As Ohio State fans, we keep a close eye on our Big Ten rivals, and this year, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Michigan State Spartans. With a new head coach and a mix of returning players and fresh talent, the Spartans are an interesting team to watch. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from Michigan State heading into the 2024 season.

New Coach, New Hope

Michigan State fans are feeling cautiously optimistic about their new head coach, Jonathan Smith. Coming off some disappointing seasons, the change in leadership feels like a much-needed fresh start. Smith’s arrival has already sparked a slight uptick in recruiting, and the players and fan base seem to be fully behind him. The general vibe in East Lansing is positive, but only time will tell if this translates to success on the field.

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Key Storylines for the Season

  1. Jonathan Smith’s First Year: The biggest storyline is undoubtedly how Smith will perform in his debut season. After two seasons with a total of just nine wins, Spartan fans are eager for a turnaround. The team will be adjusting to new offensive and defensive schemes, which could be a significant factor in their performance.
  2. System Changes: Smith is implementing a more creative offense compared to the previous regime. The hope is that this will bring a new dynamic to the team, moving away from the predictable and sometimes uninspired play-calling of recent years. Defensively, the Spartans are shifting from their traditional 4-3 base to a more flexible scheme under new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi.
  3. Roster Adjustments: There have been several notable changes in the roster. Key transfers and younger players will be crucial in filling gaps, especially at quarterback and on the offensive line. Fans are particularly excited about a highly-touted quarterback transfer, expected to bring stability to a position that saw four different starters last season.

Offensive and Defensive Changes

Offensively, the Spartans aim to be more unpredictable and vertical in their passing game. This shift is a breath of fresh air for fans who felt the previous offense lacked imagination. On the defensive side, the new approach involves a hybrid front, blending elements of a 3-4 and a 4-3 scheme, with more stand-up defensive ends adding versatility.

Key Players to Watch

  • Quarterback: The new quarterback, a top transfer, is seen as a game-changer. Although young, he has shown promise and could be the key to revamping the offense.
  • Offensive Line: With several new additions, including a standout transfer from Oregon State, the line is expected to improve significantly. This is crucial for both the running and passing game.
  • Linebackers: The linebacker group is deep and talented, highlighted by Wayne Matthews, a key transfer, and veteran Cal Halladay. Their performance will be vital in the new defensive scheme.

Expectations and Predictions

For the 2024 season, the floor for Michigan State seems to be around four to five wins, while the ceiling could be as high as nine wins if they can pull off some upsets. Realistically, making a bowl game is the minimum expectation. The schedule is tough, especially with a brutal stretch against Ohio State, Oregon, and Iowa. However, there is a sense of optimism that the Spartans can exceed these expectations.

The Rivalry Factor

No preview of Michigan State would be complete without mentioning the ongoing rivalry with Michigan. Spartan fans, much like us Buckeyes, are hoping that the NCAA will take decisive action regarding the controversies surrounding the Wolverines. Whether this happens or not, the games against Michigan and Ohio State will be critical for Michigan State’s season.

As Ohio State fans, we’ll be watching closely to see how our rivals fare under their new leadership. The Spartans have the potential to surprise some people this season, and it will be interesting to see how they navigate the challenges ahead.