A soft upcoming schedule has Michigan State primed to climb the national rankings and move closer to securing Tom Izzo's eighth Big Ten championship. However, in order to capitalize, State must approach these contests with the same intensity that they would against the more prominent conference foes.
Its upcoming games feature home contests against Penn State, Northwestern and Nebraska. Michigan State will also travel to face a plummeting Wisconsin squad on Feb. 9 and then visit Purdue on Feb. 20.
With the exception of their showdown in Madison against the Badgers, the Spartans will be heavily favored to prevail in all of the aforementioned contests.
In addition to this manageable stretch of games, All-Big Ten forward Adreian Payne should return from a foot injury. State has dreadfully needed his scoring abilities, as the team hasn't eclipsed 80 points in its last six contests. But he must err on the side of caution upon his return.
Payne and Michigan State will look to improve to 20-3 overall and 9-1 in the conference in Thursday's home contest against Penn State. Here is how the Spartans must approach their upcoming five-game stretch.