Following a disastrous 2016 season, the Michigan State Spartans bounced back in a big way in 2017, going 10-3 and capping things off with a Holiday Bowl win over Washington State. Wins over rivals Michigan and Penn State helped to offset blowout losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State, as well as a triple-overtime heartbreaker to Northwestern.
After steadying the ship last season, Mark Dantonio is hoping the Spartans can take the next step in 2018 by winning the Big Ten and putting themselves in a position to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. With 19 starters returning, such goals are well within reach for Michigan State in 2018.
The oddsmakers aren’t quite buying into Michigan State. They are +4500 to win the national championship, which could make them a nice dark horse bet considering the experience they have coming back. Sparty is also projected to win nine games, matching their regular-season total from last year, so the oddsmakers don’t see much improvement this year.
But what’s not to like about a top-10 defense that returns nine starters? The Spartans held opponents to 10 points or less in six of 13 games last season. Whether they can be that good against the top offenses in the Big Ten remains to be seen. But Michigan State should have one of the elite defenses in the country this year.
The MSU offense, meanwhile, may have a little more to prove. Quarterback Brian Lewerke returns, although he was solid if unspectacular last season, completing just 59% of his passes. There is also a lack of depth at running back behind L.J. Scott, who is steady but not necessarily a standout player. If Michigan State is going to reach that next level, Lewerke and Scott will need to step up and have big years.
|Aug 31||Utah State Aggies||7:00 PM|
|Sep 8||@ Arizona State Sun Devils||10:45 PM|
|Sep 22||@ Indiana Hoosiers||12:00 PM|
|Sep 29||Central Michigan Chippewas||12:00 PM|
|Oct 6||Northwestern Wildcats||12:00 PM|
|Oct 13||@ Penn State Nittany Lions||12:00 PM|
|Oct 20||Michigan Wolverines||12:00 PM|
|Oct 27||Purdue Boilermakers||12:00 PM|
|Nov 3||@ Maryland Terrapins||12:00 PM|
|Nov 10||Ohio State Buckeyes||12:00 PM|
|Nov 17||@ Nebraska Cornhuskers||1:00 PM|
|Nov 24||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||12:00 PM|
Michigan State’s schedule appears to be a favorable one. They travel to Penn State in mid-October but get both Michigan and Ohio State at home. Their toughest crossover game with the Big Ten West is against Northwestern, which is also a home game, as they avoid both Iowa and Wisconsin. An early-season trip to Arizona State is MSU’s toughest non-conference game, but the Sun Devils don’t come close to matching the talent and experience of the Spartans.
With an elite defense and tons of experience, the Spartans are undoubtedly a threat to win the Big Ten and reach the College Football Playoff. However, the Spartans may not match up well when they play teams like Michigan and Ohio State that also have talented defenses. It’s likely that the Spartans will falter at least a couple times this year. A 10-2 record in the Big Ten is nothing to be ashamed of, but it won’t be enough to reach the conference championship game or the CFP.