Michigan State will return to the field after a bye week following a home victory against the Wisconsin Badgers. Michigan is also coming off of a bye week.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker will not provide the public with a depth chart, therefore after viewing the previous game and reading reports about the roster, here are my predictions for the MSU starters and reserves against Michigan.
Starter: Payton Thorne
Backup: Noah Kim
Michigan State will need a special performance from Thorne if the Spartans hope to pull the upset against Michigan. Hopefully Thorne has gotten a little healthier over the break, he was spotted in a walking boot (likely precautionary) after the win against Wisconsin, and has admitted to not playing at 100 percent this season. It’s unlikely we will see Noah Kim unless there is an injury to Thorne or if the score gets lopsided.
Starter: Jalen Berger
Backup: Elijah Collins, Jarek Broussard
The Spartans got a little spark in the run game against Wisconsin, with Berger and Collins handling most of the carries and both finding the end zone. The staff has shown they prefer to start Berger while mixing in a second and sometimes third running back rather evenly. Based on prior performance and this being a game versus in-state rival Michigan, I would assume Collins will get his opportunities with Broussard sprinkled in as a change of pace.
Starters: Jayden Reed, Keon Coleman, Tre Mosley
Backups: Germie Bernard, Montorie Foster, Cade McDonald, Christian Fitzpatrick
The wide receiver trio is set in stone at this point, many people feel this group gives the Spartans the best opportunity to win the game.
Starter: Daniel Barker
Backup: Tyler Hunt, Maliq Carr
Hopefully the additional time off the field will benefit Barker in getting up to full speed, he presents a matchup issue for Michigan, which has struggled with defending tight ends. Hunt and Carr will also alternate in the lineup, with each providing different skill sets.
Starter: Jarrett Horst
Backup: Brandon Baldwin
The starting five on the offensive line continues as the same unit — (from left to right) Horst, J.D. Duplain, Nick Samac, Matt Carrick and Spencer Brown. Brian Greene will rotate in as the first alternate, likely seeing snaps at right guard initially. Baldwin will likely see reps at one of tackle spots as well.
Starter: J.D. Duplain
Backup: Geno VanDeMark
Starter: Nick Samac
Backup: Dallas Fincher
Starter: Matt Carrick
Backup: Brian Greene
Starter: Spencer Brown
Backup: Ethan Boyd
Starters: Jacob Slade, Simeon Barrow
Backup: Derrick Harmon, Maverick Hansen, Jalen Hunt, Alex VanSumeren, Dashaun Mallory
Slade’s return to the field two weeks ago against Wisconsin was a shot in the arm for the defensive line. He may be the most important defender for the Spartans in this game againnst a strong Michigan rushing attack. Barrow had been somewhat inconsistent, but has flashed at times All-Big Ten caliber play. Harmon and Hansen shall continue to rotate in to replace the starters.
Starters: Zion Young, Jeff Pietrowski (status uncertain)
Backup: Brandon Wright, Michael Fletcher, Avery Dunn, “Tank” Brown, Khris Bogle (status uncertain)
Injuries have played havoc with this position group, and the need to move Jacoby Windmon to linebacker continues to stress the depth. That said, it is thought that Pietrowski could return to action Saturday, bolstering the unit’s numbers and perhaps providing a spark versus Michigan. However, his status remains uncertain until kickoff. One could hope for an appearance by Khris Bogle, however that is less probable, as Bogle seems to be dealing with a more serious injury.
Starters: Jacoby Windmon, Cal Haladay, Aaron Brule
Backups: Ben VanSumeren, Ma’a Gaoteote
Michigan State used a 4-3 alignment as its primary package when facing the Badgers, and it feels as a given the Spartans will do the same against the Wolverines. The different formation allows Windmon to play his more natural position of linebacker (as opposed to edge rusher) and operate more freely. Haladay and Brule will be the other two starters with VanSumeren and Gaoteote spelling starters as needed.
Starters: Ameer Speed, Charles Brantley
Backups: Ronald Williams, Marqui Lowery (status uncertain), Khary Crump
This group did play better versus Wisconsin, however the cornerbacks weren’t tested as much as previous games this season and the injury bug continues to eat away at depth. Speed and Brantley get the starting nods, with luck Ronald Williams and Marqui Lowery can contribute and aren’t limited by injuries and ailments that have plagued them this season, especially in Lowery’s case.
Starter: Angelo Grose
Backup: Justin White, Chester Kimbrough
As I stated earlier, I envision a 4-3 formation for the defense, therefore the nickel back will likely be used only in known passing situations. Grose would be the player to man the position if the staff wanted a fifth defensive back on the field.
Starters: Xavier Henderson, Kendell Brooks (status uncertain)
Backups: Angelo Grose, Dillon Tatum, Jaden Mangham (status uncertain)
Like Slade for the defensive line, Henderson’s return to action was a significant boost for the defensive backfield and the unit as a whole. Henderson’s leadership and tackling abilities are qualities that cannot be replaced when he is unavailable.
Brooks did not appear in the last game against Wisconsin, though, the common belief is he will be present to play the Wolverines on Saturday. If Brooks is physically compromised, Grose will likely get the start, and perhaps could be the starter regardless. Tatum continues to progress. Mangham showed promise in his first start for the Spartans, but was briefly hospitalized during the game against Ohio State before returning to Spartan Stadium during the same night. His status is unknown.
Starter: Jack Stone
Backup: Ben Patton, Stephen Rusnak
I’m baffled at this point with the kicker — who handles what duties is apparently dictated totally by what happens on the practice field, away from the eyes of the public.
Starter: Bryce Baringer
Backup: Ryan Eckley, Evan Morris
MSU always leans on Baringer, in this game perhaps even more so considering the odds. He can flip the field and will be asked to do so on more than one occasion.
Starter: Jayden Reed
Backup: Jarek Broussard/Germie Bernard/Cade McDonald
If there are opportunities to be made in the return game, I encourage the player to take them — a special teams big play or two would be massive against Michigan. Reed has had two punt return touchdowns called back on penalties this season.
Starter: Hank Pepper (status uncertain)
Backup: Michael Donovan
It has been that kind of season when the level of medical issues even includes the long snapper position. Pepper missed the games versus Ohio State and Wisconsin, and was replaced by Donovan. I’m sure the team is extremely frustrated with the number of injuries.