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Athlon previews Michigan State's record, projected Big Ten football standings

Can the Spartans reach double-digit wins again in Mel Tucker's third year?

Football preview magazines are starting to hit the shelves as major publications weigh in on what they expect to see in the 2022 college season.

One of the more notable publications is Athlon Sports, which has recently updated its projections for Big Ten programs. Expectations remain high for Michigan State, which is coming off an 11-2 season and a victory in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

However, perennial power Ohio State is the team to beat in the conference, according to Athlon, who projects the Buckeyes to go 12-1 overall and 8-1 in Big Ten play. With Ohio State as the favorite in the Big Ten East, Athlon predicts that the Buckeyes will match up with Wisconsin (9-3, 6-3) out of the West division for the Big Ten Championship.

Athlon projects Michigan (10-2, 7-2) to finish second behind the Buckeyes, followed by Michigan State (9-3, 6-3) and Penn State (8-4, 6-3) in third and fourth place, respectively. Rounding out the East division is Maryland (6-6, 3-6), Rutgers (4-8, 2-7) and Indiana (4-8, 2-7).

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What Athlon said about Michigan State...

Mel Tucker’s Spartans took a huge step forward last season, jumping from 2-5 in the abbreviated ’20 campaign to 11-2 with a No. 9 finish in the final top 25 last fall. Replicating double-digit wins again will hinge on how well Michigan State can replace running back Kenneth Walker III (1,636 yards and 18 TDs) and improve a defense that struggled mightily against the pass (11th in Big Ten in pass efficiency defense). Transfers Jalen Berger (Wisconsin) and Jarek Broussard (Colorado) will handle the bulk of the carries with Walker departing, and the offense will ask more of quarterback Payton Thorne (27 TDs) and receiver Jayden Reed. The addition of transfer Ameer Speed (Georgia) should help to bolster last year’s leaky secondary, but the Spartans should have optimism about their defensive front with the return of end Jeff Pietrowski, linebacker Cal Haladay and Florida transfer Khris Bogle (edge). Road trips to Michigan and Penn State won’t be easy.

Full projected Big Ten standings

East Division

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1 Big Ten)
  2. Michigan Wolverines (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten )
  3. Michigan State Spartans (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten)
  4. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten)
  5. Maryland Terrapins (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten)
  6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-8, 2-7 Big Ten)
  7. Indiana Hoosiers (4-8, 2-7 Big Ten)

West Division

  1. Wisconsin Badgers (9-4, 6-3 Big Ten)
  2. Purdue Boilermakers (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten)
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten)
  4. Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-5, 4-5 Big Ten)
  5. Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten)
  6. Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten)
  7. Northwestern Wildcats (4-8, 1-8 Big Ten)