By: Brian Chapman
We are just four days away from the start of the Michigan State football season and a lot of people have high expectations for Mark Dantonio's boys. They went 13-1 last year, beat Michigan again, beat the Deep South Buckeyes by double digits to win the B1G Championship and beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. This year they're in the top 10 to start the season and just need to move up a few spots to make the College Football Playoff.
However, the Spartans lost several key starters from last year including Max Bullough, Darqueze Dennard and Bennie Fowler. They also move from the Legends Division to the stacked Big Ten East division with Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. Mix all of that with a trip to Eugene to face the Ducks in Week 2 and it's no surprise that some think it's way too early to expect great things for the green and white.
What's their best case scenario? 15-0 with a national championship. Yep. They can be that good.
What's the worst case scenario? 7-6 with a loss in the Pinstripe Bowl. Can't rule out a Same Old Spartans season.
What do I think will actually happen?
Game 1 vs. Jacksonville State: 45-0 win… This is a non-conference cupcake regardless of their 11-4 record last year. All they care about is collecting their gigantic check, escaping the sweltering heat of the south for a couple of days and saving the game tape for the players so they can tell their grandchildren they played against a Big Ten team one day when they get old. The Spartans have gotten off to slow starts in the past, but that will not happen this season… Advance to 1-0.
Game 2 @ Oregon: 22-17 loss… First of all, let me say that I think the Spartans can win this game and I reserve the right to change my mind in the next 11 days. Whenever the Ducks have faced a big physical defense in recent years their offense has been held in check and they've lost. They've fallen to Stanford in consecutive seasons and they lost the 2010 BCS Championship Game to Auburn. In those three games the mighty Oregon offense scored a total of 53pts. The Spartans have that same kind of defense and the Ducks will struggle with it. That said, I'm picking the Ducks to win because here is when the rumblings of another slow start under Dantonio could come true. I see Oregon taking an early 15-0 lead (you know they're going to go for two), the Spartans locking down on defense for the rest of the game, making a comeback, losing a gamble on a special teams trick play and ultimately losing the game late. Because the game is such a close loss (a moral victory even), this won't bury any chance of going to the College Football Playoff so long as they look impressive the rest of the way… Fall to 1-1.
Game 3 vs. Eastern Michigan: 42-7 win… Eastern Michigan is so horrible that you have to say it with an east coast accent. The Eagles are horrible! … Advance to 2-1.
Game 4 vs. Wyoming: 30-13 win… I remember when the Cowboys almost beat the Corn Huskers last year in Lincoln. Considering they went on to go 5-7, that was more indicative of how hot and cold Nebraska was last year than how good the Cowboys were. With the Big Ten season (and Nebraska) a week away at this point, I think some of the players will take this game for granted and frustrate fans early, but a couple of late TDs will seal the deal and make the win look more impressive to those that didn't see all sixty minutes… Advance to 3-1.
Game 5 vs. Nebraska: 27-10 win… In the past there has been a sea of red in Spartan Stadium when the Corn Huskers come to town. For the B1G opener, I predict Big Red will appear in pockets in the stadium, but not like in the past. The fans know this could be a special year and will not allow invaders from boring corn country to fill up their stadium. I see the Spartans putting Bo Pelini on the hot seat in the first half as they embarrass him on national TV, then coasting to victory with strong defense and only a field goal in the second half… Advance to 4-1.
Game 6 @ Purdue: 34-3 win… Purdue played the Spartans tough last year and had a chance to win in East Lansing. But even if they had won that game, it would have been their second win of the season. Sparty will clown this poor man's MAC school… Advance to 5-1.
Game 7 @ Indiana: 31-20 win… This should be a higher scoring game because the Hoosiers have a very good offense while they gave up the most average yards per game Big Ten history last year. I should pick the Spartans to win 60-55, but this is a road game and this is the game before the Michigan game. It will be hard for every man on the roster to be focused in for this game and if they're not careful, Nate Sudfeld could get hot, pass for 500yds and win the game. But I see Shilique Calhoun wreaking havoc off the edge, true freshman Malik McDowell forcing a fumble and Kurtis Drummond picking off a pass to end a promising drive… Advance to 6-1.
