It just brings me unbridled joy knowing we are three weeks away from the season.
We’re in that weird limbo of the offseason where we can still drink the 15-0 National Champions Kool-Aid and also making rational decisions on what our expectations truly are. So, how about five of each? Five vanilla, “no duh” predictions and five wtf, “how much Fireball did this guy drink writing this?” predictions on deck.
Let’s do it.
NOT BOLD: MSU sweeps its non-conference
Hey, when I said “not bold” I really meant not bold. It’s the most favorable non-conference schedule in recent memory with not only the opponents being less than SEC West quality (to say the least), but also all at home. Tulsa has a nice defense, Western Michigan will be a legitimate MAC title contender and Arizona State obviously won last year’s game, but I think our Spartans kick off this season halfway to bowl eligibility.
BOLD: No running back clears 700 yards
Connor Heyward was the lead man with 557 yards on 118 carries last season, and LJ Scott was a distant second with 270 yards on 79 carries. Short Side Jet Sweep was third place with three yards on 75 carries.
Anyway, I don’t think there’s an alpha back within the running back corps. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I see it. I could see a season where two running backs go north of 500 yards with a third guy also considerably in the mix. Especially if Brian Lewerke can turn into White Lightning again. I’m feeling a Heyward-Williams-Jefferson trio, with no one separating themselves to be the bell cow Dantonio wants to see.
NOT BOLD: Five of MSU’s front seven earn All Big Ten First/Second/Third Team honors
Really going out on a limb here. Kenny Willekes, Joe Bachie and Raequan Williams earn First Team honors. A Panasiuk brother makes Second Team and Antjuan Simmons makes Third Team and the other Panasiuk brother gets jobbed and just gets honorable mention. Sorry if this hot take melted your phone.
BOLD: MSU’s pass defense takes a noticeable step back
This isn’t to say Josh Butler, Shakur Brown, Kalon Gervin, Tre Person or whoever is replacing Justin Layne won’t be good. That’s a solid list of cornerbacks. I just think Layne was that good where he made MSU’s pass defense that nasty last season. And let’s not act like losing Khari Willis isn’t a big deal. Yes, Xavier Henderson will probably be playing on Sundays one day, but Willis and his experience will be missed.
This is what I’m feeling – MSU defense will still be amongst the best in the nation. But the pass defense will be a tad more vulnerable than it was last season because of the exploits through the air to the point where teams can expose MSU.
NOT BOLD: Jake Hartbarger returning is huge for MSU
Going to go out on a limb here and guessing MSU won’t have to use five punters this season. Last year’s punting was as good as you could expect from a freshman, a back-up quarterback and a walk-on that was added throughout the season. But Hartbarger is a different beast. If this offense struggles in certain games, field position will be thy name of the game.
BOLD: Jalen Nailor leads the team in all-purpose yards.
Not Cody White (who I love). Not Darrell Stewart (who I love). But Jalen Nailor.
We all saw how much of a game-changer Nailor is. He’s got the vision. He’s got the speed. But does he got the ability to go all season without getting injured? If he does, Nailor will be the dynamic playmaker MSU needs to have to replace Felton Davis. White and Stewart are incredible talents but, just like Davis was last season, Nailor’s presence alone will chance how MSU’s offense looks.
NOT BOLD: McMuffin is the reason we win a game or two
With a stacked Big Ten there will be some tight games. You know what’s cool in tight games? Reliable kicking. You know who’s a reliable kicker? Matt Coghlin, who’s coming off a steady 18-for-22 season. MSU had three losses decided by three points or less last season, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few games that close this season.
BOLD: MSU loses just one game in October
On the surface that seems pretty un-bold since there are three games. But when those three games are at Ohio State, at Wisconsin the following week and then Penn State at home…that makes it a little more dicey.
I won’t make the call and say who they’ll beat or lose to, but I’ll state my armchair quarterback case for winning each game. Ohio State has a new coach and new unproven quarterback (really playing the hits here), and it’s not like they’re immune to losing huge games at home under the lights. I like MSU’s matchup against Wisconsin’s run game, especially with a freshman quarterback at the helm (let’s all pretend a freshman quarterback didn’t just win the national title, thanks). Penn State is Penn State.
NOT BOLD: The student section will never fill up
Hold on, before you start throwing things at me, hear me out. This isn’t exclusive to MSU – pretty much every student section around the country is having attendance issues. Yes, including Alabama.
This isn’t the sexiest home schedule we’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m not sure if the student section ever overfilled to the upper deck last year even for Ohio State and Michigan, so why would it this year?
This isn’t to say Spartan Stadium won’t hold a good home field advantage. That Penn State rainout game from two years ago saw the stadium a third full and it was still rocking. The fans that want to be there will be there, and they’ll bring the noise. Just not the bodies.
BOLD: NEW YEARS SIX BOWL
AWWWW YEAH BABY IT’S AUGUST AND I AM DROWNED IN KOOL-AID. LEWERKE’S CONFIDENCE? BACK. OUR INSANE FRONT SEVEN? BACK. A TALENTED RECEIVERS GROUP? BACK. KEY SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS? BACK. WHAT PART OF MY BODY IS GOING TO HURT AFTER CELEBRATING A 10-WIN REGULAR SEASON? BACK.
I’M ALL IN. WE’LL LOSE ONE AT OHIO STATE OR MICHIGAN OR WISCONSIN OR SOMETHING. AND THEN INEXPLICABLY LOSE TO A TEAM LIKE INDIANA OR ILLINOIS. BUT THAT’S STILL 10 WINS, AND THAT’S YOUR MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS PLAYING IN THE ORANGE BOWL BABY. GO GREEN!