Summer opponent preview: Michigan State

A prime time contest in East Lansing will be one of the toughest matchups on the schedule for Nebraska.

Michigan State Spartans - Saturday, October 4th

Stadium: Spartan Stadium (725 miles from Lincoln)

Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (8th year)

2013 Record: 13-1 (8-0 Big Ten)

Connor Cook (USA Today)

Best Returning Offensive Player – Connor Cook, QB
Cook was 12-1 as a starter in 2013, getting stronger as the season went on. In four of his last six games, the Ohio native threw for over 250 yards a contest, beating Michigan (rivalry game), Ohio State, and Stanford in the process. Cook worked with quarterback guru coach George Whitfield this offseason, the same quarterback tutor of Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel, and (Baylor) Bryce Petty.

Best Returning Defensive Player – Shilique Calhoun, DE
Just a junior, the New Jersey native already has 27 games under his belt. Last season, he was named 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, edging out Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory for the honor. Last season, Calhoun had 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss on his way to a 43-tackle season.

Biggest Loss – Darqueze Dennard, CB
The cornerback was a unanimous All-American in 2013, earning Big Ten first-team honors both in last season and 2012. The first round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals was the heart and soul of the Spartans defense.

Last Meeting vs. Nebraska: November 16, 2013
Jeremy Langford rushed 32 times for 151 yards, as the Spartans were able to capitalize on five Nebraska turnovers, winning 41-28 in Lincoln. "We didn't lose that game because of a lack of effort or a lack of want-to," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. "We couldn't overcome ourselves and obviously everybody is disappointed. It's hard to be minus-5 in the turnover category and win a football game over a quality team. We almost found a way, but that's a tall order."

How they matchup based off 2013 stats:

Scoring Offense: Nebraska 31.9 (48th) / Michigan State 29.4 (63rd)
Scoring Defense: Nebraska 24.8 (49th) / Michigan State 13.2 (3rd)

Passing Offense: Nebraska 196.7 (97th) / Michigan State 211.7 (84th)
Passing Defense: Nebraska 214.6 (32nd) / Michigan State 165.6 (3rd)

Rushing Offense: Nebraska 215.7 (19th) / Michigan State 173.8 (59th)
Rushing Defense: Nebraska 156.2 (54th) / Michigan State 86.6 (2nd)

Total Offense: Nebraska 412.4 (59th) / Michigan State 385.5 (81st)
Total Defense: Nebraska 370.8 (40th) / Michigan State 252.3 (2nd)

Nebraska Player to Watch: Ameer Abdullah, RB
Not many running backs run for over 100 yards against the Spartans' defense – Abdullah has done it twice and will be amped up to do it again. "We've run the football on them for three years," said Pelini after last year's contest. "They're a quality football team, but we've run the football on them before, and we'll run it on them again.'' On the road in a hostile environment against a good defense, Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck will likely try to grind it out early.

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