It’s June, and pretty much the dead season for Michigan State Spartans athletics. News is slow around this time of year, so let’s have some fun.
While it’s way too early to make any sort of definitive statement on how the 2019 football season will go, we can make educated guesses based on what we know right now. Again, a lot can and will change from now until the opening game on Aug. 30, but let’s go game-by-game and make early predictions now.
Game 1 vs. Tulsa (Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.)
I’m not too knowledgable about Tulsa football. But after the scare that Utah State put into the Spartans in the first game of the 2018 season, fans should respect the Golden Hurricane. But this team wasn’t near as good as the Aggies last season. Tulsa really struggled with a 3-9 record and went just 2-6 in the American Athletic Conference. One of those wins was against an FCS team in Central Arkansas, and another win came against a Connecticut Huskies team that finished 1-11. It’s a new season, but we shouldn’t sweat this one.
Prediction: Michigan State 37, Tulsa 13
Game 2 vs. Western Michigan (Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m.)
Western Michigan has not beaten Michigan State since 1919. There have only been 11 meetings since then (feels like a lot more), and MSU has defeated WMU by an average score of 31.6 points to 13.1 points in that timeframe. Michigan State also flipped a former Western Michigan commit in 2019 quarterback Payton Thorne, while freshman All-American wide receiver Jayden Reed announced his transfer from Kalamazoo to East Lansing. So, the Broncos would love nothing more than to the stun the Spartans on their home field. It won’t happen.
Prediction: Michigan State 31, Western Michigan 10
Game 3 vs. Arizona State (Sept. 14 at 4 p.m.)
This is the non-conference game most Spartans fans have circled on their calendars. MSU lost this game in Tempe last season and lost its punter for the season in that process. That was also the game where LJ Scott and David Beedle sustained injuries that kept them out for the majority of the season. Many fans felt like MSU should have won that contest. The kickoff time last season was 10:45 p.m. EST. Now the Sun Devils invade East Lansing, in what is essentially a 1 p.m. kickoff for them, so the time difference should not be a factor. Spartans get their revenge, though.
Prediction: Michigan State 23, Arizona State 17
Game 4 at Northwestern (Sept. 21, time TBA)
For whatever reason, Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats have Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans’ number as of late. Northwestern is to Michigan State what Michigan State is to Penn State these past two seasons. I always look at Northwestern as a team that MSU should beat, but struggles are abundant against them. The Wildcats are coming off of their first ever Big Ten title game appearance, and got a huge transfer at quarterback in former Clemson five-star recruit, Hunter Johnson. This is going to sound cliche, but I don’t trust the Spartans to beat them until I see it happen.
Prediction: Northwestern 31, Michigan State 28
Game 5 vs. Indiana (Sept. 28 3:30/4 p.m.)
Indiana is a good opponent to play for Homecoming. The Spartans have beaten the Hoosiers nine times out of 10 under Dantiono, and are 47-16 against Indiana all-time. Expect another victory here. Indiana is coming off of yet another losing season, and only finished ahead of Rutgers in the Big Ten East last season. The Hoosiers play tough defense under head coach Tom Allen, and I think this game is going to be closer than many think, but Spartans get it done.
Prediction: Michigan State 29, Indiana 19
Game 6 at Ohio State (Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.)
Going to Columbus is always tough. Add in a prime time matchup under the lights in a raucous stadium and things are even tougher. The last time Michigan State played in Ohio Stadium it was thoroughly embarrassed by a score of 48-3. This year’s Ohio State team doesn’t seem quite as talented on paper compared to the past few years, and new head coach Ryan Day takes over on a full-time basis. If new transfer quarterback Justin Fields seamlessly adjusts well to a starting quarterback position with the Buckeyes, I still expect OSU to be the favorite for a Big Ten championship.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 24
Game 7 at Wisconsin ( Oct. 12 at 3:30/4 p.m.)
This game scares me. I don’t particularly like having to travel to Madison following a game in Columbus where more than likely one of two scenarios happened: A.) The Spartans are riding high after an emotional road win and could overlook the Badgers or B.) The Spartans had their spirits crushed by the Buckeyes after a close loss or completely lost confidence after a blowout. Still, Wisconsin has question marks at quarterback and something tells me MSU pulls this one out in a close, old-fashioned Big Ten matchup.
Prediction: Michigan State 19, Wisconsin 16
Game 8 vs. Penn State (Oct. 26, time TBA)
If there is one Big Ten team looking to get revenge on Michigan State, it is Penn State. The Spartans crushed the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten championship dreams in 2017 following a long weather delay, and then broke their hearts for a second consecutive season when Felton Davis III stole Amani Oruwariye’s soul for a game-winning touchdown with just 19 seconds left in the game. Although this Penn State team lost a lot of talent from last year’s squad, I think they’ll get up for the Spartans and steal one on the road.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Michigan State 24
Game 9 vs. Illinois (Nov. 9, time TBA)
Lovie Smith has won a total of nine games in four seasons as head coach of Illinois. Unfortunately, one of those wins came against Michigan State in that disastrous 2016 season and the Fighting Illinois currently hold a one-game winning streak over the Spartans. If MSU loses this game at home, there will be a lot of backlash. Dantonio is 3-1 all-time against Illinois, and I expect that to improve to 4-1 by the end of this contest. You just shouldn’t lose games to perennial Big Ten bottom feeders.
Prediction: Michigan State 37, Illinois 16
Game 10 at Michigan (Nov. 16, time TBA)
Dantonio has won four of his five matchups in Ann Arbor, including the previous two. But Michigan was easily the superior team last season, and won in East Lansing. This year’s matchup is going to be intriguing, and is being played late in the season for the first time in several years, which means Big Ten East implications will likely be on the line. In fact, this is the latest into a season the Michigan State vs. Michigan game is being played in the Dantonio era. Expect another brawl, but funny things happen in this series.
Prediction: Michigan State 28, Michigan 24
Game 11 at Rutgers (Nov. 23, time TBA)
I want to laugh at any thought of Michigan State dropping this game, but last season’s scare against the Scarlet Knights hinders me from doing that. Rutgers came to East Lansing ready to play in 2018, and nearly stole one on the road. This year, MSU travels to Piscataway, New Jersey and it may be even tougher. Who am I kidding? Even in June, I am comfortable saying the Spartans won’t lose to Rutgers. Running back Aaron Young flipped from Michigan State to Rutgers, so perhaps the Spartans feel spurned by that and want to prove a point.
Prediction: Michigan State 40, Rutgers 12
Game 12 vs. Maryland (Nov. 30, time TBA)
Michigan State has won four of the five matchups in this series since Maryland joined the Big Ten, with the lone loss of course coming in the aforementioned dumpster fire of a season in 2016. Mike Locksley takes over for Maryland, following all of the turmoil that the D.J. Durkin era left in College Park. I expect Maryland to struggle in 2019, and I see another win here for the Spartans, as the Terps finish off their first season under Locksley on a losing note. MSU, on the other hand, finishes strong with a four-game winning streak.
Prediction: Michigan State 27, Maryland 16
Again, it’s too early for me to be confident in this, but as of right now I boldly predict Michigan State to go 9-3 overall, with a 6-3 conference record. Maybe it’s a bit optimistic, but I expect the Spartans to be in the mix for a trip to Indianapolis, but come up a little bit short with two divisional losses.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section.
PS: I apologize for my brief hiatus over the past couple of weeks. I was getting married and traveling for my honeymoon!