The look ahead to the 2022 schedule continues for ranking Michigan State’s football opponents this coming season. Up today is the opponent I deem the second easiest: the Western Michigan Broncos.
2021 Record: 8-5
Western Michigan had a respectable season in 2021, including a September shootout win on the road over eventual ACC champion Pittsburgh, winning 44-41. The Broncos finished the regular season with a blowout road win over eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois, 42-21, and a postseason victory over Nevada, 52-24, in the Quick Lane Bowl. However, WMU ended up in a three-way tie for last place in the MAC West Division at just 4-4 in league play.
The Spartans will be facing off against Western Michigan for the 17th time in a series that dates back to 1908. MSU is currently riding a 12-game winning streak in the series dating back to 1921 through the most recent victory (a 51-17 blowout) in 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The only wins in the series by the Broncos came in 1917 and 1919 in East Lansing. Michigan State leads the overall series 14-2.
2022 Program Outlook
Sixth-year head coach Tim Lester has has a lot to replace this season for Western Michigan. Gone is three-year starting quarterback Kaleb Eleby, who threw for 3,277 yards last season. Also gone is wide receiver Skyy Moore and his 1,292 receiving yards (a second-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2022 NFL Draft), along with most of the defensive front. However, the interior offensive line and linebacker corps all look like a strength to build around.
Why No. 11?
With what the Broncos have lost, it could be argued that Akron and its new staff might prove a more difficult puzzle to prepare for. However, for the opening game under a veteran coaching staff, Western Michigan gets the narrow edge over fellow MAC program Akron for the No. 11 spot on the schedule. As the only other Group of Five program on the schedule, though, and a far cry from WMU’s 2016 season when the Broncos went 13-1, the 2022 team does not warrant a higher ranking on the difficulty scale.
There are actually a couple of interesting storylines in this season opening game on Sept. 2. Payton Thorne — a former Western Michigan commit himself — will be facing off against his dad’s team, as Jeff Thorne is WMU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Meanwhile, Jayden Reed, Thorne’s longtime friend and favorite target, spent his freshman season at WMU.
However, Thorne through the air, and the new running back corps led by Jarek Broussard, Jalen Berger, and others on the ground, should make for easy work against Western Michigan’s new defensive front. Expect Michigan State to roll in this one to move to 1-0 on the season at its outset.
Catch up on the rankings here:
No. 12 Akron Zips
No. 11 Western Michigan Broncos
No. 10: Coming soon
2022 MSU Football Schedule
|Sept. 2||Western Michigan||East Lansing, MI||7:00 PM||ESPN|
|Sept. 10||Akron||East Lansing, MI||4:00 PM||BTN|
|Sept. 17||Washington||Seattle, WA||7:30 PM||ABC|
|Sept. 24||Minnesota||East Lansing, MI||TBA||TBA|
|Oct. 1||Maryland||College Park, MD||TBA||TBA|
|Oct. 8||Ohio State||East Lansing, MI|
|Oct. 15||Wisconsin||East Lansing, MI||3:30/4:00 PM||TBA|
|Oct. 29||Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||TBA||TBA|
|Nov. 5||Illinois||Champaign, IL||TBA||TBA|
|Nov. 12||Rutgers||East Lansing, MI||TBA||TBA|
|Nov. 19||Indiana||East Lansing, MI||TBA||TBA|
|Nov. 26||Penn State||State College, PA||TBA||TBA|