After having an abnormally disappointing season in 2016, Michigan State seemed to surprise more than a few along the way to a bounce-back '17 campaign that included wins against both Michigan and Penn State. So what will 2018 have in store for the Spartans? Is it safe to assume Michigan State will continue to trend of playing competitive football and competing for the Big Ten East in the fall, or will the Spartans take a backseat to some other contenders in the mix for a Big Ten title?
A quick glance at the schedule and it seems Michigan State gets a few advantages in key spots in division play, although having to play at Penn State followed by a home game against Michigan appears to be the make-or-break point of the season for the Spartans, with some revenge factors weighing in against Sparty. Will that matter?
Here is a look at what Michigan State has lined up on the schedule for the fall, including an early trip out west to Pac-12 country.
Michigan State Spartans 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 3
Week 1 – Aug. 31 vs. Utah State (East Lansing, Mich.)
Michigan State opens the 2018 season at home on a Friday night against Utah State out of the Mountain West. Michigan State should have a decided edge here in the first meeting between the two programs.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 at Arizona State (Tempe, Ari.)
The Spartans head west to take on Arizona State in Tempe. The two programs have not played since 1986, which was just one year prior to the last time ASU head coach Herm Edwards coached at the college level. This will be a big test for Edwards, and battling the heat may be an issue for the Spartans.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.)
After an early bye week on the schedule, Michigan State opens its Big Ten schedule on the road at Indiana. The Hoosiers are a bit of a mystery and upset Michigan State in Bloomington two years ago. Last year was a tougher battle than expected as well, but Michigan State has held the upper hand in this series for a long time, and that isn’t likely to change this year.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 vs. Central Michigan (East Lansing, Mich.)
After one conference game, Michigan State returns home for one last non-conference tilt against Central Michigan. This one should not be much of a problem for Michigan State. The Spartans have won the last three meetings by a combined score of 116-24 since being upset by the Chippewas at home in 2009.
Week 6 – Oct. 6 vs. Northwestern (East Lansing, Mich.)
The feisty Northwestern Wildcats come to Spartan Stadium at the beginning of October looking to extend their winning streak over the Spartans to three. Northwestern could be a problem, having won three of the last four meetings. Michigan State can’t afford to take a loss here with what’s coming next on the schedule.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 at Penn State (University Park, Pa.)
A road trip to Penn State will be the toughest challenge of the season to this point. Penn State will be looking for some revenge after suffering a tough loss on a last-second field goal in a weather-delayed game in East Lansing last fall. Penn State dominated Michigan State the last time the Spartans traveled to Beaver Stadium, but Michigan State has won two of the last three in Happy Valley.
Week 8 – Oct. 20 vs. Michigan (East Lansing, Mich.)
Speaking of revenge games, Michigan and Jim Harbaugh are looking for just that in East Lansing. A week after playing at Penn State, the Spartans must rev the engines back up for a big in-state rivalry game with the Wolverines. This two-game swing could determine whether or not Michigan State is going to make a run for the division title or not. Going 1-1 should keep them in it, but 2-0 puts MSU in a favorable position.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 vs. Purdue (East Lansing, Mich.)
Although Purdue could be a more dangerous threat than it has in years, Michigan State has won seven straight games in the series. The last time MSU lost at home to Purdue was in 2006. This game might be more difficult if it was played on the road, but the home-field advantage should allow Michigan State to secure a win in this spot.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 at Maryland (College Park, Md.)
Maryland has struggled against a number of Big Ten teams since joining the conference, but the Terrapins have notched wins against Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. The Spartans were taken down by Maryland on the road in 2016 during a down year. The result this year may go a bit differently for MSU but the Spartans have been held to 17 points in each of the last two meetings with the Terrapins.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 vs. Ohio State (East Lansing, Mich.)
Playing Ohio State, the likely favorite in the Big Ten in 2018, is always a big game, and if Michigan State can get a few things to fall its way earlier in the schedule, this one could be the game that ultimately determines the Big Ten East champion. That was the scenario last year, but Ohio State made short work of the Spartans in Columbus. Michigan State has lost three of the last four games against the Buckeyes since their Big Ten Championship Game meeting in 2013. Two of those losses have come at home in Spartan Stadium.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 at Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.)
After a showdown with Ohio State, Michigan State heads out to Nebraska to see how it fares against what could be a revitalized Huskers offense. Scott Frost is looking to breathe new life into the Nebraska offense, so the Spartans could have their hands full. Nebraska also won the last meeting between the two schools, a 39-38 decision in Lincoln in 2015.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 vs. Rutgers (East Lansing, Mich.)
Whatever happens until this point, the chances Michigan State closes out the regular season with a win appear high. Michigan State is 4-0 against the Scarlet Knights since they joined the Big Ten in 2014, and only one of those games was close. Michigan State has outscored Rutgers 89-7 in the two most recent meetings, and this one could be another lopsided contest as well.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.