The only question is, will they be able to keep stride with the Huskies’ battle-tested offense until the final whistle?

Michigan State will have another challenge on Saturday, as they’ll take the field under the command of interim head coach Harlon Barnett in the wake of Mel Tucker’s suspension. Barnett has been coaching the defensive backs since 2020 in addition to a stint from 2007-2014, but this will be his first test as the leader of the whole team. The game will also mark the return of Mark Dantonio in the role of assistant coach. 

Despite the formidable opponent they’ll be up against, the Spartans have every reason to believe they can keep up with the Huskies on Saturday. 

The game will be available to stream on Peacock at 5 p.m.

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