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TOC Staff Picks: Western Michigan vs. Michigan State

The Spartans kick off the 2022 season against the Broncos.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

College football is back in East Lansing, as Michigan State gets set to open its season against the Western Michigan on Friday night.

The Spartans are 9-1 in home openers over the last 10 years and are riding a 12-game winning streak against the Broncos. Mel Tucker returns for his third season as the head coach of MSU and expectations are rising after an 11-win campaign last season.

The Spartans are ranked as a top-15 team to begin the season and come in as more than 20-point favorites. Our writers break down the matchup and discuss what you can expect out of Michigan State in the opener.

Ryan O’Bleness

Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 17

It will be interesting to see what this Michigan State football team is made out of in 2022. Western Michigan will be motivated in this one, but the talent gap is too large here. Michigan State starts a little bit sloppy, and Western Michigan keeps it close in the first quarter before MSU finds its footing early in the second quarter and rolls from there. The Spartans’ pass defense looks much improved, and the run defense remains stout, holding the formidable duo of Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson to 100 combined yards or less. Offensively, Payton Thorne throws for three touchdowns, while Jarek Broussard and Jalen Berger each find the end zone as well. WMU gets a late touchdown to make the final score look better.

Paul Fanson

Michigan State 42, Western Michigan 14

It is my tradition that I always allow my computer to make my official prediction for the outcome of each Michigan State game. This allows me to completely take any emotion out of the equation. I simply follow the cold, hard numbers. In this case, those numbers suggest that the Spartans will cover and beat the Broncos by 28. I think that the game will be tight in the first quarter, but once the Spartans settle in and settle down, they should be able impose their will on the visiting Broncos. Look for Jayden Reed and Payton Thorne to put up big numbers on the team that they both have ties to.

Zach Manning

Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 13

Michigan State should win this game easily, as Western Michigan looks to replace some key pieces from last years team. Though its the season opener and things are still being implemented, I’ll be interested to watch a couple things. First, I’m intrigued by the MSU secondary. Obviously, it wasn’t a great 2021 season, but a lot of the talk about it being the worst pass defense in the country was overblown. The addition of Ameer Speed and bringing back a healthy Ronald Williams should do wonders for that group this year.

Second, it’ll be near impossible to replace the production Kenneth Walker III had last season. I don’t think anyone is suggesting MSU needs to do that. But the Spartans do have a dynamic duo in Jarek Broussard and Jalen Berger, who I think can become a lethal one-two punch. Can the offensive line stay healthy enough to help open up some running lanes? That remains to be seen. But the talent is there on both sides of the ball for MSU to have a special season. I think we’ll see some of that potential Friday night.

Kevin Knight

Michigan State 41, Western Michigan 21

Michigan State will jump out to an early two-score lead before stepping off the gas to focus on the run game. Western breaks through for a touchdown in the second quarter and Payton Thorne’s arm is unleashed for a score and a field goal to finish the half.

Second half sees MSU build out a big lead before the Broncos punch in a couple more touchdowns late on the Spartans’ backups. Victory for MSU!

Brad LaPlante

Michigan State 46, Western Michigan 10

It’s Payton Thorne versus Jeff Thorne this Saturday in a matchup of quarterback and quarterback’s dad as offensive coordinator. Look, we both know that this is Payton Thorne’s offense now, and he’s ready to prove it. The only question that will be answered this weekend, though, is how ready is Michigan State’s pass defense?

Western Michigan needs to replace Kaleb Eleby under center, and that’s not easy to do. But the Broncos think that Jack Salopek is the answer in Kalamazoo. Whether or not he is will be tested on Friday.

Colin Jankowski

Michigan State 55, Western Michigan 20

I think the Spartans will come out with a fire lit under them early. Payton Thorne will have a very nice first outing of the year, passing for multiple touchdowns in the first half before sitting during the second half of the game. The defense will have a chance to show some improvement against what should be an easier opponent, and I think they’ll be just fine. The Spartans might give up some plays early, but should have no problem handling the Broncos down the stretch.

Paolo Giannandrea

Michigan State 34, Western Michigan 17

Michigan State adjusts to offensive operations without Kenneth Walker III. Meanwhile, Western Michigan’s offensive strength on the ground plays into MSU’s defensive preference, and injuries to pass-catchers prove too much to overcome for the Broncos.

Brendan Moore

Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 17

The key in this game is for the Michigan State defense to stop the Western Michigan rushing attack. WMU has a solid backfield with Sean Tyler leading the way. If the Spartan defense can force Western Michigan into obvious passing downs, it can capitalize off of the Broncos inexperience at quarterback.

Michigan State won’t have a big issue moving the football. The Spartans have the better athletes out wide. I like Mel Tucker’s squad to start the season with a win, but Western Michigan will do just enough to cover.

Amani Godfrey

Michigan State 45, Western Michigan 14

The Spartans start the 2022 campaign with their sights set on Indianapolis, but first the Broncos of Western Michigan come to East Lansing attempting to play spoiler in the season opener. The Spartan offense should have its way in the air and on the ground against the Broncos, as MSU posts one of the most potent offensive attacks in the Big Ten. The Broncos return two rushers that eclipsed 800 yards last season. Former Spartan running back La’Darius Jefferson ran for 836 yards and scored 10 touchdowns last season with the Broncos. His running mate Sean Tyler ran for over 1,000 yards with nine rushing touchdowns. The Broncos will be starting Jack Salopek who has only attempted five passes in his career. As long as the Spartans can contain the Broncos rushing attack, they should keep the fans off the edges of their seat…for at least this week.


Michigan State 41, Western Michigan 24

I expect a fair amount of offense in the opener with the common element of sloppiness sprinkled in. This has a feel where MSU leads big early, rotates a majority of its roster on the field and gives up a late score to kill the cover. Regardless, I expect a win with some entertainment for the home crowd on the Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

Justin Walsh

Michigan State 41, Western Michigan 17

The Michigan State offense should shine bright in this game. Jayden Reed will have a big time revenge game against his former team with multiple receiving touchdowns courtesy of Payton Thorne (did you know they played together in middle school?) An improved defense should hold up against the Broncos’ offensive unit as the Spartans run it up for their first win of the season.

Some of The Only Colors staff will participate weekly in full conference picks, using Tallysight. You can keep up to date with our staff’s selections here.