Too soon?: Predictions for every MSU game in 2013
A year ago at this time the so-called experts and prognosticators predicted MSU to accomplish big things before the season.
Seen as a favorite in the Big Ten, the Spartans began 2012 ranked No. 13 and had aspirations of earning the program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1988. Similar to this fall, MSU began that season in a Friday night game against a team of Broncos — although then it was a ranked matchup with Boise State.
Following a disappointing 7-6 campaign, the Spartans will look to regroup and regain the form that produced 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011 against a seemingly manageable schedule.
vs. Western Michigan
Stephen: It’s tough to get a read on the Broncos, who are led by first-time head coach P.J. Fleck, the youngest head man in the FBS. He’s never even officially been a coordinator, so until we see anything on the field the jury is out on what WMU will look like. Regardless, the Broncos don’t have enough horses to compete with MSU (pun intended) and under the lights I expect the defense to suffocate WMU. The game serves as a glorified scrimmage — an opportunity for the defense to start off the season on a high note and build confidence while the offense searches for rhythm and consistency.
MSU 45 WMU 3
Dillon: There’s few teams MSU would rather open the season against than Western Michigan. The Broncos come into hostile territory at Spartan Stadium with a new coach and question marks on both sides of the ball. However, quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen has the potential to be a threat and could make some waves if he can make a few plays early. Of course, the Broncos best chance at success would be to try to take advantage of the Spartans’ indecision at quarterback and inexperience at running back. But even if everything goes according to plan, I still expect MSU will jump ahead early and never look back.
MSU 35 WMU 7
vs. South Florida
Stephen: For the second straight week, the Spartans will face a new coach in a new place. Bulls coach Willie Taggart will have his hands full trying to replace four-year starting quarterback B.J. Daniels, so by the second week of the season this should be another opportunity for the MSU defense to feast. The talent level is higher than Western Michigan, so the offense struggles a little more this week and both senior Andrew Maxwell and sophomore Connor Cook continue to split reps at quarterback.
MSU 31 South Florida 10
Dillon: The problem starting with teams perceived to be weaker is it’s easy to overlook what’s right in front of you. Although the Bulls were extremely pitiful a season ago, the state of Florida traditionally produces a ton of talented skill players, which includes senior running back Marcus Shaw. If healthy, Shaw can be a major asset to set the pace for South Florida on offense. Similar to the Spartans, the Bulls went through fall camp with Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd and the consensus is that neither of them really have a firm grip on the job, according to USA Today. All things considered, I think the Spartans overlook South Florida early in the game but pull ahead in the second half and come away with the victory.
MSU 24 South Florida 14
vs. Youngstown State
Stephen: In the Spartans’ warmup for the Fighting Irish, the offense starts to click for the first time and suddenly fans and coaches alike start to exhale. Maxwell finally looks like the Kirk Cousins replica he was formerly touted as and receivers Bennie Fowler, a senior, and sophomore Aaron Burbridge each eclipse 100 yards. Redshirt freshman Riley Bullough, junior Jeremy Langford and freshman Delton Williams combine for 225 yards on the ground as they continue to rotate at tailback. Everybody gets excited about beating up an undermanned team for a week before MSU faces its first legitimate defense of the season.
MSU 49 Youngstown State 0
Dillon: As much as I try not to, I absolutely agree with Stephen on this prediction. The Spartans will get out front of Youngstown State and likely pummel the Penguins like a schoolyard bully. But hey, at least there’s a cute storyline about how Mark Dantonio used to be the defensive coordinator at Youngstown State. Who’s setting the odds for how many writers ask questions about this?
MSU 42 Youngstown State 7
at Notre Dame
Stephen: A week after MSU lights up the scoreboard, its offense is stymied by a talented Notre Dame defense. The Fighting Irish are without Everett Golson, the mobile quarterback that led them to the national title game last year, so this one should be a low-scoring slugfest. It wouldn’t shock me if MSU left South Bend, Ind., with a W. But I think it’s more likely MSU’s offense struggles to move the ball more against Notre Dame’s defense than the opposite, and that’s the deciding factor.
