The Michigan State Spartans were one of the most underrated teams in the country last season. They were a couple of missed calls by the refs away from actually playing in the BCS Championship. Those calls cost them in a 13-17 loss at Notre Dame, which proved to be their only defeat of the season.

It was still a milestone year for Michigan State as it went 13-1 overall and won the Big Ten Championship. It played the role of spoiler very well, putting an end to Ohio State’s bid at a perfect season and national title with a 34-24 victory in the conference championship game. It then went into the Rose Bowl as an underdog and beat Stanford by a final of 24-20.

The Spartans had arguably the best defense in the entire country last year, allowing just 13.2 points per game. They will be hard-pressed to match those numbers this year with only five starters back on that side of the ball. The stop unit was a big reason why the Spartans finished with a +13 turnover differential, which will also be difficult to match.

The offense has potential to get better with seven starters back, including quarterback Connor Cook. He came on strong at the end of last year, throwing for a combined 636 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in the wins over Ohio State and Stanford. Leading rusher Jeremy Langford (1,422 yards, 18 TD) is back to carry the load on the ground. He will be running behind an offensive line that has to break in three new starters this year.

This team was even more dominant than many realize last year. Indeed, 12 of their 13 wins came by double-digits with the lone exception being the 4-point victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Mark Dantonio has done a heck of a job in his first seven seasons here. The Spartans have averaged the 32nd-best recruiting class in the country over the last five years, including the No. 24 spot in 2014.

Last Season
Big Ten (Legends)
ATS Record
Points For
Points Against
2014 Schedule
2014 Michigan State Spartans Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
8/29 Jacksonville State
9/6 @ Oregon
9/20 Eastern Michigan
9/27 Wyoming
10/4 Nebraska
10/11 @ Purdue
10/18 @ Indiana
10/25 Michigan
11/8 Ohio State
11/15 @ Maryland
11/22 Rutgers
11/29 @ Penn State
Estimated Wins: 9.55

Michigan State has three of the easiest non-conference games in the country at home against Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan and Wyoming. However, it will have to travel to Eugene to face Oregon, and it will be a double-digit underdog in that contest, which could have serious national title implications on the line.

The good news for Spartan fans is that even if they lose that game, they could still have a chance to get in the four-team playoff if they go on to win the Big Ten. The conference schedule sets up well, so they should have a good shot of doing so.

Their easiest games come on the road as they’ll be a favorite at Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State. Their three toughest games all come at home against Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska. That November 8 showdown against the Buckeyes could determine the Big Ten East title.  They get a bye before it to boot.

Michigan State did not get a lot of respect from oddsmakers last year, which was evident by its 9-4-1 ATS mark. It is getting a little more respect this season as indicated by the fact that it is a favorite in all but one game. There won’t be nearly as much value backing this team against the spread in 2014 because of it.

Odds (Courtesy of Bovada)
Regular Season Win Total
Big Ten Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
4 to 1
27 to 1
Season Predictions

Dantonio has really turned Michigan State into a Big Ten contender. The only concern I have about this team is whether or not they will have a letdown after winning the conference title last year. Other than that, the 2014 season looks very promising.

The offense made big strides last year, and with seven starters back including QB Cook and RB Langford, the Spartans should only be better on this side of the ball after averaging 29.4 points per game a year ago.

The defense is a bit of a concern with only five starters back, but the last three stop units over the last three years have only given up 18.4 (2011), 16.3 (2012) and 13.2 (2013) points per game. While some regression is expected this year, I still foresee the Spartans holding opponents to fewer than 20 points per game again.

What has me picking the Spartans to win the Big Ten East is the schedule. They have a very favorable Big Ten road schedule as they’ll be a decent-sized favorite against Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State. They get their three toughest conference games at home, including the key one against Ohio State, which they’ll win to ultimately claim the tiebreaker.

2014 Projections
Big Ten East
Big Ten Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Over 9.5
More College Football Predictions
Big Ten
Michigan State
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