If you're an optimistic Michigan State Spartans football fan, then you'll see the massive potential on this year's schedule.
Mark Dantonio's squad will have a shot against some of the best teams in the nation including Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and, of course, Michigan. Sounds exciting, but there's a big problem: The Spartans have to play FOUR of those teams on the ROAD.
Let's take a look at each game on the schedule with some wild fan predictions for each:
Aug. 30 vs. Tulsa
This is the first meeting in the history of these football programs. Tulsa is Michigan State's lone FBS opponent this year, and this should be a big win for the Spartans at home. The Golden Hurricane won just three games last year. This game, as it is in most years, is an opportunity for the Spartans to run their offense and test the strength of their defense. But remember last year's home opener against Utah State? Michigan State won 38-31, a much closer score than many expected. However, Utah State ended up winning their next 10 straight games, including a big win at BYU. Still, Tulsa is not Utah State.
Fan Prediction: 42-7, Michigan State
Sept. 7 vs. Western Michigan
This is a win, right? Well, Michigan State has been known to have some trouble with these in-state "directional" schools early in the season -- see Central Michigan 2009. But Western has not beaten the Spartans in football since ... 1919. Yeah, you might be surprised to know they played each other way back then. This year the Broncos have to travel to both East Lansing and then Syracuse on Sept. 21. They'll be hungry to win one of these games against a big school.
Fan Prediction: 34-14, Michigan State
Sept. 14 vs. Arizona State
Week three gives us the rematch. Arizona State won 16-13 last year with that late rally and field goal in the final seconds. It was about 1,000 degrees F in Arizona, and the Spartans were not looking good in the heat. To make it worse: The Sun Devils ended up losing the next week at San Diego State. This should have been a W for Michigan State, and it's a must-win this year for Dantonio's team at home in East Lansing. All they need is some offense -- more than 16 points, at least, please.
Fan Prediction: 35-21, Michigan State
Sept. 21 @ Northwestern
Northwestern has not lost to Michigan State since 2013 in Evanston. The schools have met on the football field only three times since then, all Ws for the Wildcats, two of which were wins in East Lansing. If the Spartans want to get some attention this year, they have to win at Northwestern. Although it may seem like that's a tough place to play, historically speaking Michigan State has not struggled to win on the lakeshore. In fact, the Spartans are 4-1 in their past five trips to Evanston.
Fan Prediction: 39-24, Michigan State
Sept. 28 vs. Indiana
The Spartans beat Indiana, 35-21, last year, and you might expect a similar score and outcome this year. The Hoosiers have a new quarterback while they work on sorting out the offense. If Michigan State really does go undefeated into this game (it's MSU's homecoming), then this is a win. Assuming Brian Lewerke is the strong, healthy quarterback from two years ago, mark this a W.
Fan Prediction: 35-14, Michigan State
Oct. 5 @ Ohio State
So here's where it gets "interesting." Let's say senior Lewerke and the Spartans are 5-0 heading into Columbus, which probably won't happen, but let's say they really do win all of those games. Then why not beat Ohio State on the road? Because that's difficult. Michigan State was blasted, 26-6, by the Buckeyes last year in East Lansing. The problem last year: They were outplayed in all areas of the game, especially rushing. Other than Lewerke possibly being healthy, not much has changed on paper from season-to-season that would suggest a better outcome for MSU in this matchup. Maybe the defense can keep the score down, which they actually did last year.
Fan Prediction: 35-14, Ohio State
Oct. 12 @ Wisconsin
A week later, and it's off to Wisconsin. The Badgers are expected to do some damage over in the Big Ten West this year. Let's mark this a W for Michigan State, though, because the Spartans are going into this game one of two ways: Pissed off or 6-0 after topping Ohio State on the road. I would not want to face them either way.
Fan Prediction: 28-24, Michigan State
Oct. 26 vs. Penn State
Penn State is going to East Lansing this year on a revenge mission. That 21-17 loss last year at home ruined their season. Teams do not forget those games, and so this is a loss for the Spartans despite their return home after a big win and a bye week.
Fan Prediction: 34-25, Penn State
Nov. 9 vs. Illinois
The schools last met on the football field way back in 2016 when Illinois WON in Champaign. This has to be a win for Michigan State at home. Illinois is considered the weakest in the West, and you can't afford to lose to them after going up against some of the best of the East. Not a good look.
Fan Prediction: 42-14, Michigan State
Nov. 16 @ Michigan
Back on the road to none other than ... MICHIGAN. Yes, the Spartans head to Ann Arbor this year, hoping to keep the Wolverines from winning this rivalry game in consecutive years for the first time since 2007. The road team has won the past four meetings, but there is no question Michigan is the favorite heading into this year's game.
Fan Prediction: 35-21, Michigan
Nov. 23 @ Rutgers
Rutgers tried to beat Michigan State last year in East Lansing. It didn't happen, but boy was that game a lot closer than anyone thought it would be. It's time to go to New Jersey to remind them they don't belong in his league.
Fan Prediction: 42-7, Michigan State
Nov. 30 vs. Maryland
Well, Maryland football is kind of a mess right now. Michigan State has to win this game no matter what their record is. This could be the difference between an 8-4 and 9-3 season.
Fan Prediction: 45-21, Michigan State
Thank you for reading this far and allowing me to indulge in wild fan predictions. I have been a Michigan State football fan for about 25 years now, four of which I spent as a student at the school. My bias shows by giving this team a 9-3 record in 2019 after their struggle this past season. But if the offense is even slightly better than it was last year, the Spartans should have no problem getting 8 wins. It's just too bad they have to play such huge rivalry games on the road.