Notre Dame 17 MSU 13
Dillon: At last, the first challenging matchup of the season for the Spartans. Without Golson and star linebacker Manti Te’o, a game with the Fighting Irish will be one of the marquee matchups of the entire season. If Andrew Maxwell still is the starter at this point, I think he’ll surprise a few people and lead the Spartans to an upset win in South Bend — but MSU will need to have a strong showing from one of its running backs and perhaps a clutch kick to get it done.
MSU 17 Notre Dame 14
Stephen: The Hawkeyes have been a pest for the Spartans during the Mark Dantonio era, and traveling to Kinnick Stadium can never be taken lightly. In Iowa, MSU sees some of itself this year — a team that wants to keep the ball on the ground and grind it out — and takes advantage. After an ugly showing at Notre Dame, the offensive unit looks smooth and takes out its frustration on the Hawkeyes as Maxwell responds with his best game of the season to this point by passing for four touchdowns.
MSU 28 Iowa 13
Dillon: Unlike Stephen, I don’t believe the Spartans will have tremendous luck at Kinnick Stadium. It’s traditionally been an unkind venue to Dantonio and I predict it will be this time as well. Sitting undefeated coming into the game, the Hawkeyes will shock the world and jump out front of the Spartans. And when Maxwell digs deep to try to make a comeback, I don’t think he’ll have a big enough shovel. MSU’s defense will have some success but I still think it won’t be enough to overcome offensive woes.
Iowa 24 MSU 17
Stephen: Gone are the days when you could look at Indiana on the schedule, chuckle a little bit and make other plans for your weekend. Since former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took over, the Hoosiers have become significantly more competitive employing his up-tempo spread attack. Historically, this would be a homecoming better spent tailgating than watching the game, but after Indiana gave the Spartans a scare in Bloomington, Ind., last year it becomes an intriguing matchup. MSU’s defense will be tested in a way it hasn’t yet to this point in the year against the Hoosiers’ dynamic offense. Especially considering the return of quarterback Tre Roberson from injury, Indiana will be able to put up some points — just not enough to steal away the Old Brass Spittoon.
MSU 38 Indiana 31
Dillon: Who would have thought this would be a game to circle? With alumni and fans in East Lansing for homecoming, the Hoosiers come to town with one of the Big Ten’s most interesting offenses. I’m a big fan of the up-tempo spread offense — it’s the go-to offense in any game of NCAA Football ‘13 — and the Hoosiers will do well with it against a lot of teams this season. However, I think this year’s matchup will more closely resemble Denard Robinson’s Michigan teams rather than the Hoosiers that gave MSU a scare last year. It will be close, it will be competitive. But MSU’s defense is too talented — and better understands the challenge ahead — to let John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s Hoosiers walk out of Spartan Stadium with the victory.
MSU 28 Indiana 17
Stephen: The Boilermakers are rebuilding under first-year coach Darrell Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant. The Spartans welcome Hazell to Spartan Stadium with a dominating defensive performance to remain undefeated at home. As the Boilermakers try to figure out who they are, MSU starts to find its own identity behind Maxwell and a stable of running backs. The defense and special teams both get a score of their own in a comfortable win for the Spartans.
MSU 35 Purdue 6
Dillon: With Darrell Hazell, the Boilermakers are sure to be a talented team down the road. As a traditional blue collar program with a tendency to have a strong running back, Purdue will be competitive for years to come. Even with the potential to sleepwalk through it, I still think MSU is too talented to let this game slip through its fingers.
MSU 31 Purdue 10
Stephen: You might call this a trap game as the Spartans hit the road a week before taking on rival U-M, but Illinois would have to have a shot at beating MSU for that to be the case. They don’t. The Illini were the worst team in the Big Ten in 2012 and there’s nothing to suggest they’ll make a dramatic turnaround this year. It should be a good day for the Spartans’ offense to flex its muscle and prepare for the Wolverines, however. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is a good player, probably their best playmaker, but he doesn’t have enough weapons to make a dent in the MSU defense, which forces three turnovers in a shutout.
