2022 Michigan St. Spartans Preview

by Matt Fargo

Michigan St. Spartans

2021-22 Season Record 11-2 (7-2 Big Ten East) - 9-2-2 ATS - 7-6-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 5
Defense - 9

Overview

Is Sparty back? After not being ranked for three straight seasons, Michigan St. went 11-2 and closed at No. 9 in the final AP poll. Former head coach Mark Dantonio did something his predecessor John Smith could not accomplish and that was get Michigan St. into the upper echelon of college football as he put together six double-digit win seasons and put the Spartans into the final AP top ten poll three times but a pair of 7-6 campaigns in 2018 and 2019 did him in. While Mel Tucker went just 2-5 in his first season, it was not a good indicator for many teams during the COVID shortened season and with 17 returning starters, he took advantage and let everyone know that Michigan St. is back, at least for one year. Everything went their way as statistically, there is no way they should have won 11 games with the numbers they put up but maybe that is a good sign yet luck can change quickly especially in this conference.

Offense

The offense put up some solid numbers last season as the Spartans were No. 42 in total offense, averaging 431.3 ypg and No. 40 in scoring offense, putting up 31.9 ppg and those averages were up over 100 ypg and 14 ppg from the previous season. That was with 10 starters back and Michigan St. has to work with half of that total this season so there could be a drop off. The running game led the way behind Kenneth Walker III who rushed for 1,636 yards and scored 18 touchdowns but he is now in the NFL and the Spartans are likely going to have to rely on a pair of transfers to carry the load. Quarterback Payton Thorne was excellent as he threw for 3,233 yards with 27 touchdowns and just nine interceptions but we will have to see how he performs without a stud running back. He has two of his top three receivers back and while pass protection was outstanding, three starters on the offensive line have to be replaced.

Defense

What the hell happened to the Michigan St. defense last season? The Spartans finished No. 116 in total defense but only bent for the majority of the time as they were a more respectable No. 61 in points allowed. What was a weakness in 2021 needs to be the strength this season to carry the offense early on that has to adjust. Nine starters are back and for the talent that is in place, this is a good thing despite the rough numbers last year. Some of it did not make sense as the Spartans were tied for the seventh most sacks in the country but were dead last in passing yards allowed. What? The secondary is a year older and added talent from the transfer portal so it has no choice but to be better and it has to be a lot. The pass rush will be close to the same as the defensive line is strong even though they lose the two top sack leaders. Help is coming in to mold with the veterans and the linebacking crew will again cause havoc.

2022 Season Outlook

It really is mindboggling how a team can be so bad on one side of the ball yet win so many games and seven were by double-digits. Michigan St. caught some teams in the right scheduling situations and also faced some teams missing key players that it took advantage of. This cannot happen again and seeing that Tucker comes from a defensive background, that unit should have a big turnaround to make up for a possible lethargic early season offense. They will not hit 11 wins again but should be above the .500 mark. A pair of home games against the MAC starts the season and then they hit the road in a tough spot at Washington. The early Big Ten slate is brutal with improved Maryland and Minnesota and then Ohio St., Wisconsin and Michigan back-to-back-to back but the first two are home. The O/U win total is 7.5 and we see six most likely wins so there are some swing games that will determine how that total pans out. 

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