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Michigan State Football: Game-by-game predictions for 2023

Bowl bound?



Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State football doesn’t have a ton of expectations, but will the Spartans exceed them this season?

With kickoff less than a week away, it’s finally time to unveil my predictions for every Michigan State football game in 2023. It should be fun to look back on these in December to see how wildly wrong I was.

Game 1: vs. Central Michigan (Sept. 1)

Central Michigan’s quarterback Bert Emmanuel Jr. is a dynamic athlete. If Central is going to win this game, it will be because he is the best player on the field. But I don’t see it. Michigan State should have the athletes in their front seven to contain him. This could be a rough watch offensively as MSU breaks in a new quarterback. But I think they lean heavily on the rushing game to grind down the Chippewas.

Prediction: Win (1-0)

Game 2: vs. Richmond (Sept. 9)

The Spiders should not be dismissed simply because they come from the FCS level. Every year, we’re surprised with an upset or a close call from a team playing up a level. At the same time, nobody should confuse Richmond with North Dakota State. MSU should win this game 10 times out of 10.

Prediction: Win (2-0)

Game 3: vs. Washington (Sept. 16)

I just have a funny feeling about this game. I’m always skeptical of the team that overachieved a year ago and brings back everyone. Maybe it’s because I watched it play out with Michigan State football from 2021 to 2022. To me, this Washington team has some regression coming in 2023. That starts in East Lansing. The Spartans ride a wild crowd and a shocking display of offense against Washington’s streaky defense. MSU gets the last laugh against Michael Penix Jr. with a Malik Spencer interception on the final drive to seal the deal.

Prediction: Win (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Game 4: vs. Maryland (Sept. 23)

This will be pegged as a “letdown” game all week for MSU after their upset of Washington. Maryland will come into this game 3-0. Taulia Tagovailoa will be getting Heisman whispers after tearing up terrible defenses from Towson, Charlotte, and Virginia. But he’ll finally face a real defense – with a pass rush that makes him sweat. Again, the Spartans ride the momentum at home and lean on their defense to slow down a Maryland attack that is finally playing against real competition.

Prediction: Win (4-0)

Game 5: at Iowa (Sept. 30)

After an unexpected 4-0 start, people will start to take the Spartans seriously. Iowa will average about 11 points per game over the first four weeks of the season after tough tests against Iowa State and Penn State. Michigan State may even end up favored to win this game. Then, out of nowhere, Iowa will come alive. Kinnick Stadium has been a house of horrors for MSU over the years and 2023 will be no different.

Prediction: Loss (4-1, 1-1) 

Game 6: at Rutgers (Oct. 14)

The bye week comes at a bad time for Michigan State football after losing at Iowa. The Spartans are caught looking ahead to the Michigan game while also trying to rid the taste in their mouths from the Iowa game. Trailing at halftime, MSU is saved by the right arm and strong legs of Noah Kim in a breakthrough performance. The Spartans wind up winning by 10 after a late field goal puts the game on ice.

Prediction: Win (5-1, 2-1)

Game 7: vs. Michigan (Oct. 21)

The Spartans’ hot start allows NBC to keep the kickoff time for the Paul Bunyan Trophy at night. The frenzied crowd becomes a disadvantage to MSU though as they play too aggressively. Kim’s renewed confidence is rattled after two early turnovers. The Spartans get in an early hole. Jim Harbaugh has the luxury of playing from ahead and is able to lean on his defense and running game. This becomes an uneventful, boring game which Michigan wins 27-13.

Prediction: Loss (5-2, 2-2)

Game 8: at Minnesota (Oct. 28)

The Gophers are anxious to get back in the win column after consecutive losses against Michigan and Iowa. Michigan State, meanwhile, struggles to find the motivation after having their Big Ten East dreams smashed by their rival. An 11 a.m. local start time allows Minnesota to jump on the Spartans early. MSU never recovers. Katin Houser plays the entire second half while P.J. Fleck delivers MSU back-to-back beatdowns.

Prediction: Loss (5-3, 2-3) 

Game 9: vs. Nebraska (Nov. 4)

Matt Rhule has Nebraska ahead of schedule at 5-3 when they make their trip to East Lansing. But it doesn’t take long to see that these 5-3 teams are not equal. Invigorated by the route at Minnesota and the last home game at Spartan Stadium, MSU looks like the team we saw in September and easily handles the Huskers. Tre Mosley catches two touchdown passes in a feel-good win on Senior Day.

Prediction: Win (6-3, 3-3)

Game 10: at Ohio State (Nov. 11)

The Spartans will be squarely in the crosshairs for an Ohio State team that doesn’t have a formidable opponent before or after on the schedule. At 8-1, Ryan Day pours it on MSU in an effort to appeal to the playoff committee. The national media swoops in (after ignoring them until now) to watch the Spartans get thrashed in prime time on NBC. The usual narratives about Mel Tucker and his contract become insufferable.

Prediction: Loss (6-4, 3-4) 

Game 11: at Indiana (Nov. 18)

Michigan State football finally catches a break in the schedule as they take on a one-win Indiana team with an interim head coach. Strong winds and a rain/snow mix force MSU to run the ball almost 50 times. Jalen Berger and Nathan Carter both go over 100 yards as MSU rolls the Hoosiers.

Prediction: Win (7-4, 4-4) 

Game 12: vs. Penn State (Nov. 24) — at Ford Field

The game at Ford Field that so many Spartan fans complained about winds up being a rousing success. In the aftermath of a Lions victory against the Packers, in the midst of a holiday weekend, the vibes are immaculate. MSU fans pack Ford Field with their sights set on a New Year’s Day bowl game. Without a path to the Big Ten Championship or College Football Playoff, Michigan State comes in as a very trendy upset pick. Despite that, the Nittany Lions get a career day from Drew Allar that will leave their fans revving up the hype train for a 2024 run. A last-second field goal sinks the Spartans in a game that gets replayed on BTN for the next 10 years.

Prediction: Loss (7-5, 4-5)

Bowl game: vs. Duke (Dec. 27) — Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Duke in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl? Feels about right. MSU gets rewarded for their upstart season by getting to take part in the most fun bowl game of the season. While many of the starters opt out for both teams, Tucker gets to show off the depth within the program by playing a lot of younger guys. Tyrell Henry has a career day with a receiving and punt return touchdown as MSU wins comfortably. Coach K joins the television broadcast and immediately sucks the fun out of the room by refusing to try any of the weird mayo-themed food items. The fun concludes with Darius Snow and Cal Haladay giving Tucker the famous mayo bath.

Prediction: Win (8-5)