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2017 Michigan State football predictions

The TOC staff makes their predictions for how they think the 2017 season will play out for the Spartans

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Iowa vs Michigan State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in years, very few people are really sure what to expect from the Michigan State football program. Fresh off their worst season in a decade, MSU needs to bounce back, but do they have the players to get the job done?

The staff here at The Only Colors is making their predictions known and fully open to all of the positive comments we are sure to receive when the predictions are proven correct. From how MSU will finish to who will control the Big Ten, here we go.

Matt Sheehan

MSU 2017 record:

7-5. Grab your winter jacket kids, we're going to the Pinstripe Bowl.

How do you think the MSU season will go?

Only way to go is up, my friends. I think this team has had addition by subtraction, getting the rift out of the locker room and rejuvenating leadership. The team is young, but there's also a good amount of talent. I think this squad wins one game it shouldn't (Penn State or Ohio State) and loses a game it shouldn't (Maryland, Rutgers or Western Michigan). Having four games in Spartan Stadium is huge with this young team, and I think it will get them settled in enough to have a better season than last year.

Who will win the B1G and why?

Ohio State just because life is terrible. That Penn State vs. Ohio State game is on Columbus soil, and that could very well be the difference maker (geez, I couldn't be more cliche if I tried). So give me Ohio State beating Nebraska for the title.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

Three things: 1) The Notre Dame game. I simply can't wait for this night game, especially after an offseason that's felt like it's lasted 14 years. 2) Seeing the young guys show promise for the future. I'm excited to see how guys like Kevin Jarvis, Trishton Jackson, Josiah Scott and Hunter Rison play this year. Give us that hope for the future, kids. 3) The development of Brian Lewerke. Mark Dantonio is sky-high on him, and he's never led us astray before.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

When I yelp/scream in anger after the 13th run up the middle on first down against Bowling Green. Other than that? I'm just waiting on the inevitable injury on an already-shallow position group (either of the linemen groups).

Best player on MSU this year:

Best offensive player? LJ Scott (boring answer, I know). Best defensive player? Chris Frey. Most important offensive player? Brian Allen. Most important defensive player? <insert defensive lineman here>

Ryan O’Bleness

MSU 2017 record:

7-5, bowl bound

Reasoning: Maybe I am just an optimist, but it can only get better, right? I think the Spartans win at home against Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Indiana and Maryland and on the road against an improved Minnesota team and Rutgers. So that leaves losses at home to Iowa and Penn State, and on the road against Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State. Though, I expect the Michigan and Ohio State games to be much closer than what most would think.

How do you think the MSU season will go?

This team is incredibly young with more than 50 combined redshirt and true freshmen. There are going to be a lot of growing pains. The defense has big questions on the defensive line and in the secondary, and that will show throughout the season. On the other side of the ball, the wide receiver group and offensive line is also quite inexperienced. However, I think this team will have better leadership and more focus than last year and despite all of the players who left, there is still plenty of talent around. I expect the Spartans to improve each and every week. This team is still nowhere near being a Big Ten powerhouse, and the schedule is tough, but I see several winnable games and a bowl berth by season's end.

Who will win the B1G and why?

I am going a little bit outside of the box here and will say Wisconsin. I think the Badgers will get it done for a couple of reasons. First, Wisconsin's schedule is extremely light. Their first true test doesn't come until Nov. 18 against Michigan, but the Badgers have the luxury of playing in front of a rowdy crowd at Camp Randall Stadium. A road game at BYU and a home game against Northwestern could be early challenges for the Badgers, but I expect them to win both of those. Iowa is the only other threat. No Ohio State, Penn State or even Michigan State on the schedule could bode well for Wisconsin. Secondly, I have a feeling the Big Ten East is just going to beat the hell out of each other all season long. By the time the Badgers easily win the West division and go to Indianapolis, their likely to be in much better shape in terms of health and fatigue than their foe from the East because they have a seemingly much softer schedule.

But of course Ohio State is the favorite for a reason.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

Michigan State was embarrassed last year -- both on and off the field. I think the high point isn't going to be one particular moment, but it will be the end result. A 3-9 team last season, a team that lost an absurd amount of players heading into the season and a team that nobody expects to do much of anything this year could surprise some folks. The high point will be at the end of the season: winning six or seven games, making a bowl game and getting back on track as a program. Also, beating the tar off an Indiana team they had no business losing to last season should feel nice. Or, if they're able to steal a win in Ann Arbor or Columbus (or both?), that would be the automatic high point regardless of finish.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

When you've hit rock bottom, it's really hard to sink down any lower. The low point would be for this team to come out in 2017 and show zero improvement from last year's horrendous performance they called football. If this team goes 3-9 (or worse) again then that would not just be a 2017 low point, but that would be a program low point. Losing to Indiana again would be another potential low point. Or, if the Spartans lost to Rutg...lol, just kidding, they're still Rutgers.

