After opening the season with a win over Tulsa, the Michigan State Spartans host the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday night.
Many college football fans remember WMU’s Cotton Bowl season in 2016 but that’s all they really know about the Broncos.
Michigan State fans might remember a little more about WMU, as these two teams played in 2017 at Spartan Stadium, with MSU winning 28-14. Some of the same players from that game will be on the field Saturday.
This year, WMU has started the season 1-0 for the first time since 2016. They were picked to finish second in their division by the Mid-American Conference coaches and are bringing back a lot of experienced players on offense and defense.
Here are 10 Broncos Spartan fans should know before the game kicks off Saturday night.
Jon Wassink, QB (#16): Wassink is WMU’s most important player. He started the year off well, throwing for 368 yards and five touchdowns against FCS opponent Monmouth. Wassink has a big arm and will take shots deep down the field. He also can extend plays and will run for first downs if he needs to.
LeVante Bellamy, RB (#2): Bellamy is one of the fastest running backs in the country. WMU will give him a fair amount of carries even against MSU’s strong run defense. If they can’t get Bellamy going on the ground, look for WMU to throw to him to get him involved in the game.
Giovanni Ricci, TE (#15): Ricci is Wassink’s favorite target. He had two touchdown catches last week after catching only three touchdowns all of last season. A wide receiver turned tight end, he’s really come into his own as a senior.
Jaylen Hall, WR (#11): Hall, a 6’4” redshirt sophomore, is the experienced one out of WMU’s new receiving core though he had just 11 career catches coming into the season. He had a 33-yard touchdown grab last week.
DaShon Bussell, WR (#81): Bussell is another one of WMU’s group of new, young, wide receivers. A redshirt freshman, he caught five passes for 116 yards in Week 1.
Dee Eskridge, CB (#7): Eskridge is playing corner this year after being WMU’s number one wide receiver last season. He led the team in tackles Week 1 and had one pass breakup in his first game at corner.
Ali Fayad, DE (#1): Fayad, a junior from Dearborn, has grown into a star defensive end for WMU. He led the Broncos in sacks last year and looks to have an even bigger year this season as there are high expectations for him.
Drake Spears, LB (#20): WMU’s leading tackler last year, Spears is one of 10 returning starters for the Bronco defense.
Justin Tranquill, S (#2): One of team’s leaders, veteran Justin Tranquill is more of a run-stopping safety. He’s been one of WMU’s top tacklers during his four-year career.
Keith Mixon Jr., WR (#12): Mixon was relatively unknown even to WMU fans before Saturday night as he just transferred to Western from Mississippi State. As punt and kick returner he racked up 161 return yards – including a 65-yard kick return and a 21-yard punt return. Spartan fans will remember former WMU star Darius Phillips; Keith Mixon looks like he has similar dynamic ability as a returner.