MSU 34 Illinois 0
Dillon: Looking back at my prior predictions, I see MSU entering this game at 6-1, which is pretty close to the best case scenario for this point in the season. By now, the Spartans are again thinking about making a run at the Big Ten championship and are only one win shy of the previous season’s total. As it’s been noted, Illinois was the Big Ten’s worst team in 2012, long removed from the competitive team that went to the Rose Bowl in 2008. I like Nathan Sheelhaase and it’s important to have one of your biggest playmakers at the quarterback position. Nevertheless, Sheelhasse will have his hands full with linebacker Max Bullough and Marcus Rush and likely will struggle in a losing effort.
MSU 35 Illinois 3
Stephen: The Wolverines roll into East Lansing and find an angry Spartan team hungry for revenge waiting for them. Much like the last time U-M visited Spartan Stadium in 2011, it’s a physical, hard-hitting affair. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi unleashes the dogs on U-M quarterback Devin Gardner with constant blitzes, forcing a pair of turnovers. MSU’s offense looks decent but not stellar for most of the game as the Spartans try to pound the ball on the ground at U-M’s defensive front. Unlike a year ago when the Wolverines made big plays through the air in the waning minutes, Maxwell gets his revenge with a late-game drive capped off by a go-ahead touchdown from senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler.
MSU 24 Michigan 17
Dillon: Ah, rivalry week. It’s the week where 364 days of trash talk and bad mouthing the opponent only will be dictated by the result on the field. After carrying a four-year win streak against the Wolverines, MSU sputtered in Ann Arbor in 2012 and allowed Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to sail into the sunset with his lone win against MSU. The Wolverines return several key players from a season ago including the duel threat quarterback Devin Gardner. I see Gardner struggling for a short time, as he and Robinson did against Alabama to open up the 2012 season. But ultimately, the Wolverines will get the better of the Spartans with a stronger offensive attack and will squeak through with a win.
Michigan 24 MSU 21
Stephen: MSU will have two weeks of preparation before heading to Memorial Stadium to attempt to earn its first ever win against the Cornhuskers. This will be the toughest environment the Spartans play in by far. The Spartans’ defense keeps them in the game, but the veteran skill players from Nebraska make too many plays in the fourth quarter to pull away. MSU loses its first conference game and might slip to second place likely depending on Nebraska’s record.
Nebraska 34 MSU 24
Dillon: Make no mistake, the Cornhuskers have a strong football team. A traditional Big 12 power before moving to the Big Ten a few seasons ago, Nebraska hasn’t really been able to assert its traditional authority since joining the conference. However, I think that will change this season. After making a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in 2012, senior quarterback Taylor Martinez is a year older and should be as strong as the Spartans have ever seen him. Although I’ve never really liked Martinez’s game, which is a result of his questionable decision making at times, Martinez will surprise a few people and steal the game against the Spartans at home.
Nebraska 35 MSU 31
Stephen: The Wildcats are a trendy pick these days it seems, but I just don’t see the Spartans getting beat on the road in consecutive weeks by spread teams with a running threat at quarterback. I think MSU gets back on track and wins a tough in which neither team impresses. The more experienced Spartans find ways to win the close ones late for the most part.
MSU 27 Northwestern 24
Dillon: Pat Fitzgerald has built one hell of a strong team in Evanston, Ill. Having been picked by many pundits to have a strong season — and even compete for the Big Ten title — Northwestern is as strong as they’ve been in a very long time. That being the case, I can’t see the Spartans losing three games in a row against quarterbacks of similar talents.
MSU 34 Northwestern 24
Stephen: The senior defenders go out with a bang in their final home game by not allowing a touchdown. Senior linebacker Max Bullough gives the highlight moment by taking an interception back for a score. Minnesota’s only touchdown comes on a pick-six thrown by a backup quarterback. Spartan fans are mostly pleased with what could either be a Legends Division title or runner-up finish.
MSU 35 Minnesota 7
Dillon: As much as I like Jerry Kill and what he’s doing at Minnesota, I just don’t see the Golden Gophers being the same threat in football that they have been in college hockey. All things considered, Kill has gotten a lot of a small amount of talent at Minnesota. But going against MSU will expose some holes and the game won’t ever be close.
MSU 42 Minnesota 14