Best player on MSU this year: LJ Scott

Reasoning: LJ Scott is going to rush for more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. He will help the Spartans run a ball-control offense and keep their young defense energized. I truly think Scott puts it all together this year and becomes a team leader. I believe Brian Lewerke will come into his own this year as well, after experiencing several growing pains throughout the season.

Matt Hoeppner

MSU 2017 record:

6-6

How do you think the MSU season will go?

I think this season will be reminiscent of the early Mark Dantonio teams. At times they will struggle, and other times they will look like they have it figured out and are progressing towards something better. Ultimately that is the goal of this season, to improve and find out who your playmakers are on the roster, and we will see that, but the consistency is just not going to be there yet.

Who will win the B1G and why?

I have a hard time betting against Urban Meyer. With JT Barrett back for his senior year, I have to give the nod to the Buckeyes.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

The Spartans pull an upset against one of the big three in the B1G East, most likely Michigan or Penn State.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

Homecoming ends on a sour note as Indiana comes to East Lansing and knocks off the Spartans.

Best player on MSU this year:

LJ Scott is leaned on for the bulk of the running duties and does not disappoint. A big year for the junior moves him up the ranks on the MSU all-time leaderboards and set up player of the year hype for his senior season.

Dom Garrett

MSU 2017 record:

Alright, alright. Let's just get this out of the way right now. I know I picked an undefeated season last year and I really missed the mark on that one. What you DON'T know is that I did it on purpose so I can be closer to being right this year. Jokes on you.

MSU is going to go 9-3. Wins in the first 4 weeks of the season plus adding in Rutgers, Maryland, IU and Northwestern will give the Spartans 8 wins. Add in a statement win either at Michigan or at home vs a good Penn State team and Sparty is flipping last year's record on it's head.

How do you think the MSU season will go?

It is going to be close but a quick start will set the tone for the year. In surpassing the last year's win total in the September, MSU is going to be feeling good with the younger core that got reps last year. It is not a Big Ten title year, but it is miles better than last year.

Who will win the B1G and why?

It is hard for me to pick against Ohio State right now. JT Barrett is an amazing talent and while it is going to be a battle atop the east between OSU and Penn State I think that the depth of talent in the front seven of the Buckeye defense is going to shut people down. Don't sleep on a healthy Wisconsin team to surprise in the championship game. 17 starters coming back and a team that has been in the B1G Championship 2 of the last 3 years is poised to break through.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

Anything over 3 wins is a BIG win but I think a decent bowl victory is going to be what people look back on.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

Blowing a close game in the 4th against ________ (insert Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State here). What COULD have been is haunting me already.

Best player on MSU this year:

I am printing some LJ Scott fan club tshirts and selling out of those bad boys. Scott is going to go full on Le'Veon Bell this year and be in the talks for B1G POY talk. Get. Ready.

McLain Moberg

MSU 2017 record:

7-5 (4-5 B1G)

How do you think the MSU season will go?

The unfortunate truth is Michigan State had a terrible 2016 football season and 2017 probably won't be much better. This year will be dedicated to rebuilding. Good news is the Spartans have been given a generous first month in terms of scheduling. Never even leaving their home state until week seven to face the Minnesota Gophers. If Michigan State takes advantage of their first four games they should be 4-0 prior to facing Michigan. The bad news is playing the Wolverines in Ann Arbor this year will likely turn into their first loss of 2017. I have Michigan State sitting at 5-2 immediately following a home game against Indiana. Hold onto your seats because this is where it gets bumpy. A three game losing streak is what follows before the Spartans end the year on back to back wins against Maryland and Rutgers.

Who will win the B1G and why?

Ohio State is the obvious choice. Entering this season they have the most talent and one of the best coaches college football has to offer. Adding Kevin Wilson in the offseason (former head coach for Indiana) was huge for the Buckeyes. His offensive genius will add the spark OSU needs and help JT Barrett lead them to victory. Defensively they are no different. Any team who faces OSU will go up against one of the best front sevens in the nation. They lost parts of their secondary to the NFL draft but I doubt that will be an issue with their "next man up" mentality.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

The high point of Michigan State's season will be before they face the Wolverines. Ideally the Spartans are 4-0 at this point. Those wins will be huge for this young core's confidence but unfortunately it won't be enough to take down our hated rival.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

Michigan State's low point will be after they beat Indiana at home on October 21st. A three game losing streak will be terribly hard for such a young team to overcome. But with Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff running the show I am confident MSU bounces back to win the final two games of the season and become bowl eligible once again.

