Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, May 18, 2015

Mark Dantonio has Michigan State rolling, winning at least 11 games in four of the last five seasons. Along the way, the Spartans have won two league titles and claimed Rose and Cotton Bowl crowns.

[ MORE: Get all of Tom Dienhart's 2015 schedule analysis posts ]

Michigan State, loaded with a talented roster, looks primed to keep rolling this fall. But if the Spartans are going to do big things, they?ll need to navigate a tough schedule that includs nine bowl teams and no FCS opponents.

Here is a detailed look Michigan State?s 2015 schedule.

Toughest non-conference game: vs. Oregon, Sept. 12. All eyes will be on East Lansing when Oregon visits in a rematch of a game last season. The Ducks took a 46-27 decision vs. the Spartans last year in Eugene in a game MSU led 27-18 with 10:55 left in the third quarter. From there, Oregon scored four unanswered touchdowns to run away with the game en route to playing for the national championship. The fact the Ducks are replacing QB Marcus Mariota is a big plus for Michigan State. Last year vs. the Spartans, the Heisman winner hit 17-of-28 passes for 318 yards with three touchdowns and no picks and also ran for 42 yards.

Toughest conference game: at Ohio State, Nov. 21. The visit to Columbus figures to be a clash between the two best teams in the Big Ten and possibly be a playoff elimination bout. It should be epic. Mark Dantonio is 1-2 vs. Urban Meyer, beating the Buckeyes in the 2013 Big Ten title game and falling twice to Meyer and Co., in Spartan Stadium. Michigan State won the last time it invaded the Horseshoe, taking a 10-7 decision in 2011-when Luke Fickell was interim head coach.

Who they don?t play: Michigan State misses Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois.

Easiest game: vs. Purdue, Oct. 3. The Spartans may not have to break much of a sweat when Purdue visits Spartan Stadium. Even games vs. MAC foes Western Michigan and Central Michigan figure to be more challenging. This is a Boilermakers squad that has one Big Ten victory the last two years. The Spartans have won six in a row vs. Purdue.

Rugged stretch: November should be a challenge. It begins with a trip to Nebraska. That?s followed by what should be a win vs. visiting Maryland. But the schedule concludes with a bang, as the Spartans go to Ohio State and finish by hosting Penn State. MSU has won the last two vs. the Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions. MSU bombed Maryland last year, 37-15.

Factoid: Air Force?s visit to East Lansing on Sept. 19 will mark the first meeting between the programs. MSU has played Army twice, losing at West Point in 1931 and in the 1984 Cherry Bowl. The Spartans never have played Navy.

Best chance to be upset: at Michigan, Oct. 17. MSU figures to be favored when it treks to Ann Arbor. Yes, the Spartans have more talent and the better team-not to mention loads of momentum. Still, this is a rivalry game. The Wolverines will be jacked out of their mind with Michigan State coming to the Big House. It also will be Jim Harbaugh?s first crack at the Spartans. For the record, Michigan State has won the last two games and six of seven in the series. But the last time the Spartans waded into Ann Arbor, they lost, 12-10, in 2012.

Best chance to pull an upset: at Ohio State, Nov. 21. Michigan State may be an underdog just one time in 2015-when it plays at Ohio State on the penultimate Saturday of the regular season. The Buckeyes have no glaring weaknesses on the either side of the ball.

Must win: vs. Penn State, Nov. 28. A victory vs. Penn State in the season finale may be the difference between a Big Ten East title (and possible playoff spot) or not. Michigan State will be coming off a physical and emotional game at Ohio State. How will the Spartans perform in a game vs. an improving Penn State squad that could hold tons of importance?

Bye week: Michigan State is off on Oct. 31 after playing eight games. The Spartans enter the bye off a home game vs. Indiana and jump back into action at Nebraska. MSU has a good shot to 8-0 going into the bye, which would set up the aforementioned big November run of games to close (and define) 2015.

2015 Michigan State schedule
Sept. 4 at Western Michigan
Sept. 12 Oregon
Sept. 19 Air Force
Sept. 26 Central Michigan
Oct. 3 Purdue
Oct. 10 at Rutgers
Oct. 17 at Michigan
Oct. 24 Indiana
Oct. 31 OFF
Nov. 7 at Nebraska
Nov. 14 Maryland
Nov. 21 at Ohio State
Nov. 28 Penn State


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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