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Opponent preview: Michigan State needs an offensive overhaul to be above .500

Lots of new faces on the offensive end for the Spartans in 2023

Michigan State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Although the Michigan Wolverines had a 29-7 win over Michigan State in 2022, it was one of their most boring victories of the season for the maize and blue as Jake Moody punched in five field goals. Head coach Jim Harbaugh essentially played keep away with his offense, possessing the ball for over 40 minutes of game time. It was one of the most wonky and lopsided wins of the season.

Then came the assault of the two Michigan players in the tunnel after the game by several Spartans. Gemon Green pressed charges after hiring a lawyer, and eight players were suspended indefinitely from the Michigan State program.

It will undoubtedly lead to one of Michigan's most dramatic games on the calendar in 2023 when they head to East Lansing on Oct. 21st.

Week 8 - Michigan State Spartans

  • 2022 Record: 5-7 overall, 3-6 in the Big Ten
  • Head Coach: Mel Tucker, 4th year at MSU: 18-14 record
  • Key Losses: QB Payton Thorne, WR Keon Coleman, WR Jayden Reed, RB Elijah Collins
  • Key Additions: DL Tunmise Adeleye, RB Nathan Carter, CB Semar Melvin

Each season Mel Tucker has been in East Lansing, he has relied heavily on the transfer portal to fill his roster. This offseason, Tucker brought in 14 transfer players matching the total he had in the 2021 class which helped contribute to the Spartans' 11-2 record the following season.

That 2021 season has kept this program upright, and it mostly came from one guy — Kenneth Walker III — being a superstar. Tucker hopes to succeed in this strategy once again, but it’s not easy to put a team together each season from guys coming from the transfer portal with different coaching backgrounds and learning a new system/playbook. Almost a third of their roster (24 scholarship players) and several key starters on both sides of the ball have now come to Michigan State via the portal.

Leadership is going to be questioned, especially on the offensive end for the Spartans. Quarterback Payton Thorne and No. 1 returning receiver Keon Coleman entered the transfer portal in late April, after Michigan State’s spring practices. Thorne was a two-time captain who was fourth in program history with 49 career touchdown passes. Coleman had 58 catches, almost 800 yards, and seven touchdowns for the team last year. It will be very difficult to replace the production those two had along with wide receiver Jayden Reed who is on to the NFL.

Noah Kim, a redshirt junior and former three-star recruit, will very likely be the program’s starter with Thorne out the door. He appeared in four games last season and was rather efficient against mostly second-team players from opponents. He’s played 38 career snaps throwing 14-for-19 for 174 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans will need him to have similar effectiveness against starting-caliber teams in 2023.

Arguably Michigan State’s biggest issue in 2022 was replacing Walker. Jalen Berger is back for his second season in East Lansing after leading the team with 683 rushing yards in 2022. He, Jarek Broussard, and UCONN transfer Nathan Carter will likely get most of the touches out of the backfield this season, and neither was a game-changing back the year before for the green and white.

On the other hand, the defense has a lot of talent and could be a lot better if the offense can put together sustainable drives to give them a break. But they have to force more turnovers. The team had two interceptions last year which led to a negative turnover margin for the Spartans. That starts with putting more pressure on the quarterback, which was a problem for the team in 2022.

Their secondary will be young in 2023. Sophomores Jaden Mangham and Malik Spencer will be starters at safety, but corner is a huge question mark. Wisconsin transfer Semar Melvin may take one of the starting roles alongside grad student Chester Kimbrough and junior Charles Brantley.

Two feisty linebackers lead the defense: Jacoby Windmon and Cal Haladay. Windmon forced six fumbles last season and had a team-high 5.5 sacks. Haladay led the team with 120 tackles and had 11 TFL’s. They’ll need similar production from them to be better at stopping the run this season.

The biggest defensive addition is Texas A&M transfer Tunmise Adeleye. He’s a former Top-100 recruit but has hardly seen the field for over three years. His high school senior season was canceled due to COVID. Then, he redshirted as a freshman at Texas A&M. In 2022, Adeleye played in only three games after suffering a knee injury, recording just six tackles. In total, he’s seen 64 snaps in the three-year span. If Tucker can tap into some of the talents he displayed in high school, Adeleye could be a huge pickup for them on the EDGE.

This game is destined to have a lot of emotions. These two programs may have more destain for each other right now than at any point in the rivalry. In East Lansing, I suspect the Spartans to come out and play physical football. For a team expected to sit around .500, this will be their College Football Playoff game.

I think the Wolverines come in with a purpose to show their superiority because of what happened last season. There are still several guys from the assault in the tunnel last season that will be on the field in this game. It will be sure to light a fire under both of these squads, but especially Michigan.

The Wolverines are more athletic and talented in every facet of the game and should win this game handily. But, that has been the case several times before. Harbaugh will need his guys ready to play hard and show off just how much better they are on the road because the fans want and expect a blowout.