Michigan State will have a middle-of-the-road type of schedule in 2013; nothing too difficult, but nothing that is necessarily a gimme, either. With Andrew Maxwell returning without Le'Veon Bell, will the Spartans be able to take advantage of this average schedule? Let's take a look:
8/30 Western Michigan: Well, Western isn't exactly the toughest competition, but they are respectable enough. P.J. Fleck took over in Kalamazoo after Bill Cubit was fired and took the OC job at Illinois. The Broncos have typically had a decent passing game (ranking 28th in the country last year), and coach Fleck's background as a wide receiver at Northern Illinois should help the receivers run crisp routes and get open for probable starting QB Tyler Van Tubbergen.
9/7 South Florida: The Bulls have seen a steady decline since Jim Leavitt was fired, but they are talented enough to steal this one away from the Spartans if they aren't careful and are too cocky. Although the Bulls had a terrible 2012 season, new coach Willie Taggart could bring the winning ways back to Tampa.
9/14 Youngstown State: Penguins. Penguins. I'm pretty sure that a Spartan can take a Penguin, even a crazy-mad Penguin. It's just a Penguin (yes, I'm aware of their success under Jim Tressel). Maybe if they changed their name to the Jaws they would stand a chance. Think of it, they could have a picture of an angry former Penguin in Ron Jaworski as their mascot instead of an annoyed Penguin.
9/21 @ Notre Dame: I hate both of these teams, but my hatred for the Irish usually wins out and means I find myself hoping Sparty can win. The road team has actually won this match-up ten times out of the last sixteen; that fact alone could keep the Spartans in this.
10/5 @ Iowa: With a bye week after Notre Dame, there shouldn't be any reason why State shouldn't be prepared to take advantage of the Hawkeyes. When betting lines are released, there's usually some love given to the home team, but Iowa is a 9-point underdog; that's some tough love.
10/12 Indiana: I have to say that I will be rooting for Indiana this year. It's not that I'm a fan, but I like underdog stories (except in the Iowa instance above), and it's always great to see teams pull themselves up off the floor--I just don't want it to be as scary as Northwestern has become. However, Indiana probably won't be able to pull out the victory at Spartan Stadium.
10/19 Purdue: Even with Sparty's bad offense, they'll probably find a way to beat first year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell. The only reason to pick MSU in this one, though, is because it's at home.
10/26 @ Illinois: I will laugh my ass off if Illinois wins.
11/2 Michigan: Okay, we all know how recent history has played out between these two and that former MSU QB Kirk Cousins can walk the streets for the rest of his life. These things are always cyclical, but I think the cycle has ended for State, regardless of them being a 3-point favorite. Michigan is clearly on the up-swing, while MSU is losing to careers in rap.
11/16 @ Nebraska: Sparty needs to win. Would you like to know why? Because my cousin lives in Nebraska, is a huge Huskers fan (it's all they have, after all, and she has endless posts about Big Red on her Facebook page), and Nebraska is a state that really, really bothers me. Have you ever been stuck in central Nebraska during a blizzard? I have. Suicide was looking like a very viable option for a little while.
11/23 @ Northwestern: This may actually be the best game on the MSU schedule. It was a close game last year in East Lansing, with the Wildcats getting the win. Northwestern may get the nod because they're playing at home, but don't be surprised if Michigan State wins; this could end up being an OT thriller type of game.
11/30 Minnesota: Nope. Sorry, Goldy. Philip Nelson just isn't going to have enough to get the win.
Overall, Michigan State could be a respectable 9-3 and in the mix for a chance to play in the B1G title game. The offense needs to get better and maintain some level of positive performance for this to happen, though. The real disappointing thing about State's schedule is the fact that they are not playing Wisconsin. This is a rivalry that has made Michigan State arguably the most hated team in Madison. Yes, even over teams like Minnesota or Iowa.