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Michigan State Spartans Football Preview: Predicting the 2015 season

The Michigan State Spartans are no doubt back on the national stage after decades of barely registering on the national level of college football, let alone the Big Ten. After winning a Big Ten and Rose Bowl title in 2013, the Spartans followed that up with a 10-win season and a “New Years Six” victory over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl last season.

However, they reside in a division with reigning national champion Ohio State, and that means a life that won’t be so easy in 2015. There’s also change all around the Spartans, both on their staff and schools around them, making the Big Ten East a lot different from what it was just one season ago.

Will Michigan State continue to contend in a much different looking Big Ten East? Let’s see how our crack staff at talking10 see it all playing out.

2015 Michigan State Spartans Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Friday
Sept. 4
Broncos at Western Michigan Broncos
Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI
7:00 p.m. ET
ESPNU
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 12
Ducks Oregon Ducks
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
8:00 p.m. ET
ABC
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 19
Falcons Air Force Falcons
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
12:00 p.m. ET
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 26
Chippewas Central Michigan Chippewas
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 3
Boilermakers Purdue Boilermakers (HC)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
12:00 p.m. ET
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 10
Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
8:00 p.m. ET
BTN/BTN2Go
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 17
Wolverines at Michigan Wolverines
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 24
Hoosiers Indiana Hoosiers
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 31
Open Date
Saturday
Nov. 7
Cornhuskers at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
7 or 8 p.m. ET
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 14
Terrapins Maryland Terrapins
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 21
Buckeyes at Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 28
Nittany Lions Penn State Nittany Lions
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Dec. 5
Big Ten Big Ten Championship Game
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
8:00 p.m. ET
FOX
Buy
Tickets

*courtesy FBSchedules.com

at Western Michigan
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

In-state matchups against the directional schools are usually easy W’s for the Spartans, but since hiring P.J. Fleck as head coach Western Michigan has become less and less of a pushover. While there is a gap between these two schools and MSU should be a heavy favorite, don’t be surprised to see the Broncos put up a heck of a fight for three-quarters of this game.

vs. Oregon
Andy — Win
Dave — Loss

Last season it was easy to see Oregon winning this contest — it had the better quarterback, the faster team and a lot less unknowns than Michigan State. Oh, and the Ducks were playing host. All of that is reversed this season and I’m personally sticking with history on this one. That means picking the home team in a Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup, and that means Sparty wins this one.

vs. Air Force
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

The Falcons have done good things in turning back to a winning program, but Michigan State has a defense more than capable of taking on the triple-option heavy Air Force offense. Air Force finished last season 10-3, including wins over both Boise State and Navy. While the Falcons won’t be a cake walk, expect this to be a win for a team used to physical football.

vs. Central Michigan
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

Don’t look at this game to be a typical let down after facing a triple-option team. Michigan State is too good for that and Central Michigan has a lot of work to do to be a championship caliber team in the MAC, let alone on the national stage. Michigan State’s offensive line will dominate and that means a Spartans butt kicking of the Chippewas.

vs. Purdue
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

Last season this game was way too close for Michigan State’s tastes. However, that was in West Lafayette and a lot of strange things happen to visiting teams there. With this game in East Lansing, the Spartans start off Big Ten play in a big way — beating Purdue much easier than it did last season.

at Rutgers
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

This will be Michigan State’s first trip to Piscataway, which can do some strange things to a team if only because sports people tend to be creatures of habit. Michigan State may not know a lot about playing in New Jersey, but it is a program that knows how to win on the road and that’s exactly what will happen here. Look for the defensive line to be the key to winning here, as it shuts down the Rutgers run game and makes whichever QB Rutgers chooses run for his life.

at Michigan
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

This rivalry gets a new twist with Jim Harbaugh around, and no doubt a lot of questions will come about the personalities in this rivalry now. However, all of that won’t matter much on the field and that means advantage Michigan State. I’m not convinced that Michigan has what it takes to be a really good program in year one of the Harbaugh era, so look for the Spartans to run this rivalry for at least one more season.

vs. Indiana
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

Indiana got smoked by the Spartans last season, but that was without Nate Sudfeld at quarterback. For Indiana’s sake they better hope he is around, but it won’t mean a victory. Instead it will mean a much closer game, especially with an improving defense. MSU keeps its Big Ten title hopes alive in a shootout much more reminiscent of 2013.

at Nebraska
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

Everyone wants to circle the date of Michigan State’s visit to Columbus as the No. 1 game of its season. However, MSU can’t overlook a trip to Nebraska on its way there. The Huskers aren’t going down without a fight and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this game go either way with Mike Riley turning the Huskers into a more disciplined program. That said, MSU has far fewer questions and a whole lot on the line. Dantonio has a magic touch when it comes to these games and he’ll find a way to get his team to pull this game out.

vs. Maryland
Andy — Win
Dave —  Win

Looking for a trap game on the schedule? Try the Terrapins, who will likely have their quarterback situation figured out and still have one of the best secondaries in the conference. Yet many aren’t believing this team, which lost 37-15 last season, can hang with the Spartans. With this game sandwiched between Nebraska and Ohio State it could be ripe for an upset pick. However, I see MSU has being able to do some serious damage against a defensive front seven that isn’t all that powerful all around.

at Ohio State
Andy — Loss
Dave — Loss

This is the game of the season in the Big Ten, at least as we all look at the season through the preseason glass. It’s hard not to see it happening since the two teams have won the last two Big Ten titles and are the only ones to rank in the top 10 last year. This game could simply come down to home field advantage and which team comes in healthier. For me that means Ohio State, and especially when you look at the depth of each roster. No matter the health of OSU’s starters there are options galore, while the MSU lineup is not nearly as deep. That will matter when you come towards the end of the season, and it could mean an ugly beat down at the hands of OSU if that happens.

vs. Penn State
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

A Big Ten title berth may be on the line in this match, or it may be gone for one or both of these teams. I expect both to be out of the mix, making this game almost meaningless outside of potential bowl matchups. For Michigan State, that could mean another run at a “New Year’s Six” bowl game. A win over Penn State would likely help that scenario, and its hard to see Dantonio not having his team ready for this trophy game and a chance to be involved in the national title picture still.

Michigan State’s 2015 Final Record/Big Ten Finish:

Andy: 11-1 (7-1)/2nd in Big Ten East
Dave: 10-2 (7-1)/2nd in Big Ten East

Our Predicted 2015 Big Ten Standings: 

West:
1.
2. Minnesota Gophers (Andy)/Nebraska Cornhuskers (Dave)
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (Dave)/Nebraska Cornhuskers (Andy)
4. Iowa Hawkeyes (Andy)/ Minnesota Gophers (Dave)
5. Illinois Fighting Illini (Dave)/Northwestern (Andy)
6. Northwestern Wildcats (Dave)/Illinois (Andy)
7. Purdue Boilermakers (Andy/Dave)

East:
1.
2. Michigan State Spartans (Andy/Dave)
3. Penn State Nittany Lions (Andy/Dave)
4. Michigan Wolverines (Andy/Dave)
5. Indiana Hoosiers (Andy/Dave)
6.
7. Rutgers (Andy/Dave)

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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