Local college teams open season this weekend

Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2021

DOWAGIAC — The college football season kicks off for several area teams, including Michigan State, Western Michigan, Michigan and Notre Dame.

The Spartans will travel to Evanston, Illinois to face Northwestern in a key early-season Big Ten Conference test for both schools. Western Michigan heads Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines in the “Big House.”

Notre Dame, ranked No. 7 in the preseason USA Today/Amway Coaches Poll, will head to Tallahassee, Florida, to face Florida State.




 MSU Head Coach: Mel Tucker

 MSU Record: 2-5 (second season)

 Record vs. Northwestern: 1-0


 Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald

 Northwestern Record: 106-81 (16th year)

 Record vs. MSU: 5-8



9:15 p.m. Friday — ESPN/WatchESPN



  • Michigan State kicks off its 125th season and begins its second season under head coach Tucker on Friday, Sept. 3 at Northwestern. Kickoff is set for 9:15 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on ESPN with Beth Mowins (play-by-play), Kirk Morrison (analyst) and Dawn Davenport (sidelines) on the call.
  • Friday’s game marks the 60th meeting between Michigan State and Northwestern. The Spartans lead the all-time series, 39-20, including a 20-11 record in Evanston. MSU has won six of the last seven meetings at Ryan Field.
  • Michigan State handed Northwestern its only loss of the regular season in 2020 as the Spartans beat the previously undefeated and eighth-ranked (CFP) Wildcats in East Lansing, 29-20, on Nov. 28. MSU ran for a season-high 195 yards on the ground and Jalen Nailor had three catches for 99 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. MSU is looking for its third consecutive win over Northwestern as the Spartans topped NU in Evanston in 2019, 31-10; Mark Dantonio became the winningest coach in program history with the victory.
  • Friday’s game marks the first time since 1982 that Michigan State will open the season with a conference road game.
  • The Wildcats are coming off a 7-2 campaign in 2020, finishing with a 35-19 win over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. NU won the Big Ten West Division before falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, 22-10. Northwestern started 5-0 last season, before Michigan State upset the eighth-ranked Wildcats, 29-20, on Nov. 28 in Spartan Stadium.
  • Northwestern’s defense led the Big Ten and ranked fifth in FBS in scoring defense (15.9 points per game), while ranking 10th in the conference in scoring offense (24.7 ppg). The Wildcat defense was also fourth in the league and 22nd in the nation in total defense (341.1 yards per game), also topping the league and ranking tied for 19th in FBS in passing defense (195.3 ypg) and ranking seventh in rushing defense (145.9 ypg). Offensively, NU ranked ninth in total offense (360.7 ypg), ranking eighth in rushing offense (162.8 ypg) and 10th in passing offense (197.9 ypg).
  • Individually, Northwestern has a bevy of players earning preseason recognition, led by sophomore safety Brandon Joseph, who has a lengthy list of preseason honors, including first-team AP Preseason All-American. Offensively, sophomore offensive lineman Peter Skoronski is also a preseason All-American.
  • Northwestern is led by head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who is entering his 16th season at the helm of the Wildcats, posting a 106-81 overall record. Six of the full-time members of the Northwestern coaching staff have been coaching on the field for over 10 years, which is tied with Navy for the most in the country.
  • Former Edwardsburg standout Josh Priebe still start on the offensive line for the Wildcats.




WMU Head Coach: Tim Lester

 WMU Record: 20-24 (fourth season)

 WMU record vs. Michigan: 0-7


UM Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh

UM Record: 49-22

UM Record vs. WMU: 7-0



12:02 p.m. Saturday — ESPN



  • Western Michigan is 2-2 in season openers under Lester.
  • Bronco quarterback Caleb Eleby owns the top passer rating among returning FBS signal callers entering 2021. His rating of 195.08 last season trailed only Alabama Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones and Brigham Young’ Zach Wilson.
  • Western Michigan led the nation in yard per completion in 2020, netting 17.19 yards per catch.
  • The Broncos’ defensive line ranked fifth nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 8.5 tackles for loss per contest.
  • Western Michigan’s offense finished ninth nationally in points per game during the 2020 season, scoring 41.7 points per game. Western was one of 12 teams in FBS to average more than 40 points per game.
  • The 2021 season marks the 142nd in Michigan football history
  • Michigan has a 115-23-3 record in season openers
  • The Wolverines have an NCAA-leading 964 victories.
  • Michigan is 12-3 in non-conference games under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.
  • The Wolverines return nine players on defense with at least six career starts.
  • Michigan returns nine players on offense with at least six career starts.




ND Head Coach: Brian Kelly

 ND Record: 102-39 (12th season)

 ND record vs. Florida State: 2-2


FSU Head Coach: Mike Norvell

FSU Record: 3-6 (second year)

FSU Record vs. ND: 0-1



7:30 p.m. Sunday — ABC



  • Brian Kelly is just three wins away from tying Knute Rockne for most wins all-time by a Notre Dame coach.
  • Notre Dame has won 19 consecutive regular-season games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. Its last defeat against an ACC foe in the regular season came back in 2017 against Miami. Of those 19 wins, 15 were won by 10 or more points.
  • Florida State leads the overall series 6-4. The Fighting Irish won the last meeting 42-26 in October of 2020.
  • Notre Dame is 108-17-5 in season openers, with 28 wins in its last 34 games.
  • The Fighting Irish last opened the season on the road in 2019 at Louisville, a game it won 35-17.
  • In last year’s season opener, Notre Dame defeated Duke 27-13.
  • The Sunday season opener is a first in Florida State history.
  • The Seminoles are 4-1 at home against the Fighting Irish.
  • Florida State is opening the season at home for the fourth consecutive year. The Seminoles are 30-10 overall in home openers and 54-20 overall.
  • The Seminoles ranked 23rd nationally last year in yards-per-rush and 16th among teams with at least 350 carries. They averaged 5.11 yards per carry and 199.9 yards per game on the ground.