As usual, a lot of pundits are picking Michigan State to disappoint this season. Most aren’t saying that Michigan State will do poorly; instead, they are saying that the Spartans simply won’t have as good of a season as last year. I’m going the other way and predicting another double-digit victory season, and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State starts slow, with easy games lined up against Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic. With that crushing loss to Central Michigan just two years ago still on many Spartans' mind, don’t expect Sparty to drop these two. Both of these will be 50ish-20ish Michigan State.
The first real challenge, and perhaps in some ways the most dangerous one, is at Notre Dame. This vicious, long-running and largely even rivalry will be a major test for both teams. If the Spartans lose here, it might deflate team confidence and contribute to later losses.
More importantly, the Fighting Irish will test what has long been Michigan State's Achilles heel, the secondary. Thankfully, this unit is looking to be quite strong and I expect them to hold out against the Irish in a hard fought game and etch out a narrow victory. A loss wouldn’t be a surprise, however, as this will be an explosive team.
Either way, expect a high scoring game with a key turn over or two by our secondary. The teams will trade the lead, but the Spartans come out on top, 38-35.
Next, a quick Chippewa snack.Central Michigan will likely have another down year and Michigan State will make quick work of their MAC brethren, 42-21 Spartans.
Then, an all-important visit to Ohio State. If this were at Spartan Stadium, I would already be placing my bank account on a Spartan victory. Ohio State will have a down year due to all of the off-field distractions, the loss of some of their best players for the first five games and unexpected changes at quarterback and head coach.
Still, this is the Horseshoe stadium and the Buckeyes will defend their turf. Ohio State will get the first score, but Michigan State will take the next two. It will be a hard-fought battle with Ohio State giving its all, but Michigan State will come out in a narrow six-point victory. Expect some key stops from our defense. Spartans win, 21-17.
Michigan will come in with all the swagger in the world. There will be the normal trash talking and arrogance on both sides, and the game will be hard fought. In the end home field advantage, and the fact that this current Spartan squad will refuse to be the squad to lose the win streak against the Wolverines will push us over the top. I see a 14-point victory, with the wide margin coming in the second half, 34-21 Michigan State.
Thank the football gods that Michigan State’s battle with the Wisconsin Badgers is in East Lansing. If it were in Madison it would be an automatic loss. No one beats the Badgers at home—doesn’t matter if you’re the best team in the country (just ask Ohio State). With this being in East Lansing I have faith that the Spartans can overcome the Badgers, 27-20.
Then there is the visit to Nebraska. Michigan State will roll into Memorial Stadium feeling good and perhaps be a bit arrogant. Unfortunately, they will leave humbled after crumbling before Nebraska’s stellar defense and an offense that I expect to jell by midseason. Seven-point loss for MSU, 24-17 Nebraska.
Michigan State will take its disappointment out on Minnesota. While the Gophers will show some signs of strength and stabilization under new coach Kill, they will not be able to keep up with the Spartans. Spartans win, 34-21
Iowa will be having a middling season again, but they will give their all against the Spartans. This time, however, Michigan State will come in with a chip on their shoulder after last year’s embarrassment in Iowa City. Michigan State will pull out a narrow six-point victory in a hard-fought battle. The defense will make some key stops to hold onto the lead. Spartans win, 31-27.
Indiana will continue to be Indiana, though they will show some flashes of potential throughout the season. I expect them to put in a surprisingly good game against a tired Michigan State team but lose in the end. Spartans 35-28.
And then the season ends in Chicago (OK, fine it's Evanston) against Northwestern, who will give us hell. Northwestern will be solid this year. They will have surprised Nebraska or Iowa, hopefully not Michigan State. Beating Michigan? That one won't be a shocker either way. They will also hold several other quality wins. Northwestern will jump to an early lead but Michigan State will surge past them, 41-34.
That leads to a 11-1 season. Will Michigan State make it to the Big Ten Championship Game with this record? Yes, because Nebraska will drop two in-conference games, giving us the lead and a rematch with the Badgers. We win again and this Spartans team goes down as one of the best of all time, landing a trip to the Rose Bowl. It’ll be a low score, 20-14 Michigan State.
If not for that pesky loss to Nebraska, we would find ourselves in the National Championship, but a Rose Bowl is good enough.
Is this an optimistic preview? By all means. The difference between an 11-1 season and an 8-4 season is razor thin this year. For one, we NEED the offensive line step up, especially against tough defenses. Don’t believe me? See last year’s losses to Alabama and Iowa. We also NEED this team to stay focused.
Worse, there seems to be a lot of chatter about Rose Bowls and National Championships among our players already—if our players start looking too far ahead and lose track of what’s in front of them we are sure to drop some games. If the Spartans get cocky and start overlooking their opponents, be prepared for losses against Northwestern, Michigan and other teams we should be able to beat.