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Michigan State Spartans Football Preview: Predicting the 2016 schedule

What will Michigan State do for an encore? After steadily climbing the Big Ten and national mountain, the Spartans were smacked off the peak by Alabama in the College Football Playoff semi-final this past season.

That needs to stay in the past, and given the stability of the program overall this season has some massive potential behind it. Will the Spartans reach the potential and perhaps take yet another step forward as a program?

Let’s take a look at how our staff sees this season playing out — with Andy, Dave and Zach teaming up for full game-by-game predictions of the Michigan State Spartans’ 2016 season.

2016 Michigan State Spartans Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Friday
Sep. 2
Paladins Furman Paladins
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
7:00pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 10
OFF
Saturday
Sep. 17
Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
7:30pm ET
NBC
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 24
Badgers Wisconsin Badgers
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 1
Hoosiers at Indiana Hoosiers
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
8:00pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 8
Cougars BYU Cougars
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 15
Wildcats Northwestern Wildcats (HC)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
3:30pm ET
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 22
Terrapins at Maryland Terrapins
Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD
7:30pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 29
Wolverines Michigan Wolverines
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 5
Fighting Illini at Illinois Fighting Illini
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 12
Scarlet Knights Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 19
Buckeyes Ohio State Buckeyes
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 26
Nittany Lions at Penn State Nittany Lions
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Dec. 3
Big Ten Big Ten Championship Game
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
TBA

*courtesy FBSchedules.com

vs. Furman
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

Let’s see…a FCS opponent that went 4-8 against the reigning Big Ten champions? Yep, this is going to be a big win for the Spartans and likely a chance to get any kinks or position battles settled on the field in real competition against someone in a different uniform. That’s about all this game is going to be worth to the Spartans.

at Notre Dame
Andy: Win
Dave: Loss
Zach: Loss

A bit of disagreement between our panel of voters in all 14 team predictions here. No doubt the Spartans are going to face a big challenge in this contest, not the least of which is having to play this one on the road and at night in South Bend. For me, this comes down to defense and I trust what the Spartans have coming back just a bit more and thus a close win is pulled out. Call this one of the bigger statements the Big Ten makes in the non-conference portion of the season…at least for me.

vs. Wisconsin
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

Unanimous for the staff on this pick, but that doesn’t mean this one is going to be easy. Wisconsin has had one of the best defenses in the country the past three years and they’ve been able to overcome bigger losses than this offseason before. That said, UW hasn’t had the best of histories on the road against the Spartans (7-16) and that’s all I need to know. Expect this to be another classic between these two early Big Ten championship era rivals.

at Indiana
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

Crazy games seem to be the norm as of late between the Hoosiers and Spartans, but this season things are really different. Indiana doesn’t have a record-setting quarterback behind center anymore and the depth at running back is spotty at best. Add in another change to the defensive side of things for Indiana and this is a hard one to see going any other way but a blowout at the hands of MSU.

vs. BYU
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

At one point this would’ve been a tough game, but even long-time head coach Bronco Mendenhall began to see the writing on the wall for this proudly independent BYU program. Give MSU credit for scheduling two tougher non-conference opponents on paper, but the Cougars aren’t what they once were and unless quarterback Tanner Mangum goes completely off it could be a blowout in East Lansing.

vs. Northwestern
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

Give this one to the home team, but don’t expect this to be a cakewalk for the Spartans either. Northwestern looked vastly improved at quarterback this offseason and with a defense that is one of the most loaded in the conference, it could be a tough one for Sparty. Look for the offensive lines to make the biggest difference…hence the pick of Michigan State in this one for me.

at Maryland
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

This has to be getting boring for you, our loyal reader as the three of us agree once again on a game pick. However, can you blame us for a three-for-three pick of a win in this contest? The talent gap is closing thanks to recent upticks on the local recruiting trail for the Terps, but the gulf is still wide enough that it could be blow out time at Maryland Stadium.

vs. Michigan
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Zach: Loss

Who doesn’t remember where they were when they saw the miracle victory by MSU over Michigan last season? Dwelling on the past is never a good thing, but in this case it seems as if Jim Harbaugh and Co. are nipping at the heels of the Spartans. Given all that returns for the visiting Wolverines and that Jabrill Peppers is going to be wrecking havoc anywhere he damn well pleases, I’m going with Michigan in another slugfest.

at Illinois
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

There may be a new feeling around the Illinois program with the hire of former NFL head coach Lovie Smith, but reality is this is much of the same team that struggled under both Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit. At some point, that reality is going to come crashing down and this is one of those times. Simply put, Michigan State is on a different planet than Illinois is.

vs. Rutgers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Zach: Win

On the road for Michigan State, maybe this is a potential for a wild upset…especially given Rutgers brief history in the Big Ten. However, this is at home and that means taking care of business when MSU should. Dantonio has this team rolling and that isn’t going to stop even with a second new coach in a row on the schedule.

vs. Ohio State
Andy: Loss
Dave: Win
Zach: Loss

Finally, we have some disagreement amongst the staff and there’s no doubt this game is going to go a long way towards deciding the East division title. With a loss already on the books to Michigan, a loss here isn’t an option if this MSU team wants to continue to show it is a real national competitor. However, this one has the mark of a bitter ending in store for the team that took OSU’s crown from them at their home last season. As long as J.T. Barrett is behind center this one is all Buckeyes.

L at Penn State
Andy: Win
Dave: Loss
Zach: Win

Happy Valley to end the regular season in the battle for the worst trophy game in all of college football? Naturally it means a split vote for our writers as well. For me, this comes down to just how fast the learning curve is figured out for Penn State’s offense. If it is firing on all cylinders, the Spartans are in trouble. But, for me that’s asking a lot for a team that has had plenty of talent and never put it all together under James Franklin. That reason alone is enough to put my faith in MSU taking this tough road game to end the season and potentially keep themselves in the East division title game.


Given all of that…where do we also see the Spartans ending up in the Big Ten standings when the season ends at Penn State? Let’s take a look at how we all see it shaping out.

Our Predicted 2016 Big Ten Standings: 

West:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

East:
1.
2. Michigan State (Andy/Dave)
3. Michigan State (Zach)
4.
5.
6.
7.

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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