Michigan State football: 10 bold predictions for Spartans' remaining season
Michigan State has had an unpredictable season thus far, starting 7-0 for the first time since 2015 and doing so with a second-year coach, Mel Tucker.
Needless to say, expectations have been greatly surpassed in East Lansing. With the No. 9-ranked Spartans on their bye week — in preparation for No. 6 Michigan next weekend — it’s time to look at some things that could likely happen for a team that seems to be on a roll.
Well, everything has been on a roll with exception to its passing game and lack of star power the past 2 weeks, but that’s beside the point. Michigan State, until further notice, is a contender in the Big Ten. MSU’s fate in the league will be decided in the upcoming weeks.
Nobody will know for sure until the games are played. But for now, it’s reasonable to forecast the following events.
It’s fun to predict, especially when those predictions come to fruition.
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Will beat Michigan
The series is 6-4 MSU over the past 10 meetings. At one point, former Spartans coach Mark Dantonio had won 8 of 10. The Wolverines have taken 3 of the past 5, clearly gaining some traction in the rivalry under Jim Harbaugh. Rivalry stuff happens, and this seems like it could be a magical season for the Spartans, despite their having a weak pass defense.
Logic says Michigan will win, but the whole “anything can happen” in the rivalry hits home right about now. Same scenario as last year, as UM was supposed to roll the Spartans.
Won’t lose by more than 2 TDs to Ohio State
Michigan State vs. Ohio State, there for a while about 7-9 years ago, was developing into a true rivalry game in the Big Ten. Ohio State has all the firepower needed to blow out opponents, but it won’t blow out MSU. The Spartans will likely lose, but not by more than 14 points.
Finish 11-1 – best record since 2015
As long as they beat the Wolverines, the Spartans should be sitting pretty for a great finish in the Big Ten. Assuming everything continues, Michigan State could easily finish the year at 11-1, with its only loss coming to No. 6 Ohio State. The Spartans went 11-1 in the regular season in 2015, then won the B1G title before losing in the Playoff to finish 12-2.
Walker will be top-5 Heisman finalist/B1G honoree
Not only will star running back Kenneth Walker III — who’s rushed for 997 yards — continue to be among rushing leaders nationally, he looks to have a solid chance at finishing in the top 5 of the Heisman race. For the past 3 weeks, he’s been mentioned along with the heavy favorites, such as Alabama QB Bryce Young.
If he remains in Heisman contention, there’s a good chance he’ll also win Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Walker enters the big leagues at MSU
In terms of single-season rushing TDs, Michigan State has had a bevy of great RBs over the years putting up big numbers. Walker III has 9 rushing TDs through 6 games. It is entirely possible for him to get at least 16 this season, putting him in the top 10 of MSU single-season rushing TD lore.
Sedrick Irvin hit 16 in 1996. Lorenzo White did it in 1987. The single-season record is 22, set by Javon Ringer in 2008. Move over Irvin and White, because Walker is on pace to bump their seasons out of Sparty’s top 10.
Thorne joins MSU 3,000 club
There have only been a handful of Spartans to throw for 3,000 or more yards in a season: Jeff Smoker, Kirk Cousins, Connor Cook, Brian Lewerke and Drew Stanton. As of right now, QB Payton Thorne has 1,700 passing yards, needing to average 260 per game to eclipse 3K.
Thorne breaks Cousins’ single-season record of 25 TD passes
With 15 passing TDs already, Thorne could break the single-season mark of 25, set by Kirk Cousins in 2011. If Thorne approaches 3,00 yards, he’ll also likely flirt with the single-season TD record set by arguably the greatest MSU QB in history.
Tucker stays put
Yeah, he said he’d stay at Colorado too. He loved the culture and what he was building, right? Well, he’s built a Woodshed in East Lansing. Despite being mentioned for the LSU job — which opens at the end of the season — Tucker seems like he’s genuinely enjoying himself with the Spartans.
LSU has struggled since winning the 2019 national championship. Tucker has his Spartans in the AP top 10 for the third consecutive week. This is only his second year and his first full season. Prior to 2020 season, he didn’t have luxuries such as spring practice and recruiting trips. He built upon an existing infrastructure and raided the transfer portal in order to be immediately competitive.
New Year’s 6 bowl
The Spartans will make a New Year’s 6 bowl. That was easy, wasn’t it?
Nailor with 800+ yards
Jalen “Speedy” Nailor already has 512 receiving yards. Due to Michigan State also having Jayden Reed and Tre Mosley, it’s highly unlikely that the Spartans will have one WR finish head and shoulders above the rest, in terms of receiving yards. Nailor and Reed will be the team leaders and Mosley will contribute with steady production.
With that said, put Nailor down for 800 or more yards, and team-leader receiving yardage status.