Dynamic running back Kenneth Walker is now in the NFL after taking the Big Ten by storm a season ago. It won’t be surprising to see quarterback Payton Thorne and receiver Jayden Reed emerge as one of the best pitch-catch combos, and not only in the Big Ten, but the nation as well.
Defense had major issues a season ago. Linebacking will have some prominent transfers to help, and the return of the top four tacklers should make Michigan State much harder to sustain drives against this season
Mel Tucker is building something in East Lansing, 11-2 last season-including a thrilling win over Michigan-could just be the start of things. MSU finished ninth the polls last season.
Michigan State (+2800) is tied with Purdue for seventh in the Odds to win the Big Ten title, according to the College Football Picks. It was +2500 in late May. The Spartans (+1600) have the fourth-lowest Odds to win the Big Ten East Division.
Michigan State (+15000) is tied for 24th in odds to win the national championship. according to the Sportsbook
Michigan State Spartans
- 2021 record: 11-2
- 2021 conference record: 7-2
- Coach: Mel Tucker
- Odds to win conference title: +2800
Kenneth Walker’s lone season with the Spartans was one for the ages, 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also saved his best for rival Michigan, as the former Wake Forest transfer rushed for 197 yards (five touchdowns) in a 37-33 victory against the eventual champs of the conference.
Not only is Walker now a member of the Seattle Seahawks, but J.D. Duplain is the only returning starter on the offensive line
With Walker’s departure, that leaves Jordon Simmons as the top returning rusher (70 carries, 278 yards) from a season ago
Quarterback Payton Thorne is tasked to do even more, that after passing for 3,233 yards (60.4% completions), 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was also the third-leading rusher for the Spartans
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— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) July 29, 2022
Jalen Berger, who ran for 301 yards during the 2020 season at Wisconsin before seeing his workload reduced in a stacked Badger backfield, could also become a factor in the running game
Leading wide receiver Jayden Reed is back after 1,026 yards (59 catches) with 10 touchdowns as a junior. Reed is also a threat to go the distance on kickoff and punt returns in addition to being one of the top wideouts in the Big Ten. Tre Mosley (35 catches, 530 yards) and Montorie Foster are other top returning receivers. Tight end Tyler Hunt and Maliq Carr may see larger roles after a combined 22 catches last season. Former Illinois tight end Daniel Barker (18 catches, 202 yards, four touchdowns in 2021) could also emerge into a reliable target as well.
Michigan State returns the top four tacklers from a defense that ranked last in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game. Xavier Henderson and Cal Haladay tied for the team lead (96 tackles) in 2021. Henderson did add 10 tackles for loss, too, while Haladay returned two interceptions directly to the end zone.
Darius Snow (87 tackles) and Angelo Grose (83 tackles, six pass defenses) is joined by cornerbacks Ronald Williams and Chester Kimbrough. The pair combined for 80 tackles, 11 pass defenses and two picks.
Line will feature defensive tackles Jacob Slade and Simeon Barrow, as well as defensive end Jeff Pietrowski.
Linebackers Aaron Brule (53 tackles, eight tackles for loss) and Khris Bogle (22 tackles) come from Mississippi State and Florida, respectively, while another linebacker to watch is Jacoby Windmon (119 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss, 6½ sacks as a junior at UNLV). Cornerback Ameer Speed has arrived after recording 13 tackles during Georgia’s 2021 run to the national title
One of the biggest departures on defense is Quavaris Crouch\, who had 160 tackles for the Spartans over the last three seasons. He was one of the nearly 18 players who transferred, which also included safety Michael Dowell
Punter Bryce Baringer, ranking fifth nationally with 48.4 yards per punt, returns. Kicker Matt Coughlin needs to be replaced, however.
Hoping that practice does indeed make perfect at Michigan State. It is returning quite a few contributors on defense. That’s where improvement is needed. MSU surrendered 96 points in its two losses. Those were at Purdue and at Ohio State.
This non-conference slate is not the demanding, games against Western Michigan, Akron, and Washington. Key to the season could be a three-game stretch in October (vs Ohio State, vs Wisconsin and at Michigan). There’s a week off between the Wisconsin and Michigan games
Michigan State has a projected regular-season win total of 7½, according to the college football predictions, with the odds at -135 for the Spartans to go over that total, +105 finishing as an under proposition
For those who bet online, Michigan State was 4-1 straight and against the spread as the underdog last season.
Michigan State is favored by 18½ points in the season opener against Western Michigan
- Sept. 2 vs Western Michigan
- Sept. 10 vs Akron
- Sept. 17 at Washington
- Sept. 24 vs Minnesota
- Oct. 1 at Maryland
- Oct. 8 vs Ohio State
- Oct. 15 vs Wisconsin
- Oct. 29 at Michigan
- Nov. 5 at Illinois
- Nov. 12 vs Rutgers
- Nov. 19 vs Indiana
- Nov. 26 at Penn State