Season in review: Michigan State football

The truth hurts, but here it comes: This is the most disappointing team in the Big Ten. The Spartans were considered legit Big Ten contenders coming off consecutive 11-win seasons. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s unit did its part, yielding 20 or fewer points eight times.

But the middling offense resulted in a .500 record, as Michigan State had to win its last game just to become bowl eligible for a sixth season in a row. How bad was it? The Spartans went 0-4 at home in Big Ten games, finishing the season No. 9 in the Big Ten in offense (370.3 ypg) and No. 10 in scoring (20.3 ppg). Spotty play at quarterback, receiver and the offensive line hurt.

Michigan State 2012
Date Opponent Result / Time
8/31 vs. 24 Boise State W 17 – 13
9/8 at Central Michigan W 41 – 7
9/15 vs. 20 Notre Dame L 3 – 20
9/22 vs. Eastern Michigan W 23 – 7
9/29 vs. 14 Ohio State L 16 – 17
10/6 at Indiana W 31 – 27
10/13 vs. Iowa L 16 – 19
10/20 at 23 Michigan L 10 – 12
10/27 at Wisconsin W 16 – 13
11/3 vs. 21 Nebraska L 24 – 28
11/17 vs. Northwestern L 20 – 23
11/24 at Minnesota W 26 – 10
12/29 vs. TCU 10:15 ET

The Spartans were masters at losing close games, as five of their losses came by a combined 13 points.

Record: 6-6 overall; 3-5 Big Ten

Bowl: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. TCU

High point: The Spartans welcomed No. 24 Boise State to East Lansing for a Friday night prime-time season opener. And Michigan State didn’t disappoint, taking a methodical 17-13 triumph. But even in victory, chinks appeared, as Andrew Maxwell tossed three picks in the start of a season-long struggle for the junior quarterback who was in his first year as a starter.

Low point: A 19-16 double overtime loss at home to lowly Iowa on Oct. 13 epitomized the Spartans’ struggles. Michigan State lost the next week at Michigan, ending a four-year winning skein vs. the Wolverines. It was the Spartans’ third loss in four games. An overtime win at Wisconsin the next week offered hope, but Michigan State followed that with consecutive losses.

Offensive MVP: RB Le’Veon Bell. The junior was the quintessential workhorse, pacing the nation with 350 carries and leading the Big Ten in rushing (137.3 ypg). And Bell did all of this despite defenses keying to stop him week in and week out, as the Spartan pass game struggled.

[RELATED: Read Tom Dienhart's ongoing series of 2012 football season reviews. ]

Defensive MVP: LB Max Bullough. This was supposed to be junior end William Gholston, but he had a disappointing season. Bullough, a junior, brought it each week, pacing Michigan State in tackles with 53 for what was the Big Ten’s No. 1 total defense (273.3 ypg), No. 1 rushing defense (99.6 ypg) and No. 1 scoring defense (16.3 ppg).

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (3 Comments)
3 Post Your Comment
Doug on 12/20/2012 @ 7:06pm EDT Said:

13 pts away from being 11-1, it’s not like MSU got blown out every game. Definitely didn’t get any bounces this year.

Jonathan Young on 12/21/2012 @ 11:13am EDT Said:

Very disappointing! The lost of all those seniors on offense cost them dearly. They probably will lose Bell, Gholston, Sims and of course the seniors. The defense will be mostly in tact. But the offense is where the improvement will have to come from.

ramon on 1/9/2013 @ 12:45pm EDT Said:

to say our offense was middling is generous to say the least. aside from bell, everyone was horrible (including roushar). and to jonathan young there aren’t that many seniors on the roster. young club.

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