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Michigan State football: Realistic post-spring expectations for 2023

What should we really be expecting from this team?



Michigan State football
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Spring ball is in the books and we have a better idea of what Michigan State football will look like in 2023.

Mel Tucker and Michigan State football have officially wrapped up another spring.

It was an eventful one as the Spartans had a quarterback battle, added some key transfers, and lost some starters to the portal.

Michigan State’s quarterback battle is down to two after Payton Thorne transferred to Auburn, leaving the QB1 job up to Katin Houser and Noah Kim. Keon Coleman is the other transfer out of the program after spring ball. The Spartans did add Armorion Smith and Kee’yon Stewart to the secondary from the portal along with about a dozen others from before spring ball.

The depth chart is starting to take shape and expectations are starting to formulate.

At Michigan State, expectations should be no less than eight wins, especially after they were elevated following the 11-2 season in 2021. But since they’ve been brought back down to earth a bit thanks to a 5-7 campaign, we should expect nothing less than a bowl berth in 2023.

Does that mean Michigan State is going to make a bowl? Not necessarily, especially given the strength of schedule, but six wins should be the absolute floor for this program.

So what are the realistic expectations for this team?

Looking at the offense, I can see improvement. Thorne seemed to hold the offense back, at times, and the offensive line was a bit of a weakness last year. The team’s top two receivers are gone, but there’s solid young talent there that could surprise some people. Will we see the next Jayden Reed or Coleman? No, but Antonio Gates Jr. and Tyrell Henry are exciting pieces for the future. And Kim and Houser should, at the very least, perform at the level of Thorne from last year. The run game will improve with the offensive line getting better and more experienced. I really like Nathan Carter and Jalen Berger leading the way and Jaren Mangham is a solid third option.

On defense, Michigan State football was horrid last year but got slightly better throughout the season. Scottie Hazelton, like Jay Johnson, is in a prove-it year. He has a really good linebacking unit as well as a deep defensive line, if it can stay healthy. The real question mark is the secondary. It’s going to be really young, but the additions of Smith (Cincinnati) and Stewart (TCU) should help. Michigan State ranked 87th nationally in passing yards allowed per game last year and I see a slight improvement coming. Top 80 seems realistic to expect. A better pass rush should definitely help matters.

Now, the schedule. There are some games that I believe will almost undoubtedly be tallied in the loss column such as Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Washington, Minnesota, and Penn State. Could the Spartans steal one of those? Sure, but winning at Ohio State or Iowa seems highly unlikely. And both Michigan and Penn State will have top-five teams this season. Minnesota will be a contender in the Big Ten West and it’s a tough road game. And Washington, well, has Michael Penix Jr.

I can see 1-5 in those games and 2-4, at best.

The winnable games have to be Richmond, Central Michigan, Maryland (home), Rutgers (away), Nebraska (home), and Indiana (away). I think Michigan State has to go at least 4-2 in those games.

My realistic expectations for 2023 Michigan State football is 6-6. I could see 7-5 happening, but the schedule is rough and 5-7 or 4-8 is also very possible. But 6-6 should be the expectation (not hope).

Writer, co-owner of Spartan Shadows. Michigan State and college football expert at FanSided and formerly of The Detroit News. Expert on all things Michigan State. Connor Muldowney has written about Michigan State since graduating from the university with a degree in journalism back in 2013. Ten years of experience as a Michigan State writer/reporter.


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