After an impressive 11-win campaign in 2021, Michigan State is looking to build on its success heading into 2022. Mel Tucker and the Spartans have been a tough one for the oddsmakers to figure out, as the current over/under projection for MSU is set at 7.5.
The schedule is certainly tough, with the gauntlet of the Big Ten East and a non-conference trip to Washington. However, the Spartans return key talent in quarterback Payton Thorne, wide receiver Jayden Reed defensive tackle Jacob Slade and safety Xavier Henderson, among others, which has many Spartan fans excited for this season.
Our writers break down the season and what to expect from the Spartans in 2022.
This 2022 Michigan State team is quite intriguing. On one hand, MSU loses a generational talent at running back in Kenneth Walker III, loses Jalen “Speedy” Nailor at wide receiver, loses multiple experienced offensive linemen and loses its top-two defensive ends, among others, from 2021’s 11-2 squad.
But on the other hand, this year’s team appears to have more depth from top to bottom, the returning players are more comfortable with their knowledge of the schemes, the defense should be much improved, and Mel Tucker and company have once again dipped into the transfer portal to bring in several instant-impact guys. Not to mention, the players appear to have bought in 100 percent to Tucker’s culture and vision. The Spartans appear to be a confident bunch.
Ultimately, I see Michigan State finishing at 9-3. It’s technically a small step back from last year, but this year’s schedule looks brutal on paper. Making the trip to Seattle to play Washington is a lot more difficult than people seem to give it credit for, while that three-game stretch in October — home versus Ohio State, home versus Wisconsin and away at Michigan — is as difficult a gauntlet as any team in the country will face this season, and closing out the year at Penn State is never easy. There are some other “trap game” scenarios as well. So, getting through this regular season slate with only three losses should be looked at as successful.
With that said, I could just as easily see as many as 11 wins or as few as eight wins. To be honest, the only game I look at on the schedule as an “automatic” loss is Ohio State. But beating Michigan for a third-year in a row will be difficult, especially on the road. Then I would expect the Spartans to drop another game to Wisconsin, Washington or Penn State, or lose an unexpected game, such as the home contest versus Minnesota, at Maryland or at Illinois. So I expect three losses in those eight games.
A lot of Michigan State’s success in 2022 will be determined by the offensive line, the secondary and injuries. However, overall, I expect MSU to put together another strong season.
Despite my record prediction, I actually really like the team MSU has built for this season. The additions of guys like Ameer Speed, Daniel Barker and the duo of running backs (Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard) has me thinking the Spartans will actually be a better product overall this year.
However, the offensive line is one injury away from being in some deep trouble. Even when at full strength, the line should take a step back with some big losses to graduation and the NFL Draft. One of the key pieces to this season will be the pass defense. It would be hard to be worse than it was last year. But even improving slightly won’t be enough this year. There needs to be some significant improvement to at least a middle of the pack finish for MSU to win nine or more games.
I actually think that is possible, because we saw Ronald Williams come on late and Speed has drawn rave reviews throughout fall camp. But the schedule is tough. We’ve seen MSU struggle out west before, so Washington is tricky, and the gauntlet of Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan will not be a cake walk. An eight-win season may seem low for the talent, but that’s still hitting the over on betting odds and gives the Spartans enough momentum on the recruiting trail to continue pulling in talent.
The 2022 Michigan State Spartans enter the season with enormous expectations, coming off a double-digit win total in 2021. The Spartans hit the transfer portal yet again, adding potential impact players on both sides of the ball. The key to how far the Spartans go in 2022 will be the passing defense, which was ranked the worst in the FBS last season. An early season non-conference battle with Washington will test the Spartans early, as the Huskies have implemented an air raid offense that gave the 2021 Spartans much trouble. Games against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State will also loom large later in the season.
I see MSU taking a step back, despite the team being more talented in aggregate than last year. The Spartans beat Penn State and Wisconsin, but can’t quite close the gap against Ohio State, and lose to Michigan and one other team they should probably beat.
I think Michigan State will have a great season, but still not manage quite the same level of success as 2021. The Spartans will drop some games as the result of a brutal stretch in October besides the inevitable loss to Ohio State. Between Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State, I see MSU splitting those 2-2, bringing the season loss total to three as a result. That should set the Spartans up for a great opportunity to make it double-digit wins in the bowl matchup, though.
My methodology is always to go where the #math takes me and for better or worse, the math leads me to a 10-2 finish. The Spartans project to be favored in eight games this year with the other four being near toss-ups or within striking distance. I have Michigan State edging out Wisconsin and (believe it or not) Ohio State at home and dropping close games at Michigan and Penn State on the road. Then again, when has Michigan actually beaten a Spartan team that was good enough to go 10-1 in their other 11 games? The answer is not since the 1950s.
Michigan State backs up last year’s great season with another double-digit win regular season. The offense will be able to move the ball a lot through the air and on the ground. The defense will improve throughout the year, including the secondary. The Spartans will be right in the thick of things in the Big Ten title race come November.
I think we should call last season what it is: a fluke. To some extent, Michigan State deserved to win a handful of its games. At the same time, Kenneth Walker III was responsible for a huge victory against Michigan. Going without him has me wondering if Jim Harbaugh will net his first victory against Mel Tucker or not. Then there’s Penn State, which somehow just gave a decades-long extension to one of the most frustrating college coaches to watch (James Franklin). Even an 8-4 season would keep MSU on a positive trajectory. Expect the Spartans to compete for a Big Ten title in 2023.