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Michigan State Spartans Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Michigan State season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Michigan State Spartans Preview
Head Coach: Mel Tucker, 3rd year at Michigan State, 13-7
4th year overall, 18-14, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 11-2, Conference: 7-2
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Michigan State Top 10 Players
Michigan State Schedule & Analysis
Michigan State Spartans Preview 2022
As the man said, you are what your record says you are.
Michigan State was 11-2 in Mel Tucker’s second season with the program. It beat Michigan for the second year in a row, it beat Penn State, and it went on to beat Pitt in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Give Tucker and the Spartans all the credit for finding a way to get it done. You don’t luck your way into 11 wins and a New Year’s Six win, but …
Beating Miami wasn’t that big a deal, the schedule was loaded with layups until late October, the Spartans got a few massive breaks against Michigan, go totally annihilated by Ohio State and walloped by Purdue, got Penn State – and Michigan – in East Lansing, and Pitt not having Kenny Pickett turned out to be a gigantic deal. And …
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah 11-2, 11-2, 11-2 – and doing it with the nation’s worst pass defense and the worst overall D in the Big Ten.
This time around the Spartans get Wisconsin and Minnesota from the West. They have to go on the road to Michigan and Penn State, going to Maryland will be tough, and going to Washington won’t be a breeze. Fortunately, Tucker just upgraded his team to be a whole lot better for what’s coming.
Most teams get guys from the transfer portal to fill holes. Tucker and Michigan State got stars, with at least eight about to play major roles at an all-star level.
Combine the new guys with an already terrific base that was rudely snubbed by the Big Ten all-star types, and continue with the attitude of being disrespected in its own division in the preseason prognostications, and there’s a great blend of things happening.
There’s no down time here, and there’s no grace period. The great strength of the Mark Dantonio was the consistency – his teams found ways to get the job done, too. Now it’s up to Tucker and his Spartans to not only show that same high-level consistency, but to take it up a few notches.
11-2 last year? A whole lot of things went right. Go 11-2 this year? Then the record will really and truly show what Michigan State football is.
Michigan State Spartans Preview 2022: Offense, Defense Breakdown
Michigan State Spartans Preview 2022: Offense
The running game and new Seattle Seahawk Kenneth Walker got all of the attention, but this was a good passing attack that blended together nicely.
The O didn’t control the clock considering how good Walker was, and it had to press too often because the defense struggled so much, but everything was fine as long as it was able to get to around 400 yards. When it stalled – particularly the few times when the ground game was stuffed – there were problems.
The transfer portal isn’t going to play the big role on the offensive side like it will for the defense, but …
The Spartans went out and themselves two terrific backs to replace Walker. Kenneth Walker was a good back at Wake Forest before he came to Michigan State. Jarek Broussard was a terrific back for Colorado in 2020 and did what he could in a rough situation in 2021.
Jalen Berger was a super-recruit for Wisconsin who didn’t work out, but the talent is there to blow up in the rotation with Broussard and a few other good backs. Now they need a line to work behind.
There’s some reworking to do with a few key lost starters, and the depth needs to be developed. However. getting guard Brian Greene from Washington State helps, and the left side should be fine with OT Jarrett Horst and OG JD Duplain two experienced vets.
Payton Thorne was under the radar even with a strong 3,233-yard, 27 touchdown season. Walker was the star of the show, but when the offense didn’t have 9 in the backfield for the bowl game, Thorne showed up in the clutch with a season-high 354 yards and three scores. He can move enough to matter, doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, and can get the ball deep.
The running backs should be the stars, but Jayden Reed might be the second-best receiver in the Big Ten behind OSU’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
He hit the 1,000-yard mark last year with ten scores averaging over 17 yards per catch, Tre Mosley will be a reliable No. 2, and Illinois transfer Daniel Barker should be an All-Big Ten-caliber tight end. Combine them with a strong recruiting class, and the Spartans are set.
Michigan State Spartans Preview 2022: Defense
The defense has to stop someone from throwing the ball. Mel Tucker made his name as a defensive coach, Scottie Hazelton has been around the defensive assistant block, and there’s talent on the Spartan D. There’s just no excuse to have the worst pass defense in America again.
The run defense was fine, but that’s a statistical anomaly – everyone was too busy throwing it. The Spartans gave up too many first downs, there were way too many penalties, and …
There has to be a fix, but the strangest part about it all is …
The pass rush was a killer. Michigan State led the Big Ten in sacks and was second in tackles for loss with the production coming from enough places to keep it all going despite losing top pass rushers Jacob Panasiuk and Drew Beesley. Khris Bogle is coming in from Florida to go on the other side of second-leading sacker Jeff Pietrowski.
The ends will be more than fine, especially around a fantastic rotation at tackle that should be a wall against the run. 315-pound senior Jacob Slade is the best of the bunch with 285-pound sophomore Simeon Barrow not far behind.
The linebacking corps will be interesting if Jacoby Windmon can take all the production he generated at UNLV last year and bring it to the middle linebacking spot. 75-tackle Qavaris Crouch left through the transfer portal, but Cal Haladay is back on the weakside after finishing second on the team with 96 stops and Mississippi State’s Aaron Rule will be a factor. They’ll all get behind the line.
