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Staff Predictions: Michigan State at Maryland

The Spartans look to end a two-game losing skid this weekend in College Park

Coming off back-to-back losses, Michigan State (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) is in dire need of a momentum swing and confidence boost, but it won’t come easy this weekend when the Spartans travel to College Park for a Big Ten East matchup with the Maryland Terrapins (3-1, 0-1).

Michigan State was beaten soundly last week in its Big Ten opener against Minnesota, 34-7, while Maryland put up a valiant effort in a 34-27 loss to No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor a week ago. Now, both programs jockey for position in the loaded East division of the Big Ten Conference.

After an offseason centered around fixing problems on the defensive side of the football, those familiar issues cropped up again these last two weeks for the Spartans, who have surrendered over 500 yards of offense in each of their losses. Things won’t get any easier this weekend either – the Terrapins are averaging 473.5 yards per game, including an average of 300 passing yards.

Michigan State has won four consecutive games against the Terps, and is 10-2 all-time in this series. With the exception of the COVID year in 2020, these two programs have played each year since 2014, when Maryland joined the Big Ten. The Spartans have won six out of seven meetings since these programs became divisional foes.

Despite history favoring Michigan State, the Spartans enter this game as a somewhat sizeable underdog. The betting line opened with Maryland as a four-point favorite, but the margin has stretched to eight points in favor of the Terrapins throughout the week.

Without further ado, Spartan Nation senior writer Matthew Lounsberry and contributor Aedan Mulcrone each share 3 Bold Predictions as well as Game Previews, and Final Score Predictions below:

Matt’s 3 Bold Predictions

1.) Michigan State rushes for 100 yards as a team

The Spartans have averaged just 40 yards rushing in each of their last two games, which has put a lot of pressure on quarterback Payton Thorne to move the offense down the field on his own. That has not been a recipe for success.

Last week, Maryland allowed Michigan tailback Blake Corum to rush for 243 yards on his own, and the Terrapins struggled in their alignments and gap responsibilities. Michigan State has to take advantage of this with its rotation of Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard. If the Spartans can find success on the ground, it will open up play-action and allow MSU to run clock and keep Maryland’s explosive offense on the sideline.

2.) Payton Thorne bounces back with 225+ yards, two touchdowns

I’ve included Payton Thorne in my bold predictions often this year, with varying levels of accuracy. The redshirt junior played the worst game of his career, in my opinion, last week against Minnesota when he was responsible for three turnovers and threw for just 132 yards.

While Thorne has increased his completion percentage from 60 to 65 percent this season, his touchdown rate is down and his interception rate is up from his 2021 numbers. While the Terrapins have looked better defensively this season than in years past, this is still a team that can surrender yards and points.

I expect Thorne to play much better in this game, and I’ll call for him to bounce back with a solid performance.

3.) The Spartans finally get an interception on defense

Both myself and Aedan have called for this numerous times, and we’ve both been wrong each time. However, I’m once again calling for Michigan State to snag an interception in this game.

Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has been playing very well so far this season, but he also has a gunslingers mentality and will put the ball in harm’s way multiple times per game. Tagovailoa was intercepted twice by Michigan, and there were a couple other dangerous throws as well.

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The Spartans will have opportunities to force turnovers in the back end, the question will be if they’re able to capitalize on that.

Aedan’s 3 Bold Predictions

1.) Keon Coleman catches two touchdowns

Coleman has been Michigan State’s best receiver this season. Thorne did a disservice to him against Minnesota. Coleman has been catching nearly every pass thrown to him.

With Maryland’s struggling defensive backs, Coleman should get lots of targets. He is several inches taller than every cornerback he’s faced, and has the athletic ability to high point the ball. Even if Maryland has good coverage, he still has a good chance of catching the ball.

Minnesota didn’t allow any big plays from the MSU offense last week, but Maryland gives up a lot of big plays. For that reason, I think Thorne finds him for two scores.

2.) MSU’s defense doesn’t get a stop the whole game

All my bold predictions this season have been positive for Michigan State. This is my first negative one. This Spartans defense hasn’t given me any reason to think otherwise. Maryland has a balanced offense similar to Minnesota. If MSU is stopping the run, the Terrapins will just start passing the ball around.

Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton has taken a lot of the public backlash and, frankly, he should have criticisms, because there has been no improvement. That being said, the defensive backs need to be coached better. That is on Mel Tucker and Harlon Barnett. If this bold prediction comes true, I would expect Barnett or Hazelton to get fired.

3.) Jarek Broussard scores a touchdown

Again, Maryland gives up a lot of big plays. If Broussard is going to reach the end zone, it will likely be off a big play, because Jalen Berger and Elijah Collins come in at tailback when the Spartans reach the red zone. Broussard started against Minnesota, but that may have been due to Berger being banged up at the end of the Washington game.

If Broussard has a breakout week, he could win the running back job for the rest of the season. Berger hasn’t done much in the past two games, and has slowly faded out of the rotation. Either way MSU needs to revive their run game in order to win. Broussard only has one touchdown this season, but I think he grabs another.

Matt’s Preview, Score Prediction

I’ve been leaning Maryland pretty heavily throughout the week, and that has only been solidified by watching the betting line move further and further in the Terrapins’ direction. While I think Michigan State is going to find some offensive success in this game, this is a terrible matchup for a Spartan defense that has already struggled in each of the last two games.

The Terrapins have a talented wide receiver room, and while Tagovailoa can be loose with the football, he’s played some of the best ball of his career so far this season. Like Aedan mentioned above, I’m not confident that MSU can get enough stops on defense. Michigan State will put points up on the scoreboard, but not enough to pull off the upset in College Park. Score Prediction: Michigan State 34, Maryland 44

Aedan’s Preview, Score Prediction

I was really hoping it didn’t come down to this, but it has. Michigan State’s defensive backs and offensive line have no excuse to not be improved from last year, as both returned several starters and added Ameer Speed and Brian Greene out of the transfer portal.

The running backs are excused, given the poor play of the O-line, and the fact that Berger didn’t play in a real game in over a year, and Kenneth Walker III is one of a kind.

At first, I was thinking this game was a coin flip, but I think I gave Michigan State too much credit. There is no more speculation about whether or not this team will get better. The proof is in the pudding. Until the pass defense changes, I will pick against them. Until the run offense improves, I will pick against them. Score Prediction: Michigan State 24, Maryland 41