Entering the 2021 season, the Michigan State football program was coming off of a 2-5 record during a 2020 season derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationally, expectations were low for the Spartans in Mel Tucker’s second season.
There weren’t many fans or analysts out there who predicted Michigan State would finish the 2021 season with an 11-2 record and a New Year’s Six bowl victory over Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl. But, in doing, so, Tucker and his team put MSU back on the national stage.
Now, the 2022 season could be a real turning point for the program. But the Spartans won’t sneak up on anybody this fall. Other programs are well aware of what MSU did last year.
The Spartans face a tough schedule in 2022 (as per usual in the Big Ten East, at least while divisions are still intact as is) and Tucker, fresh off of signing a 10-year, $95 million contract extension, knows it won’t be easy. It is his job, though, to make sure his team is prepared for all of the challenges ahead.
However, there is something different about Michigan State football under Tucker’s leadership. On the recruiting trail, for example, MSU has gained rather unprecedented ground with several 2023 four-star and five-star prospects from across the country interested in the program, along with several hand-picked three-star prospects who fit in with the Spartans’ scheme and culture.
In fact, the month of June will see around 40 recruits taking visits to Michigan State’s campus, and most of whom are taking official visits (keep in mind, high school prospects only get to use five official visits for Division I schools, which bodes well for MSU). There will likely be a series of commitments to follow.
With that said, there is business to take care of on the field in 2022 before any of the 2023 recruits could make an impact. I wanted to raise the question and open up a discussion — what would you, as a Michigan State fan, consider a successful season this year?
Here is a reminder of Michigan State’s 2022 schedule and the games that have start times thus far (home games in bold, all times Eastern):
- Sep. 2 (Friday): versus Western Michigan, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
- Sept. 10: versus Akron, 4 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
- Sept. 17: at Washington, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
- Sept. 24: versus Minnesota, TBA
- Oct. 1: at Maryland (TBA)
- Oct. 8: versus Ohio State (TBA)
- Oct. 15 (homecoming): versus Wisconsin, 3:30 or 4 p.m. (TBA)
- Oct. 29: at Michigan (TBA)
- Nov. 5: at Illinois (TBA)
- Nov. 12: versus Rutgers (TBA)
- Nov. 19: versus Indiana (TBA)
- Nov. 26: at Penn State (TBA)
After last year’s performance, would anything less than 11 wins and a New Year’s Six bowl be considered disappointing? Or would two losses not even meet expectations given the upward trajectory of Michigan State’s football program?
What if the Spartans lose three or four games (or more)? Would that be disheartening for fans, or would they understand the process takes time to perfect? What if Michigan State lost three or more games, but beat Michigan and Ohio State? Is that a successful campaign?
Beating Michigan would require Michigan State to come out on top against the Wolverines for a third consecutive season. That is a tall order, and something the Spartans have not done since 2013-2015. As for Ohio State, the Spartans have not beaten the Buckeyes since 2015 and have been outscored 108-19 in Tucker’s two meetings against OSU.
Remember, too, this is only the third year in the Tucker era. While he has used the transfer portal to expedite the “rebuilding” process, which has gone a lot quicker than many people expected, the program still is’t exactly where he needs it to be. A step back after a successful year is not uncommon in college football.
Of course, Michigan State is losing several key players from last year’s squad as well: running back Kenneth Walker III, wide receiver Jalen Nailor, tight end/H-back Connor Heyward, defensive end Drew Beesley, defensive end Jacub Panasiuk, kicker Matt Coghlin and multiple starting/rotational offensive lineman, among others. That is a lot of talent and production to replace.
However, there are several newcomers who could make an immediate impact as well. Offensively, MSU added both Jalen Berger (Wisconsin) and Jarek Broussard (Colorado) to the backfield in an attempt to somewhat ease the loss of Walker (easier said than done).
Also on the offensive side of the ball, the Spartans gained tight end Daniel Barker (Illinois) and interior offensive lineman Brian Greene (Washington State) — both players should be in line for significant playing time in 2022.
There is also reason to believe that Michigan State’s defense — which ranked dead last against the pass in 2021 — will be much improved and better overall in 2021. Through the transfer portal, Tucker and his staff added four instant impact players on the defensive side of the ball: defensive end Khris Bogle (Florida), linebacker Jacoby Windmon (UNLV), linebacker Aaron Brule (Mississippi State) and cornerback Ameer Speed (Georgia). Each of those players have a chance to start or at least have a strong rotational role.
Additionally, Tucker and his staff have somewhat of a tendency to play true freshmen, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a young guy or two step up and be difference-makers for the team. It’s too early for me to guess who those players will be just yet, but the 2022 recruiting class appears to be a strong one for Michigan State.
A lot will change between now and the beginning of fall camp in August. But right now, given all that was discussed, what are your expectations for Michigan State football in 2022?
What are your best case and worst case scenarios? Vote in the poll and comment below.
At a minimum, what would you consider a successful season for Michigan State football?
This poll is closed
College Football Playoff appearance or better (12 or more wins)
11 wins or better
10 wins or better
Nine wins or better, but victories over both Michigan and Ohio State
Nine wins or better, but a victory over Michigan OR Ohio State
Eight wins or better
Seven wins or better
Less than seven wins