Furman at Michigan State
The Game: Furman at #12 Michigan State
Last Year: The Fighting Football Paladins finished up the 2015 season with a 4-7 record and a 7th place finish in the Southern Conference. It was a season in which they picked up their first win over an FBS opponent (Central Florida, who granted was pretty horrible) since 1999, took a Top 5 FCS team down to the wire, and then also looked fairly atrocious. Football is weird, guys.
Are We Any Good? No? It's hard to say. It's the beginning of the season, so we don't really know. There are guys on this team who played on a squad that won a conference championship a few years ago. And yet there's also the last two seasons. Not helping to clarify matters is the reality that the Paladins open the season with a Top 15 FBS opponent (Michigan State), last year's SoCon co-champions (The Citadel and Chattanooga), and a team about to make the jump to the FBS (Coastal Carolina). In other words, Furman could be a far better team than last year and still kick things off with an 0-4 record.
Opposing Team's Mascot: The Spartans. Michigan State used to be an agricultural school and their nickname was the Aggies as required by law (look it up, I think it was a deleted scene in Hamilton). Trying to find a better nickname, the school landed on Spartans at the suggestion of a trio of brothers from Sparta, Greece who told the tale of the 300 warriors who held off thousands of Persian combatants in 480 BC. The story was popularized in a graphic novel and, later, a movie titled 300. So, yes, there are probably scores of over-exuberant frat boys in East Lansing who yell, "THIS IS SPARTA!"
The nickname is interesting considering the fact that the Spartans still ultimately lost. "Team! I want you to get out there and play like Spartans! Fight and fight against overwhelming odds! Then after you give your all, we'll lose! State on three!" It's also interesting because if anyone in this game is the overmatched, valiant band ultimately destined to lose, it's Furman.
Suggested Hashtag: #XerxesTheSpartans
Et cetera: As mentioned earlier, the Paladins was the owner of one of nine FCS-over-FBS upsets last season with their 16-15 triumph against Central Florida. Thus an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. At the same time, Michigan State is miles and miles better than UCF. If Furman plays a respectable game, puts a scare into the Spartans in the first half, and stays healthy then I'll ultimately be happy.
The depth chart at quarterback has senior Reese Hannon and junior P.J. Blazejowski neck and neck. I expect Hannon, the four-time captain, to get the start, but it'll be interesting to see if Coach Bruce Fowler will rotate the two during the game. Also keep an eye out for preseason All-American safety (and former high school Spanish student of E.A. Cox) Trey Robinson who had two interceptions in last season's upset of UCF.
Anything else? Go Paladins!