This season hasn't gone exactly to plan for either BYU or Michigan State. The Spartans opened the year ranked No. 12 in the country and considered a top-flight Big Ten East contender along with Ohio State and Michigan, but now they've started 2-2. The Cougars entered with a new head coach, Kalani Sitake, and a seemingly strong chance at joining an expanding Big 12. But now the Big 12 might not expand, and now BYU's a hard-luck 2-3.
The Cougars did have a hell of a fun win at home last week against Toledo, but the rub in that was that BYU allowed 53 points and came within a last-second field goal of losing to a MAC team in its own stadium. They could use a boost, just like Michigan State could after a painful and kind of silly loss at Indiana a week ago.
Neither team is near the New Year's Six bowl conversation, but both could still put together enough good wins to have a respectable season. The winner of their game on Saturday will be on that path, while the loser will be in deep trouble.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2. The broadcasters are Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, and Jerry Punch.
Radio: BYU and Michigan State
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Michigan State opened as a 5-point home favorite.
Make friends: Get to SB Nation's team blog chats for this game at Vanquish the Foe (for BYU fans) and The Only Colors(for MSU fans).
Three big things to know
1. BYU's losses have all been close, and the Cougars are probably better than their record. Or maybe not! The Cougars won their first and last game, but in between, they had a three-game losing streak that included defeats by one, three, and three points. So, bad luck, right? Maybe so, but their wins have also both come on walk-off field goals, by a combined four points. The only thing that's certain about BYU is that BYU plays close games.
2. Michigan State doesn't look the same, at all. The Spartans have won 12, 11, and 13 games in their last three seasons. We should all know better than to write them off after two losses, so let's not completely do that. But they've looked like a mess the last two weeks, and their Week 3 win at Notre Dame has looked lesser and lesser as the Irish have floundered ever since. The offense is down from 30 points per game last year to 23 so far this year, while the defense has mildly regressed, too. The Spartans aren't giving off the vibe right now that everything will be fine.
3. This is the teams' first meeting ever, but it's a matchup that makes sense. The schools aren't all that far from one another, and they're stylistically alike. Both are fine, but not great recruiters that have tended to get a lot out of less-than-remarkable talent, with solid quarterback play and deep rosters. Maybe they ought to do this more often. There's at least a return trip sending Michigan State to Provo in four years.