Best player on MSU this year:

LJ Scott. He is the lead running back. The man has been a work horse ever since he put on the green and white. He made the Doak Walker Award watch list. Everyone has seen he has the ability to run the ball down hill extremely well (S/O to the final play of "The Drive"). Ending the previous season just six yards away from a 1,000 yards last year will only make him hungry for more. Add in his newfound talent for catching the ball out of the back field and it only makes him better.

Kyle Thele

MSU 2017 record:

7-5 (5-4)

How do you think the MSU season will go?

Reverting back to the early days of Dantonio at MSU, the Spartans are going to race out of the gate, limp through the middle of the season, and clinch a bowl game late. There are only a few games on the schedule this year that they will be huge underdogs in, so things could take a surprising turn up for the Spartans...But don’t expect that to happen.

Who will win the B1G and why?

Ohio State – As more experts compare the Big Ten East to the SEC West, expect something similar to happen. For all the talk of the other teams that could jump up and surprise Ohio State, the Buckeyes will hold court and return to the playoffs.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

I’m tempted to say the high point comes when they beat up on Notre Dame at home, but the idea of the high point coming in week three is just too depressing to comprehend. So instead, I’ll go with a win over Maryland, clinching a return to a bowl game in front of the home crowd.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

The Michigan game. Listen, I’m leading the charge against the Michigan bandwagon. They just aren’t that good this year and are – as expected – outrageously overrated. But the Wolverines are better than Michigan State this year and with the game in Ann Arbor, don’t expect Harbaugh to screw up a punt again. I’m not saying Michigan will beat up on the Spartans, but any loss to Michigan – especially for a second year in a row – hurts especially bad.

Best player on MSU this year:

Everyone is going to say LJ Scott – mostly because that’s the right answer – but I’m going to dig deep a little here. I’m going full steam ahead on the Hunter Rison hype train. Rison is going to be that dude in the Big Ten. If we’re looking defense, keep an eye on Mike Panasiuk on the defensive line.

Austin Smith

MSU 2017 record:

7-5

How do you think the MSU season will go?

This is a big year for Michigan State because the program and everyone in it is in a very delicate place.

We've covered last year's debacle ad nauseam but the stain of that type of failure both on and, more importantly, off the field doesn't go away overnight. MSU's reputation took a major and deserved hit and while there is no way to erase the institutional failures that led to it, they have to try and move forward as a program. The first step to doing that takes place this Saturday.

On the field, the roster is far from devoid of talent on this roster but even after playing so many young players a year ago, there is not a ton of experience. Captains Brian Allen and Chris Frey are two of only eight (!!!!) scholarship seniors and it is very possible that they and defensive end Demetrious Cooper are the only three to be a part of the playing rotation. Add in a tough road schedule (MSU will travel to UM, Minnesota, OSU and Northwestern) and poorly placed bye week (10 straight weekends with games) and a bowl appearance seems all but certain.

However, I'm bullish on this team. Like I said, there is a lot of talent, albeit untested. On offense Brian Lewerke is drawing comparisons to Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook, the three-headed running back monster is back, the wideouts are young and shifty and the tight end group is as athletic as MSU has ever had. Oh, and the O-line looks *gasp* promising.

Defensively, it it all boils down to the line. If MSU can't improve on its 11 sacks from 2016 -- the most depressing stat from a monumentally depressing season -- it won't matter if the offense is twice as good as last year, the results will be similar. The linebackers should be a strength but the secondary is anybody's guess. If the line can at least make quarterbacks think twice and shorten the amount of time DB's have to cover and create turnovers, this might be a decent unit.

Taking all of those things into account, 7-5 seems fair to me. I could see it swinging the wrong way very easily, but also if things go right, could see the win total increasing, too.

Who will win the B1G and why?

Ohio State. They are obnoxiously talented, have a senior at the helm and one of the best coaches in the nation leading the way. If they don't win the conference it'll be a massive upset.

High point of the 2017 MSU season:

Beating Michigan. As always, this game will be a rallying point for the Spartans and catching a very talented but very young UM team early in the year before they're a finished product makes the difference.

Low point of the 2017 MSU season:

Getting smoked by Penn State and Ohio State in back to back weeks. MSU just doesn't have the depth to compete this year. 2018 could be a different story, however.

Best player on MSU this year:

LJ Scott. If MSU wants to get back to 6-7 wins it has to be Scott. He's probably the only MSU player that would find playing time no matter what college roster you put him on. We've seen insane flashes but we've also seen mind numbing lapses. If the former can finally outweigh the latter, and the offensive line improves the way it could/should, you're talking about an all-conference talent. That's the type of guy you need to carry a team in this state of flux.