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Jeannette grad Cox, Michigan State not looking past season opener

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications
Demetrious Cox has a starting role on this season's Michigan State football team.

It would be so easy to look past the opener.

Demetrious Cox says that's just not going to happen.

Cox, a Jeannette High School graduate, is a redshirt sophomore safety with the Michigan State football team, which is ranked No. 8 in NCAA Division I by the Associated Press in the preseason poll.

The team opens the season tomorrow in a home game against Jacksonville State of the lower level NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Meanwhile, next week, the Spartans hit the road to take on No. 3 Oregon in one of the biggest matchups in the early part of the college football season.

With tomorrow's game being a grand mismatch in Michigan State's favor, how could Cox and his teammates not be looking ahead to Oregon?

“No way (are we looking past Jacksonville State),” said Cox. “We know how important this game is.”

Cox went on to say that any team can be taken down if it doesn't prepare.

“They're going to come into this game aware that we're a bigger Division I school, just coming off of the Rose Bowl and they're going to have a chip on their shoulders,” said Cox. “They're going to have something to prove. We're not taking them lightly. We're not letting them get to us like that. We have to prepare.”

He also said he and his teammates are well aware that the results of this game — even the margin of victory — could be a factor in where Michigan State ultimately finishes, especially considering the new Football Bowl Subdivision playoffs go into effect at the end of the season.

“What happens in this game could make a difference in our national title hopes,” he said. “Really crushing a team like this could be the difference.”

In other words, even a close victory with the likes of Jacksonville State could be a detriment if Michigan State ends up in contention for one of the four coveted playoff spots at the end of the year.

Cox figures to play a big role not only against Jacksonville State but also throughout the season.

After sitting out the 2012 season as a redshirt and playing largely on special teams last year, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Cox figures more prominently into the Spartans' defensive plans this season.

He leaves camp as the top reserve safety and the starting nickel back, meaning he'll see plenty of playing time when the opposition is likely to pass. He's also being looked to as one of the team's top special teams players once again.

“I feel like camp went really well,” said Cox. “I feel like I got in a lot of reps and I feel like I'm ready to make a big impact on the team, help the defense keep its reputation as one of the best in the country.”

The Spartans' defense truly was one of the best in the nation last year. The unit gave up just 273 yards and 16.3 points per game and was ranked among the top 10 in the country in total defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency and scoring defense.

Michigan State rode that defense to a 12-1 record, a Big Ten Conference Championship and the program's first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. Cox said that experience has the team even more hungry entering this season.

“Playing the Rose Bowl last year was amazing. It was surreal at first,” he said. “We went there and handled business. But it was a stepping stone because of what our goals are now, to win the national title.”

Kickoff for tomorrow's game with Jacksonville is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.

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