This is no ordinary tuneup for Michigan State.
The eighth-ranked Spartans open the season Friday night against Jacksonville State of the Ohio Valley Conference, but the Gamecocks are hardly pushovers. They reached the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision last year and are only a few seasons removed from a road win over a Southeastern Conference team. Their 49-48 victory at Mississippi in 2010 still resonates.
Coming off its Rose Bowl victory a season ago, Michigan State now boasts its highest preseason Associated Press ranking since 1967. There's talk that the Spartans could make it to the four-team playoff that will determine the national champion - and already their matchup at Oregon next week is drawing lots of attention.