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Pre-Season Schedule Breakdown

Taking a look at the dates, times, locations and story lines from each of MSU’s games.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Washington State vs Michigan State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With the season rapidly approaching let’s go through the entire Michigan State season schedule and take a look at when and where all the games take place, as well as some key things to keep in mind as possibly storylines that could play out in the given matchups.

Week One: Utah State

Friday, August 31st at 7:00 pm in East Lansing

TV: Big Ten Network

The Aggies of Utah State went 6-6 last year (4-4 in the Mountain West Conference) and lost their bowl game 26-20 in overtime to New Mexico State. Utah State was 51st in the country in scoring offense at 30.2 points per game last year and 67th in scoring defense at 26.9 points per game.

The Aggies came to the Midwest last season to open the year against Wisconsin in Madison. The Badgers easily dispatched them 59-10, although the game was close through the first half. Utah State also played at Wake Forest last year and lost 46-10 in that matchup.

Week Two: Arizona State

September 8th at 10:45 pm in Tempe, Arizona


The Sun Devils were 7-5 a year ago, and 6-3 in PAC-12 play. They lost the Sun Bowl to NC State 52-31 to finish 7-6. They will return a senior quarterback in Manny Wilkins who threw for 3,270 yards and 20 TD’s last year. Junior WR N’Keal Harry is one of the best in the country. He hauled in 82 passes for 1,142 yards and 8 touchdowns as a sophomore last year.

The Spartans travel west for their lone power five tilt in the non-conference schedule. It will be the first taste of PAC-12 after dark for the Spartans since they traveled to California in 2008. It will also be just the third matchup all time between the Spartans and the Sun Devils, and the first since MSU traveled to Tempe in 1986.

ASU will be in their first year under new coach Herm Edwards, and the former NFL coach will be looking to make an early splash by picking up a win over a ranked opponent.

Week Three: Bye Week

Week Four: Indiana

September 22nd Time TBA in Bloomington, Indiana


MSU opens the conference schedule with a road game at Indiana. The Hoosiers have been a thorn in the Spartans side over the last few seasons, beating MSU in overtime two years ago, and nearly doing the same in East Lansing last year. Before the loss in 2016, the Spartans had won seven straight against IU.

The Hoosiers will be handing the QB duties full time to sophomore Peyton Ramsey, who will have most of his offensive weapons returning. Indiana was just 78th in points per game last year, but was 52nd in scoring defense. If the offense catches up and the defense improves some, the Hoosiers could be a tough team to deal with on the road.

Week Five: Central Michigan

September 29th Time TBA in East Lansing


The Chips will fire it up and head to East Lansing for the final non-conference tilt of the season. CMU went 8-4 in the regular season last year before losing their bowl game 37-14 to Wyoming. They picked up a Power Five (technically) win at Kansas last year but lost matchups at Syracuse and Boston College.

CMU will be looking for a new QB this year after senior transfer Shane Morris (formerly the supposed savior of that school in Ann Arbor) graduated. The Chips do have running back Jonathan Ward returning for his junior year after rushing for 1,017 yards and 10 TD’s as a sophomore. Ward also nabbed 48 catches for 470 yards and three scores. Unfortunately for CMU Ward is also their leading returner in catches and receiving yards.

Week Six: Northwestern

October 6th at Noon in East Lansing


Michigan State will be looking for revenge for last season’s overtime loss in Evanston when the Wildcats come to East Lansing for homecoming. Northwestern is coming off a 10-3 season capped off with a bowl win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. The Wildcats won their final eight games last year.

The big question for Northwestern will be the health of quarterback Clayton Thorson, who tore his ACL in the bowl game last year. Thorson is expected to be back before Northwestern’s game at MSU, but the question will be how he looks and is performing after coming back from such a major injury.

Northwestern will also be replacing Justin Jackson, who had 92 total yards and a TD in last year’s win in Evanston, and was one of the best all-around backs in the Big Ten.

Week Seven: Penn State

October 13th at 3:30/4:00 pm in State College, Pennsylvania


The first of the big divisional games for MSU as they travel to Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions. The Spartans last second win after a loooong afternoon in East Lansing was arguably their signature win of the year, and was a huge bounce back after the OT loss the week before to Northwestern.

Trace McSorely is back for his senior year and is probably the best quarterback in the Big Ten, at least on paper, coming into the season. McSorely threw for over 3,500 yards and 28 TD’s last year and he also ran for 491 yards and 11 scores.

All world running back Saquon Barkley is off to the NFL, but Penn State always seems to have someone more than capable of toting the rock. It will be a very tough test for the Spartans, who have won just twice at Penn State since 1965, with those wins coming in 2010 and 2014.

