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Maryland football will have an easy schedule, until Michigan State comes to town

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The Spartans should be tough, as ever.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the start of Maryland's football season on Sept. 3, we're doing an at-a-glance preview of every opponent on the schedule.

Week 1: Howard (Sept. 3, Maryland Stadium, 12 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Week 2: FIU (Sept. 9, Ocean Bank Field, Miami, 7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

Week 3: UCF (Sept. 17, Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

Week 4: Bye

Week 5: Purdue (Oct. 1, Maryland Stadium, 3:30 p.m., TV TBA)

Week 6: Penn State (Oct. 8, Beaver Stadium, 12:00 p.m., TV TBA)

Week 7: Minnesota: (Oct. 15., Maryland Stadium, time and TV TBA)

Week 8: Michigan State (Oct. 22, Maryland Stadium, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)

The Maryland football team stands a pretty good chance to start its 2016 season 3-1 or 4-0, and then to get to 4-2 or 5-1 with games against Penn State and Minnesota. That’s how the Terps’ schedule lines up, and they’d better take advantage of it.

Because the going gets tough in Week 8, and it barely lets up. Maryland hosts Michigan State that weekend, in the first of what’ll probably be three of its final six games to come against a ranked opponent.

How good is this team?

Quite good, probably. The Spartans might not be as strong as they’ve been in the last three years, but they’ll still be really good, and they’ll be Maryland’s toughest opponent to date by the time kickoff comes around.

Here’s how good the Spartans have been: In the last six years, they’ve reached 11 wins five times. In the last three, they’re 36-5, including Rose and Cotton Bowl wins.

So they’re losing Connor Cook, the quarterback who’s been the program’s marquee player for the last three runs. But betting against Mark Dantonio seems awfully foolish.

Who should I watch?

Michigan State has been defined by its balance under Dantonio. On offense, that’s pretty well demonstrated by a three-headed rushing attack. L.J. Scott brings the thunder, and Madre London and Gerald Holmes bring some lightning.

The Spartans listed co-starters at quarterback in the spring. We’ll see by October whether Tyler O’Connor, Damion Terry or someone else takes the ball against Maryland.

On defense, senior MIKE linebacker Riley Bullough is a beast, and nose tackle Malik McDowell figures to be one of the country’s best interior defensive linemen.

Snap prediction, way ahead of time: Does Maryland win?

No.