And then there’s …
The secondary. It has to be night-and-day better, and it starts with getting Ameer Speed from Georgia for one corner spot. The recruiting class will play a big role overall, but the starting five will at least be loaded with experience, Safety Xavier Henderson led the team with 96 tackles, there are more options at corner, and …
This is the make-or-break group for the Spartan season.
Michigan State Spartans: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT
Michigan State Spartans: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats
Michigan State Spartans: Key To The 2022 Offense
Keep hammering with the running game.
QB Payton Thorne is good, and the receiving corps is great, but the Spartans have to commit to the ground game and keep it all going.
They were able to win at times last year when the rushing attack didn’t work, but they needed a late somewhat-miraculous rally to get by Pitt – the ground game finished with just 56 yards – and the Indiana and Nebraska games were way harder than they needed to be thanks to the inability to run.
Those three games and the blowout loss to Ohio State were the only three times the O ran for 100 yards or fewer. In 2020, the Spartans failed to get to 100 yards in all five losses.
Control the clock better, control games better, start doing more with the time of possession, rely on the loaded group of running backs. This team can do that.
Michigan State Spartans: Key To The 2022 Defense
The pass defense …
Fine, let’s do this already.
Michigan State’s secondary wasn’t just awful, it was at a whole other level of miserable allowing 325 passing yards per game and 4,222 yards on the season. Duke was the only other team to give up over 300 yards per outing, and it gave up 312 yards. No one else gave up more than 3,766 total passing yards.
No, seriously. How historically bad was the Michigan State pass defense?
2017 UConn. That was the last time any defense gave up over 325 yards per game.
To be a wee bit fair, the Spartans had to deal with the high-powered WKU offense that winged it all over the yard, Purdue, Ohio State, Maryland, and …
The 2019 Colorado pass defense under Mel Tucker was a total disaster, too, finishing 123rd in the nation.
Go from utterly miserable to just mediocre, and the D will be at a whole other level.
Michigan State Spartans: Key Player To The 2022 Season
PK Jack Stone, Fr.
Michigan State should have a big year, but the difference between great and special will be those few games that come down to the kicking game.
Matt Coghlin wasn’t always a rock, but he hit all 148 extra points in his five-year career, and made 76 field goals including three in the 23-20 win over Nebraska, both of his attempts in the 20-15 win over Indiana, and nailed his one try in the 30-27 win over Penn State.
Stone is one of the best kicker recruits in this year’s class, and he’s got the leg, but the job – and possibly the season – is being turned over to a true freshman.
Michigan State Spartans: Key Transfer
CB Ameer Speed, Sr.
UNLV LB Jacoby Windmon and running backs Jalen Berger (Wisconsin) and Jarek Broussard (Colorado) might be stronger gets, but the pass defense that desperately needs playmakers has to get a big year out of Speed.
A great recruit for Georgia, Speed has 6-3, 210-pound safety size for a corner. He didn’t do much for the Dawgs, though, with just 25 tackles and one broken up pass in his five seasons.
The job at one corner spot at Michigan State is all his.
Michigan State Key Game To The 2022 Season
Ohio State, Oct. 8
Yeah, yeah, yeah, beating Michigan in Ann Arbor would be fun, and getting by Wisconsin would be nice, but those two come right after dealing with an Ohio State team that should be even better than the one that came up with the 56-7 performance art last year.
Ohio State has worn Michigan State as a hat on a six-game streak, winning by an average score of 38-7 and a combined score of 142-35 over the last four.
Lose, and forget about playing for the Big Ten championship.
Michigan State Spartans: 2021 Fun Stats
– Penalties: Michigan State 90 for 831 yards – Opponents 76 for 604 yards
– Passing Yards Per Game: Opponents 325 – Michigan State 253
– Sacks: Michigan State 42 for 293 yards – Opponents 21 for 151 yards
Michigan State Spartans Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT
Michigan State Spartans Season Prediction, What Will Happen
There are a LOT of massive glitches that have to be fixed for an 11-2 team.
Obviously the pass defense has to do something right, the boatload of penalties have to stop, the late season losses Ohio State and Purdue were way too galling.
Michigan State is paying Mel Tucker $95 million to figure it out.
The contract created the stability for the long play here, and there’s a nice blend of things happening here. Tucker and the staff are going for the quick fix through the transfer portal, all while a strong recruiting class is setting the tone for the next several years.
It’s always flaky to throw in a mindset or attitude into a win total and prediction equation, but this is another good team that gets to be fueled by the disrespect that’s going to come with all the love given to the rest of the Big Ten East.
Set The Michigan State Spartans Regular Season Win Total At … 8
There are just enough dangerous games to keep the Spartans from getting back to 11 wins, even if this team might be better than the 2021 version.
The schedule is tougher.
Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are all home games, but it’s asking a ton to take all three. Even if the Spartans can come close, at Washington – it’s a better team this year – at Michigan, at Penn State, at Maryland, at Illinois – yes, Illinois – are all going to be fights
Forget the record and what it might be. Michigan State will be better, the team will battle every week, and this is about to be a fun season.