Week Eight: Michigan

October 20th, Time TBA in East Lansing


The rumors are this will be a night game, in which case, God help us all. Regardless of the time, I’m sure the Wolverine fans will be checking their Weather apps throughout the entire week and summoning local shamans to ward off the rain.

Of course MSU won last year’s rain soaked matchup in Ann Arbor, forcing a flood of UM turnovers in a game where John O’Korn was attacked by a sideline ghost. The win made it eight out of ten for the Spartans over their in-state rivals.

The Wolverines will have transfer Shea Patterson at the helm this season, who high tailed it out of Ole Miss after the NCAA came down on the Rebels. Will be finally be the answer to the Wolverines quarterback question? For Jim Harbaugh’s sake, he better be.

Either way let’s all pray for some sanity in East Lansing after a night game between these two teams, if that is in fact what gets scheduled.

Week Nine: Purdue

October 27th, Time TBA in East Lansing


The Spartans take on the Boilers for the first time since 2015. Purdue is coming off a 6-6 regular season with a bowl win over Arizona and finished the season with a winning record for the first time since 2011. Jeff Brohm did a great job in his first year as coach taking them from a 3-9 mark to a bowl game.

MSU is on a seven game winning streak against the Boilermakers, having not lost to them since John L. Smith’s final season as coach in 2006.

Week Ten: Maryland

November 3rd, Time TBA in College Park, Maryland


After playing in an ugly weather game in East Lansing last year, the two teams will meet out east this season. Maryland went 4-8 last year but dealt with a ton of quarterback issues. The Terps were off to a decent start before the injury bug ravaged the team and sent the season into a spiral.

DJ Durkin will be in his third season at the helm for Maryland and is looking for his first winning season. The Spartans are 3-1 against the Terrapins since they joined the Big Ten, but the lone Maryland win came in College Park in 2016. This will probably fall into the category of a late season trap game for the Spartans given their opponent the following week.

Week Eleven: Ohio State

November 10th, Time TBA in East Lansing


This has become one of the biggest matchups in the Big Ten conference on a year in and year out basis, and often has determined either the conference champ, or who will represent the Big Ten East in Indianapolis.

The Buckeyes trounced the Spartans in Columbus last year, taking MSU down a peg from a potential elite team, to just a very good one. This year, the Spartans will be looking to return the favor and propel themselves to the top of the division.

JT Barrett is finally gone after what felt like a decade in scarlet and gray so at least there is that. The other major issue for OSU is the situation surrounding Urban Meyer. Should the university investigation end in his dismissal, it could have a significant impact on the Buckeye’s season.

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Either way, Ohio State is going to be loaded with talent and among the best teams in the country once again. This will be another huge game for both teams, with conference title implications possibly hanging in the balance.

Week Twelve: Nebraska

November 17th, Time TBA in Lincoln, Nebraska


After playing for five straight years following Nebraska joining the Big Ten, MSU has not faced the Huskers since 2015. That was of course the game in which the Huskers came back from twelve points down in the final four minutes ending on a 30-yard touchdown pass to a player that ran half the field while out of bounds.

In fact most games between these two schools have been close since Nebraska joined the conference. The five games have been played within a total of eight points, with three of those games being decided by five points or less.

This game quite frankly scares me. Nebraska now has Scott Frost at the helm, coming back to his alma mater after leading UCF to an undefeated season last year. By this point in the season, the Huskers will likely be much improved, and playing in Lincoln is never easy. Coming off the battle against Ohio State, this game has all the makings of a possible landmine for Michigan State.

Week Thirteen: Rutgers

Novemeber 24th, Time TBA in East Lansing


The regular season wraps up with senior day against Rutgers. After the games against Ohio State and Nebraska, this will be a welcome layup to finish the season. I mean, it’s Rutgers. MSU pounded the Scarlet Knights last season and controlled the ball for almost 48 of the 60 minutes of game time, an NCAA record.

Senior day should be one without much stress in East Lansing, and if things go right for the Spartans, they will also be celebrating a trip to Indy while sending off the seniors in style.

Other Notes

Mark Dantonio comes into the season with an even 100 wins as Michigan State coach. He is only the second coach to reach the mark in the history of the program. He needs 10 wins to pass Duffy Daugherty as the winningest coach in school history.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Washington State vs Michigan State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With his next conference victory, Dantonio will break a tie with George Perles and move into second place all time in school history. Both coaches are at 53 Big Ten wins, but it took Perles 97 games to get to that total, while Dantonio has done it in 81 games.

With a strong senior season LJ Scott can put his name throughout the MSU record book as one of the schools more prolific rushers. He enters the season 11th in rushing attempts, 12th in rushing yards, and 12th in touchdowns. He would need 224 attempts, 913 yards, and nine touchdowns to finish in the top five in all three categories, all of which are well within reach.