UW-Michigan State key to the game; other news, notes and quotes

Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s top key to the game for the Wyoming Cowboys in their game today¬†at No. 9 Michigan State, which kicks off at 10 a.m. MT today at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.

Man to man: Michigan State plays a lot of tight, man-to-man coverage in the secondary. It will be critical for Wyoming for its receivers to fight through that and get open, whether it be for a short gain or a big play. If the Cowboys can, that should open up both its running and passing game. If they are forced to be one-dimensional, they don’t stand much of a chance.

Do you agree, disagree or think Gagliardi is completely off his rocker?

Here is Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph previewing today’s game with Michigan State:

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UW-Michigan State Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Graham Couch, sports columnist for the Lansing State Journal in Michigan about Saturday’s Michigan State-Wyoming game in East Lansing, Michigan.

Follow on Twitter: @Graham_Couch

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

Michigan State bounced back well from its 46-27 loss at No. 2 Oregon with a 73-14 win over Eastern Michigan. Was that a good indicator that all is well with the Spartans, or did that game prove anything as far as that goes?

I don’t think much can be taken from the win over Eastern Michigan, other than the Spartans handled the game with focus and maturity. Eastern Michigan was simply awful, even by the Eagles’ standards. But I also don’t think the loss to Oregon meant anything was wrong with MSU, other than getting beaten by an outstanding quarterback on the road, and have a few breakdowns defensively. MSU, for a stretch of 20 minutes or so (second quarter through the middle of the third), dominated the Ducks. That game was a real blown opportunity, more than a certain sign of issues.

Do the players and coaches feel they are still in the hunt for a spot in the four-team playoff this season, or is there much talk about that? In your opinion, do the Spartans have a shot based on what’s happened in the Big Ten early this season?

I think they believe they do, and they should. There’s a long way to go, and a lot of chaos to play out, including on MSU’s schedule. I still don’t expect the Spartans to go unbeaten the rest of the way. It’s tough to do, and road games at Indiana, Maryland and Penn State could be tricky, as could home dates with Nebraska and Ohio State. But if MSU survives and wins the Big Ten championship game, it deserves a shot. Whether it gets it is up to what happens in the ACC and Big 12, too, I think, though the ACC is proving no better than the Big Ten right now.

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Wyoming-Oregon Q&A swap

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer swap with Ryan Thorburn, who covers Oregon football for Eugene Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Ryan Thorburn

Ryan Thorburn

Thorburn is a UW graduate and author of three books on UW sports which documents some of the most historical and important moments Cowboys football, baseball and basketball. For links to purchase those books, go to ryanthorburn.com.

Follow on Twitter: @rgduckfootball

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

At No. 2 in the country this week it is obvious that Oregon is among the nation’s elite. But what is it about the Ducks where they can seemingly flip a switch and blow open a game, like last week against No. 13 Michigan State where they scored 28 unanswered points in the second half after falling behind?

Leading up to the game, the Ducks heard about how they can’t get it done against physical teams — the so-called Stanford problem. The old narrative looked to be playing out in the third quarter when they were stuck on 18 points and trailing by nine. Marcus Mariota, who was playing on a partially torn MCL at Stanford last season, was able to make some game-changing plays on the run this time. Oregon’s defense seemed to find another gear as well, which makes this year’s Ducks even more dangerous.

How good is quarterback Marcus Mariota, and despite his obvious outstanding skill set what else makes this guy one of the nation’s best? And, is he the early favorite right now to win the Heisman Trophy in your mind?

Honestly, the kid is too good to be true. In the Register-Guard’s football special section published during fall camp, the theme was: The Mount Rushmore of Oregon quarterbacks — Norm Van Brocklin, Dan Fouts, Bill Musgrave, Joey Harrington, etc. — and what Mariota’s legacy will be. The consensus is that he is already the greatest quarterback in program history, or will be by the end of the season if he stays healthy. Yes, I think he is the favorite to win the Heisman right now because of what he did against Michigan State’s defense.

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