Michigan State football is almost upon us. Now is the time to get those predictions finalized for the season.
There is no doubt that Michigan State overperformed last season. Its preseason win total was set at four, and it won 10 regular season games. This year, the preseason win total is set at 7.5 wins at many sportsbooks. What if everything goes right, akin to last season? Here is the best-case scenario for MSU football this season.
For the Spartans to reach their maximum potential, the preseason question marks on the offensive line and in the secondary need to be erased. Both units don’t need to be the best in the Big Ten, but they need to be at least average. Luckily, they will have the time to get their feet wet and figure things out before the tough trip to Seattle.
The first two games against Western Michigan and Akron should be wins, especially if the offensive line and secondary are not question marks any longer. The first major test of the season will come when the Spartans travel to the University of Washington. Right now, MSU is a 3.5-point favorite. Washington has a new head coach, and it was 114th in FBS in total offense last season. This is a very winnable game for Mel Tucker’s squad.
Conference play gets going in late September. The Spartans host Minnesota in week 4, which is a very winnable game. It could be considered a trap game considering Minnesota was third in FBS in total defense last year, and the Golden Gophers return a lot of talent on that side of the ball. MSU’s offense needs to show up in this game. If it does, this should be another win.
Coach Tucker and his Spartans travel to Maryland next for their first Big Ten road game. This could also be viewed as a trap game because Maryland has so many weapons on offense, and the Terrapins have all five starters returning along the offensive line. The key to this game will be the defensive line putting pressure on Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. If the defense forces Tagovailoa into making mistakes, MSU should win this game comfortably.
Then, MSU enters its toughest stretch of the season starting with Ohio State at home. It’s unrealistic to expect a win here. The Spartans will likely be heavy underdogs. An upset win is not impossible, but it is highly improbable. Every team on the Buckeyes’ schedule is going to have a tough time stopping OSU’s explosive offense, led by quarterback C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Ohio State is one of the few favorites to win the national championship this season, and Michigan State is simply not on its level just yet.
Assuming MSU loses against the Buckeyes, the next game against Wisconsin will be a huge test. How beat up are the Spartans? How will the team bounce back? Sure, Wisconsin is a beatable team, but this game will be an all-out war in the trenches. MSU needs to be healthy going into this game. Considering that we are going over the best-case scenario, this game should be a win, especially since the offensive line question mark would be erased in this instance.
Coming off of a bye week, Michigan State travels to Ann Arbor. The bye week will be huge for this team. The offensive line and defensive line will likely be beat up after the Ohio State and Wisconsin games. Mel Tucker has had Jim Harbaugh’s number the past two seasons. Michigan is the early favorite at 8.5 points, according to DraftKings, but there is a lot of football between now and then. This will be a tough game against a hostile crowd. Beating your biggest rival falls under the best possible outcome umbrella, so we will give MSU the win here.
Michigan State travels to play Illinois to start its November slate. Illinois is expected to improve, but the Fighting Illini will likely be near the bottom of the Big Ten West Division. Despite the game being on the road, this should be another win.
The Spartans then play the two bottom feeders in the Big Ten East in Rutgers and Indiana in back-to-back weeks. MSU is simply better than both of these teams, and both games are at home in Spartan Stadium. Tucker and his team should win both of these games comfortably.
Michigan State hits the road for its final regular season game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions played MSU tough last season in East Lansing. PSU will do the same this season, and is a super early 6.5-point favorite. The main concern heading into the season for Penn State is the offensive line. If the line remains a weakness, the Spartans defensive line needs to put pressure on Nittany Lions’ quarterback Sean Clifford. It’ll be a tough task to beat Penn State, but it is not impossible. A win here falls under the best possible outcome umbrella.
An 11-1 record is the best possible outcome for Michigan State football this (regular) season. The one loss will likely be against Ohio State, as the Buckeyes are on a whole other level. The other tough games include at Washington, Wisconsin, at Michigan and at Penn State. Those are all tough, but winnable games at the same time. Spartan fans should be pleased if their team ends with an 11-1 record with wins over Washington, Wisconsin, Penn State and hated rival Michigan.