Michigan State University opens football season tonight at home vs. Utah State

From left, Michigan State running back LJ Scott rushes against defensive end Dillon Alexander as offensive lineman Chase Gianacakos blocks during the Spartans’ spring scrimmage in East Lansing on April 7. (AP photo)

EAST LANSING — They will take the field at Spartan Stadium with a talented quarterback, a wealth of returning starters and high hopes for the season to come.

The Utah State Aggies, of course. And yes, all of the above applies to No. 11 Michigan State as well.

“Lot of experience on the football field Friday night,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “So it will be exciting.”

It would be a stretch to call MSU and Utah State mirror images, but there are some intriguing similarities heading into tonight’s season opener in East Lansing. The Aggies list eight returning starters on each side of the ball on this week’s depth chart, while the Spartans have 10 returning starters on offense alone. MSU is coming off a 10-win season that re-established the Spartans among the contenders in the Big Ten. Utah State went to a bowl last year and now wants to challenge the Mountain West’s elite.

Michigan State has won 19 straight home openers. This will be the first meeting between these two programs. There is a potential contrast in styles. The Spartans have shown over the years that they can win tight, low-scoring games by relying on their defense, but Dantonio is wary of Utah State’s tempo.

Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio addresses reporters during the team's media day in East Lansing on Aug. 6. No. 11 MSU tries for its 20th straight win in a home opener when it hosts Utah State tonight. (AP photo)

“Offensively, no-huddle type thing,” he said. “They’re going as fast as anybody in the country. Been impressed with their quarterback.”