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Ranking Michigan State Football's 2024 Opponents via SP+ Ratings

Here's how Michigan State's 2024 opponents rank according to ESPN's advanced analytic SP+ rating system...

Michigan State played one of the toughest schedules in all of college football a season ago, squaring off with five teams that finished in the final Associated Press Top 25 rankings: No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Washington, No. 10 Ohio State, No. 13 Penn State and No. 24 Iowa.

Heading into 2024, the Big Ten Conference only gets more difficult going forward with the addition of USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. However, in the first year of the league's new look, Michigan State's schedule may have lightened up in difficultly.

ESPN's Bill Connelly recent updated his SP+ ratings of every FBS program, which are based on three primary factors: Returning Production, Recent Recruiting and Recent History. Out of 134 teams, Michigan State ranks No. 79 in the country. The Spartans' offense ranks 126th, the defense comes in at No. 29 and the special teams unit sits at No. 16 nationally.

Below, we've ranked 11 of MSU's 2024 opponents based on their SP+ rating. Praire View A&M, the Spartans' Week 3 opponent, is not included in these rankings due to its status as an FCS program. Without further ado, let's get started...

11.) Florida Atlantic (114th) — Aug. 31

The Owls are led by second-year head coach Tom Herman, who led Florida Atlantic to a 4-8 mark in his first season with the program. Herman is a good coach but he has a lot of work to do in Boca Roton. The easiest FBS opponent Michigan State will play this season will be in the Spartans' opener, and MSU is expected to open the Jonathan Smith era with a victory.

10.) Indiana (90th) — Nov. 2

Like Michigan State, Indiana will break in a new head coach in 2024 with Curt Cignetti coming over to Bloomington after a successful five-year tenure at James Madison. The Spartans (50-18-1) have dominated this series against the Hoosiers, but Indiana has managed to take the Old Brass Spittoon from MSU in three of the last eight years.

9.) Purdue (86th) — Nov. 23

The Boilermakers are entering Year 2 under head coach Ryan Walters, who struggled to a 4-8 record in his first season at Purdue. This isn't the same program which earned the "Spoilermakers" moniker under previous head coach Jeff Brohm. Michigan State should be able to handle this one at home.

8.) Boston College (76th) — Sept. 21

The Eagles enter a new era under head coach Bill O'Brien, who replaces the departed Jeff Hafley (Green Bay Packers). Even in the mediocre ACC, Boston College has struggled to make much noise over the past decade and a half. The Eagles have not won more than seven games in a season since 2009 but, with this game coming on the road, they provide MSU a test early in the season.

7.) Illinois (62nd) — Nov. 16

Entering Year 4, it's been an up and down tenure thus far for head coach Bret Bielema at Illinois. The Fighting Illini have two 5-7 finishes sandwiched around a breakout 8-5 campaign in 2022. This is Michigan State's only road game in November, and will be arguably the Spartans' toughest game in the final month.

6.) Maryland (45th) — Sept. 7

The first true test of the Jonathan Smith era comes in Week 2 when the Spartans host Maryland. The Terrapins have won back-to-back games over MSU and have gone 8-5 in consecutive years under head coach Mike Locksley. After starting 5-12 in the first two seasons under Locksley, Maryland has elevated itself into the top half of the Big Ten with a 23-16 mark over the past three seasons, with three bowl victories.

5.) Rutgers (43rd) — Nov. 30

Michigan State's final regular season game will be a challenging one, but at least the Spartans will be at home. Rutgers could be on the verge of its best season in the second tenure of head coach Greg Schiano. Once the doormat of the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights have returned to competitive respectability under Schiano. Rutgers went 7-6 last season after starting 12-22 in Schiano's first three years.

4.) Iowa (26th) — Oct. 19

Michigan State's toughest stretch of the season comes with four games in five weeks at the end of September and beginning of October. Off a bye, the Spartans will host Iowa. Since 2015, the Hawkeyes have finished a full season with no fewer than eight victories, despite all of their struggles offensively. This won't be an easy game for the Spartans by any means, but Iowa is the weakest opponent of the aforementioned tough four-game stretch.

3.) Michigan (5th) — Oct. 26

The Wolverines lost a lot from its national championship-winning team in 2023, including head coach Jim Harbaugh, running backs coach Mike Hart, almost their entire defensive coaching staff and roughly 25 players. Still, Michigan among the highest-rated SP+ teams in college football heading into next season. The Spartans have lost two in a row to the Wolverines, but Jonathan Smith will try to become just the third MSU head coach in the last 27 years to beat the Wolverines on his first attempt (Nick Saban, Mel Tucker).

2.) Oregon (3rd) — Oct. 5

Michigan State will play only one of the Big Ten's four new incoming teams, but the Spartans got the toughest draw of those four. Oregon is expected to be a powerhouse in Year 3 under head coach Dan Lanning, who has guided the Ducks to a 22-5 record through two seasons in Eugene. This road game will be a tall task for Michigan State.

1.) Ohio State (2nd) — Sept. 28

Right before Michigan State makes that road trip to Eugene, the Spartans will play host to Ohio State, who has had its way with MSU in recent history. The Buckeyes have beaten the Spartans eight consecutive times, with Michigan State's past seven defeats coming by an average margin of 34.6 points per game. The only consolation is the Spartans will get this game at home, but that hasn't mattered much in this series. Michigan State has lost its past nine to the Buckeyes in East Lansing.

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