Best Case/Worst Case: Michigan State Spartans

Expectations were big for Michigan State entering last season, as the Spartans were coming off consecutive 11-win seasons and an appearance in the Big Ten title game after the 2011 season. Alas, a sluggish offense was a big culprit in a disappointing 7-6 season. But hope springs eternal for MSU in 2013, thanks to what looks to be another stout defense. Here is my Best Case/Worst Case for Michigan State.

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MICHIGAN STATE

Best case: The Spartans open with three home games. And they should win them all vs. MAC, AAC and FCS teams. Michigan State takes a 3-0 mark to South Bend to face Notre Dame. After winning two of three in the series from 2007-2010, the Spartans have lost two in a row. And MSU has been outscored 51-16 in the process. The drought continues this season. But MSU will get fat and happy in October, ripping off four victories in a row: at Iowa; vs. Indiana; vs. Purdue; at Illinois, giving the Spartans a 7-1 mark and lots of mojo as they enter the final month. Michigan State needs no motivation vs. Michigan. Before losing, 12-10, last year in Ann Arbor, Michigan State had won four in a row in this rivalry. The Spartans get back on the winning side in this meeting in East Lansing. But MSU’s five-game winning skein halts in the next game, at Nebraska. And the skid reaches two in a row with a defeat at Northwestern. MSU is now 0-3 vs. Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. The Spartans lost last year, 23-20, to the Wildcats in East Lansing. Before that, Michigan State had won four in a row vs. Northwestern. It last lost two in a row to Northwestern in 2000-2001. But the Spartans finish on an up note with a triumph vs. visiting Minnesota. Michigan State has won three in a row vs. Minnesota. MSU ends with a 9-3 record (6-2 Big Ten) to punch its ticket to a nice bowl in Florida after a disappointing 7-6 mark in 2012.

Aug. 30: Western Michigan – W
Sept. 7: South Florida – W
Sept. 14: Youngstown State – W
Sept. 21: at Notre Dame – L
Oct. 5: at Iowa – W
Oct. 12: Indiana – W
Oct. 19: Purdue – W
Oct. 26: at Illinois – W
Nov. 2: Michigan – W
Nov. 16: at Nebraska – L
Nov. 23: at Northwestern – L
Nov. 30: Minnesota – W
9-3 overall; 6-2 Big Ten

Worst case: Michigan State just out talents Western Michigan, South Florida and Youngstown State, opening 3-0. But the Spartans are served a big dose of reality during a visit to Notre Dame, coming off a BCS title game appearance. The misery continues during a visit to Iowa, which has had the Spartans’ number lately in winning three of the last four and five of seven meetings. The Hawkeyes won in East Lansing in double overtime last season. Home games vs. Indiana and Purdue are the perfect elixir for a two-game losing streak. The Spartans have ruled the Old Brass Spittoon series with the Hoosiers, winning four in a row and eight of nine; they’ve also won the last four meetings vs. the Boilermakers. And the Spartans make it three in a row with a victory at Illinois—which has lost 11 of the last 12 meetings to MSU–to end October. Alas, November isn’t a month to remember. Michigan State opens with three losses in a row, falling to Michigan, at Nebraska and at Northwestern—the top three teams in the Legends Division. The season is punctuated with a home win vs. Minnesota, giving the Spartans a 7-5 mark, which isn’t much better than last season’s 7-6 record. It’s off to another minor bowl.

Aug. 30: Western Michigan – W
Sept. 7: South Florida – W
Sept. 14: Youngstown State – W
Sept. 21: at Notre Dame – L
Oct. 5: at Iowa – L
Oct. 12: Indiana – W
Oct. 19: Purdue – W
Oct. 26: at Illinois – W
Nov. 2: Michigan – L
Nov. 16: at Nebraska – L
Nov. 23: at Northwestern – L
Nov. 30: Minnesota – W
7-5 overall; 5-3 Big Ten

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, 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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2 Comments

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huskerfanbb on 8/2/2013 @ 11:50am EST Said:

We know this team can play defense–they did so last year to great effect–but where are their points going to come from? Leveon Bell, their Mr. Everything from last year is gone, and that’s a HUGE chunk of their offense. It’s hard to see his replacements being anywhere close to that level. Can Maxwell and the passing game improve enough to make up for it? I’m fairly skeptical given his performance last year. It’s hard to see him having better success this year WITHOUT Leveon Bell and that running game to take the pressure off.

Could they win the Legends? Yeah, they could if things fall right for them, but they’ll have to hold most teams to less than 20 points or so, and that’s going to be a tall order against offensive juggernauts like Northwestern, Nebraska, and Michigan. Lose two of three of those games (and two are on the road) and their title hopes are gone.

concerned on 8/2/2013 @ 4:07pm EST Said:

I think the bar for the best case is set way too low. We know Michigan State can play defense. Losing Johnny Adams is big. Losing White is bigger but not insurmountable. Call me optimistic but I think losing Gholston was a big positive. He was constantly out of position last season. His undisciplined play cost his team dearly in their losses, especially Nebraska where he lost contain on Martinez.

Offensively, losing Bell and McDonald are big losses. Sims, not as bad. However, they do have some hope at QB and the Fonoti’s return and am improved line should yield positive results.

With Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State off the schedule, they are left with teams ranked 5 through 12 in my power ranking and Notre Dame. They don’t have a game on their schedule you can pencil in as a loss. With a slightly improved offense I think a reasonable best case is 10 and 2. I don’t think they can run the table thanks to their offense but they should win the Legends division.