Game 8 vs. Michigan: 26-13 win… I really don't know if this is going to be a really close win because it's a rivalry game and Doug Nussmeier is going to completely transform Michigan's offense or if it will be a blowout win because the Spartans are just that much better than the Wolverines so I'm going to take the easy way out and split the difference. I also predict that Michigan will finish with at least zero yards rushing, but not much more than that against linebackers like Ed Davis and Taiwan Jones who will look to stuff Derrick Green at the line of scrimmage. Jabrill Peppers will probably give Michigan some life with a great return on special teams, but he'll also get burned on a double move by DeAnthony Arnett or Macgarrett Kings… Advance to 7-1.
Game 9 vs. Ohio State: 24-13 win… I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this game because I had the Spartans knocking off the Deep South Buckeyes before Braxton Miller got hurt. Urban Meyer has had no secondary for two straight years and without (overrated) Bradley Roby, they're not going to just magically get better. Connor Cook will get sacked five times and still throw for nearly 300 yards… Advance to 8-1.
Game 10 @ Maryland: 17-16 win… Maryland is a fraudulent B1G team that no real B1G fan ever wanted in the conference in the first place and they should be treated as such. It would be really nice to see the Spartans blow the shells off of the Terrapins and send them scurrying back to the ACC. However, after wins against Michigan and Ohio State, I think the Spartans will sleep walk into this road game, grow nauseous looking at their ridiculous helmets and pull themselves together just in time to squeak by these B1G phonies… Advance to 9-1.
Game 11 vs. Rutgers: 38-9 win… Rutgers is the other fraudulent B1G school that no real B1G fan ever wanted. After slipping up and almost losing in the previous week, the Spartans will show those imposters from New Jersey what a B1G Senior Day is all about… Advance to 10-1 and clinch a berth in the B1G Championship Game.
Game 12 @ Penn State: 27-14 win… I have no idea how good my alma mater will be this year, but I do know they are not going to beat Michigan State unless everything goes wrong for the Spartans and everything goes right for the Nittany Lions. Penn State has a talented quarterback, some outstanding tight ends and a scary environment to travel to for road teams. Other than that, there's not a whole lot for a team like Michigan State to be concerned about and I need to see James Franklin win games in Happy Valley before I can feel comfortable picking his team to beat a squad like Michigan State's… Advance to 11-1.
B1G Championship Game vs. Wisconsin: 30-17 win… Knowing what happen three years ago against Wisconsin in the B1G Championship Game and knowing a shot in the College Football Playoff is at stake, the Spartans will not let this game slip away from them. I believe Wisconsin will squeak into a West Division title as they toe the line of phasing out vintage smash mouth Badger football with winning six or seven conference games in a weak division. However, the Badgers will be in for a rude awakening when they face the Spartans in Gary Andersen's first B1G Championship Game. Wisconsin will add a TD late in the game, but those watching will know this was really a three touchdown victory for the Spartans and a sign that they should be the last team into the College Football Playoff… Advance to 12-1 and the College Football Playoff.
College Football Playoff vs. No. 1 seed Florida State: 30-17 loss… The Noles' schedule is pretty light because they play in the ACC with their toughest games coming against Clemson (without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins), Notre Dame and their season opener against Oklahoma State. If Florida gets back on track, they could be tough at the end of the season, but similar to what we saw with FSU last year, they probably won't face more than one or two great opponents during the season and they will enter the College Football Playoff with an unblemished record. The Spartans will undoubtedly be their toughest test of the season, but just like Auburn fell last year, so will the Spartans. Expect Michigan State to be overmatched by the Seminoles' athleticism and the arm and (crab) legs of Jameis Winston… Fall to 12-2.
I think a 12-2 season with a loss in the College Football Playoff will allow fans to smile with their heads held high. It will also put the Spartans back in the College Football Playoff discussion to start the 2015 season.
Come back to www.971TheTicket.com later this week for my prediction for the 2014 Wolverines.
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