Schedule analysis: Michigan State


One more week without football. You can do it! Until kickoff finally gets here, we've been looking forward and analyzing every Big Ten team's 2014 schedule.

Wrapping up our series is the defending champion, Michigan State Spartans.

Nonconference schedule (with 2013 records)

Aug. 29: Jacksonville State (11-4)

Sept. 6: at Oregon (11-2)

Sept. 20: Eastern Michigan (2-10)

Sept. 27: Wyoming (5-7)

East Division games

Oct. 18: at Indiana

Oct. 25: Michigan

Nov. 8: Ohio State

Nov. 15: at Maryland

Nov. 22: Rutgers

Nov. 29: at Penn State

Crossover games

Oct. 4: Nebraska

Oct. 11: at Purdue







Gut-check game: On paper, at least, the Nov. 8 game against Ohio State is the Game of the Year in the Big Ten. The good news is that it's at home (unlike another monster showdown for Sparty in Week 2). And Michigan State, of course, beat the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game last December. Still, there's a good chance this one will be for all the marbles (in the East Division, if not more), and Ohio State could be more talented and athletic than the bunch that limped out of Lucas Oil Stadium last season.

Trap game: A week after that Ohio State game, Michigan State goes to Maryland. There is bound to be at least some emotional letdown, win or lose for the Spartans. They will also be traveling to unfamiliar territory against a strange opponent. Maryland might have enough offensive weapons to pose a problem, even for that defense.

Snoozer: Eastern Michigan's history against major-conference opponents is often ugly; since 1996, EMU has lost all six games against Michigan State by an average of nearly 32 points. The Eagles may be in the same state as the Spartans, but they're in a different stratosphere on the football landscape.

Nonconference challenge: Well, duh. It doesn't get much tougher than playing on the road at Oregon, where the noise and the Ducks' offense can often leave opponents feeling dizzy and depressed. But Stanford has given Oregon more trouble than any other team of late, and Michigan State not only plays a similar style to the Cardinal, it beat Stanford in its most recent outing. So there's that to consider.

Analysis: It's tempting to boil Michigan State's season down to the two "O" games: Oregon and Ohio State. Oh, but it's not that simple. The Spartans also play host to Nebraska, which won't be easy. There's always the Michigan game to think about, even though Mark Dantonio & Co. have dominated that series of late. The three Big Ten road games could all be sneakily difficult, as Indiana and Maryland both have potentially electric offenses, and Penn State will view the finale as its bowl game (the Nittany Lions have beaten Wisconsin in their past two season-enders, for what it's worth). Still, getting Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State in Spartan Stadium is a definite advantage. If Dantonio's team can protect home field and avoid complacency on the road, it will have an excellent chance of going back to Indianapolis.