The Michigan State Spartans entered last season with big expectations following a surprising 13-1 campaign in 2014. They had their chances, but ultimately losses to a pair of teams that made the four-team playoff in Oregon and Ohio State did them in.

The Spartans still managed a very solid 11-2 season after beating then-No. 4 Baylor 42-41 in the Cotton Bowl. It was one of the most exciting finishes of the bowl season as Michigan State erased a 41-21 deficit in the fourth quarter by scoring 21 unanswered to win.

Michigan State believes it is a Big Ten title contender in 2015, and for good reason. It returns 14 starters and 51 lettermen while losing only 17 lettermen. It is actually the most experienced team in the conference with mostly upperclassmen in line to star. In fact, it is expected to have 12 senior starters in 2015.

Last Season
Big Ten East
ATS Record
Points For
Points Against
2015 Michigan State Spartans Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/4 @ Western Michigan
9/12 Oregon
9/19 Air Force
9/26 Central Michigan
10/3 Purdue
10/10 @ Rutgers
10/17 @ Michigan
10/24 Indiana
11/7 @ Nebraska
11/14 Maryland
11/21 @ Ohio State
11/28 Penn State
Estimated Wins: 9.98

The Spartans had by far their most productive offensive season of the Mark Dantonio era in last year. They put up 43.0 points and 501 yards per game after averaging just 29.4 and 386 in 2013. With seven starters back on this side of the ball, the Spartans are in good shape again. They return senior QB Connor Cook, who completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 3,214 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year.

Replacing running back Jeremy Langford (1,522 yards, 22 TD) will not be easy, but the Spartans always seem to churn out productive backs year in and year out. Talented freshmen Madre London and LJ Scott will have the chance to prove themselves as the next great back in East Lansing. Whoever is carrying the football will have the luxury of running behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. The Spartans return four starters and 90 career starts up front, including third-team All-American C Jack Allen and second-team All-Big Ten LT Jack Conklin.

Michigan State will be replacing its top two receivers from last year in Tony Lippett (65 receptions, 1,198 yards, 11 TD) and Keith Mumphery (26, 495, 3 TD). It will likely take a step back in the passing game with those two gone as they were both selected in the NFL Draft. Seniors Aaron Burbridge (29, 358, 1 TD), Macgarrett Kings (29, 404, 1 TD) and De’Anthony Arnett, a former Tennessee transfer and one of the top WR recruits in the country coming out of high school, are ready to take on bigger roles. Plus, junior TE Josiah Price (26, 374, 6 TD) returns.


The stop unit has been the backbone of the Spartans under Dantonio. They allowed 18.4 points per game or less for three straight years before giving up 21.5 and 316 yards per game last season. The defense should be even better in 2015 with seven returning starters. Two starters are back at linebacker in senior Ed Davis (58 tackles 7 sacks) and senior Darien Harris (48 tackles, 3.5 for loss). Junior Riley Bullough (29 tackles, 3.5 sacks) is ready for a starting role.

The strength of the defense will be up front. That’s where three starters and a load of talent make up one of the nation’s best defensive lines. Leading the way will be first-team All-Big Ten DE Shilique Calhoun (39 tackles, 8 sacks), senior DT Joel Heath (29 tackles, 5 for loss), senior DE Lawrence Thomas (30 tackles, 3 sacks) and sophomore NT Malik McDowell (15 tackles, 4.5 for loss). There is depth behind these four in the very highly touted Craig Evans and Enoch Smith.

The defensive line has helped aid what has been one of the best secondaries in the country over the past handful of years. The Spartans tend to churn out NFL talent, and CB Trae Waynes will be missed after being taken in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings. Also gone is two-time first-team All-Big Ten FS Kurtis Drummond. The Spartans will be replacing all four starters from the “No Fly Zone” D last year. Still, a pair of players with starting experience return in FS RJ Williamson (59 tackles, 3 INT) and CB Darian Hicks (28 tackles, 2 INT). Also, CB Demetrious Cox (26 tackles) and SS Montae Nicholson (31 tackles) are capable of taking over starting roles.

Odds (Courtesy of 5Dimes)
Regular Season Win Total
Big Ten East Odds
Big Ten Championship Odds
4-Team Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
Season Predictions

The Spartans were going to have a hard time following up their 13-1 season from 2013 with just 12 starters back last year. They still had their chances to make the four-team playoff as they had both Oregon and Ohio State on the ropes before eventually losing those two crucial games. It was still a solid 11-2 season in East Lansing.

With 14 returning starters and the most experienced team in the Big Ten due to their upperclassmen, the Spartans are a real threat to win the conference in 2015. I love the experience they have at quarterback in Cook and along the offensive line, which will help take some of the pressure off their new skill players. The defense should be just as dominant as it has been with seven starters back and a very strong front seven.

I know that the Spartans have to travel to Ohio State on November 21st, but the visitor has actually won the last three regular season meetings. Don’t forget that the Spartans beat Ohio State in the Big Ten title game in 2013 to prevent the Buckeyes from going to the National Championship. They also get Oregon at home in their second game of the season. I have Michigan State going 11-1 and pulling off the upset in Columbus to take the tiebreaker from Ohio State. I do expect the Spartans to slip up in one of their two road games at Michigan or Nebraska, however.

2015 Projections
Big Ten East
Big Ten Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Over 9.5
More College Football Predictions
Big Ten
Michigan State