Michigan State football game-by-game predictions

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio returns plenty of starter from last season's 10-3 team.

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News predicts Michigan State’s season, game by game.

Aug. 31 vs. Utah State

It’s back to Friday night for Michigan State’s opener, and the expectation will be for the Spartans to cruise past its opponent from the Mountain West. However, the Aggies are far from a cupcake after getting back to a bowl game last season. They return all five starters up front offensively and have plenty of experience on defense, as well. There could be some early season hiccups, but expect Michigan State to come out on top, though it might not be a blowout. Winner: Michigan State.

Sept. 8 at Arizona State

Most of the attention in the offseason for the Sun Devils has surrounded the hiring of Herm Edwards as the head coach, but the product on the field isn’t that bad. The Sun Devils have a mobile quarterback in Manny Wilkins that puts pressure on defenses and they are coming off a seven-win season that included a trip to a bowl game. If MSU is solid defensively, however, expect the offense to start to find its rhythm during a late night in the desert. Winner: Michigan State.

Sept. 22 at Indiana

After an early bye, Michigan State opens Big Ten play on the road against the Hoosiers, a team it had trouble with at home last season and one it lost to on the road in 2016. Don’t expect any similar struggles this time around. Indiana has some questions at quarterback, which plays into Michigan State’s hands as the week off gives the Spartans a chance to refine what took place through the first two games. Winner: Michigan State.

Sept. 29 vs. Central Michigan

If the Chippewas manage to pull off an upset like they have three times in the past, it might be the most unexpected. John Bonamego’s team is young and will have a hard time competing in the Mid-American Conference West Division after winning eight games in 2017. Expect Michigan State to wrap up non-conference play with an easy day at the office, one that could include some extensive action for backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi. Winner: Michigan State.

Oct. 6 vs. Northwestern

The Wildcats come to Spartan Stadium for homecoming, and there’s little chance they’ll be overlooked with a trip to Penn State looming the next week. It was last season’s overtime loss to Northwestern that kept MSU from a share of the Big Ten East title and while it will be motivation for the Spartans, it guarantees nothing. The Wildcats will likely have Clayton Thorson back at quarterback and a solid defense that returns five of seven starters up front. It will be tight again, but expect MSU to head to State College unbeaten. Winner: Michigan State.

Oct. 13 at Penn State

The first of two straight critical matchups for Michigan State as it hits the road to take on the Nittany Lions. The matchup in 2017 was an epic one — only partly because of the hours-long weather delay — and this one should be no different. Quarterback Trace McSorley is one of the top playmakers in the country and, being at home, expect him to make a big one late to give Penn State an edge in the Big Ten East race. Winner: Penn State.

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Oct. 20 vs. Michigan

Michigan State will be stinging from a tough loss the week before, but the fact the Wolverines are coming to town will keep any hangover from taking over. The Spartans have controlled the series over the last decade and over the last two seasons have moved the ball effectively against the Michigan defense. Watch for a big game from LJ Scott, who no doubt will be in the Wolverines’ crosshairs, as MSU continues to run the ball well against its rival. Winner: Michigan State.

Oct. 27 vs. Purdue

The Boilermakers enter 2018 feeling good after getting to a bowl game and winning it under Jeff Brohm during his first season. However, things might be a bit more difficult this time around as Purdue is replacing plenty of contributors on defense. Michigan State will likely take advantage as the offense starts to hum during what amounts to a break in the schedule. Winner: Michigan State.

Nov. 3 at Maryland

What state the Terrapins are in by this point in the season is difficult to predict. There’s a chance they’ll have an interim coach as DJ Durkin’s future is unclear as the investigation into the death of Jordan McNair continues. If Maryland manages to stay healthy at quarterback this season, it might be enough to cause some problems in the Big Ten East. Just don’t count on any of those problems being created against the Spartans. Winner: Michigan State.

Nov. 10 vs. Ohio State

With the Big Ten East title and potentially a trip to the conference title game on the line, the hype surrounding the Buckeyes’ visit will be at a fever pitch. The matchup a season ago was never close, but don’t expect the Spartans to be dominated up front like they were in Columbus in 2017. MSU hasn’t beaten Ohio State at home since 1999, but it has beaten the Buckeyes three times since 2011. The defense comes up big to make it No. 4. Winner: Michigan State.

Nov. 17 at Nebraska

Michigan State has excelled under Mark Dantonio at moving on after big games, rarely letting what happened the week before have any effect on its next step. But the Spartans have had their share of problems in Lincoln and they’ll head to Memorial Stadium to face a team riding a high in its first season under Scott Frost. Receiver Stanley Morgan makes a big play late and crushes the Spartans’ hopes at winning the East. Winner: Nebraska.

Nov. 24 Rutgers

It might lack some fire after the loss to Nebraska, but Michigan State should have no trouble sending its seniors out with a victory. While getting to the Big Ten title game might be out of reach, getting to 10 wins and possibly a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game won’t be. Winner: Michigan State.

FINAL RECORD: 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)