The future is bright for Michigan State football. Mel Tucker is recruiting at a top-25 level and last year’s team won 11 games. However, there is a world where the Spartans have a disappointing season in 2022. The 2021 team overperformed last season, so it’s not a stretch that MSU could underperform expectations this season.
Let’s define the expectations first. The win total is set at 7.5 in Vegas. However, it is safe to say that the fanbase expects more wins than that. What happens if everything goes wrong though? What happens if the offensive line and secondary are weaknesses throughout the entire season? We already went over the best possible outcome. Now, it’s time to play devil’s advocate. Realistically, here is the worst-case scenario for MSU football this season.
The Spartans open with two home non-conference games against Western Michigan and Akron. Michigan State is a 20-point favorite against WMU. MSU will likely be favored even more against Akron. Even in a worst possible outcome scenario, there would need to be a minor miracle for Western Michigan or Akron to beat Michigan State. No disrespect to the Broncos and Zips, but the talent differential is too big to see either team winning in East Lansing.
The first bump in the road in this scenario will be at Washington. It will be a tough environment to play in. The game is in primetime on the East Coast, and Washington is a team that might be able to expose the secondary. The Huskies have a new head coach in Kalen DeBoer, and he likes to throw the ball around. Add in Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback, and UW is a dangerous team. This is definitely a losable game for MSU.
The Spartans will then come back home for a game against Minnesota. Michigan State could trip up here, but I don’t see this squad losing back-to-back games against inferior opponents' talent wise. If all of the question marks coming into the season turn out to be weaknesses, the secondary will be one of those weaknesses. Minnesota is not the type of team to light it up through the air and expose the MSU secondary. This is still a win even in this scenario.
The next team MSU plays can expose the secondary with its passing game. That team is Maryland, and this matchup comes on the road as well. While Maryland is a beatable opponent, the Terps possess an explosive passing game. If the defensive line can’t put pressure on the Terrapins’ quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, this game could be a shootout. It’s hard to score points when the offensive line is below average. This is a loss.
Michigan State enters its toughest three-game stretch of the season next. This stretch includes home games against Ohio State and Wisconsin and a road game at Michigan. MSU is simply not at the level of Ohio State yet. The offensive line and defensive line will likely be beat up after the OSU game, and Wisconsin can really capitalize off of that because the Badgers are known for tough, hard-nosed play in the trenches. The same can be said about Michigan, as well. Plus, Michigan will be more explosive on offense than Wisconsin. All three of these games would be losses for the Spartans in this scenario.
MSU does have a chance to regroup in its next three game stretch at Illinois and at home against Rutgers and Indiana. These three teams are the bottom-feeders in their respective divisions in the Big Ten. The Spartans will have a talent advantage, and will have a more explosive offense than all three, even if the offensive line play is subpar. Pencil in three wins in these three games.
The final game of the regular season poses a threat as MSU travels to Penn State. The Nittany Lions have two dynamic receivers that can take the top off of the defense. It isn’t easy going to Beaver Stadium, either. Even if PSU has another down year, this is still a loss considering the scenario.
A 6-6 record is the worst possible outcome for Michigan State this regular season. MSU would have to lose every big game it has, which includes at Washington, Ohio State, Wisconsin, at Michigan and at Penn State, while also dropping another game that the Spartans should technically win given the talent advantage. This win/loss record would still give Michigan State a bowl game at the end of the season. Even if this happens, the future’s still bright when looking at the bigger picture.