The 2014 Michigan State football schedule is much tougher than the one the Spartans played last season on the road to a Rose Bowl victory. With the B1G division realignment and addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the conference, the schedule now features 9 conference games along with a non-conference matchup with Oregon. Every game is crucial in college football, but some games will carry more weight than others. Here is a ranking of each one of MSU’s games in 2014 based on their significance and entertainment value.
12. Aug. 30: JACKSONVILLE STATE
The Spartans start their season with an FCS opponent in Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks will give MSU an opportunity to acclimate all the new starters on defense and along the offensive line before it’s game in Eugene against the Ducks.
11. Sept. 20: WYOMING
Wyoming finished 2013 under .500 but the Cowboys did put up a good fight against Nebraska, losing by just a field goal. However, the fact that this is a non-conference home game against a considerably less talented team means that it won’t be circled on anyone’s schedule outside of Wyoming.
10. Sept. 27: EASTERN MICHIGAN
The last of MSU’s cupcake non-conference games pits the Spartans against an in-state foe who put up a good fight the last time it visited Spartan Stadium. In state bragging rights puts this game ahead of the previous two games, but the score should be just as lopsided.
9. Oct. 11: at Purdue
The Spartan’s first B1G road game of the 2014 season comes against a Purdue team with nowhere to go but up. The Boilermakers should improve upon their 1-11 mark from last season in 2014, but they don’t yet have the talent to pull off the upset against MSU.
8. Nov. 22: RUTGERS
The last home game of the season for the Spartans will be it’s first matchup against Rutgers since 2004 when the Scarlet Knights beat the Spartans 19-14. Rutgers will probably struggle in it’s first year in the B1G, but this game could clinch MSU a spot in the B1G Championship Game making it worth watching.
7. Oct. 18: at Indiana
The last time the Spartans visited Bloomington in 2012 it took a furious second half comeback for MSU to come out with a victory. The faceoff between the explosive Hoosier offense and the Spartan Dawgs defense will be worth the price of admission alone. This could be a tricky game for MSU if the Hoosiers can figure their defense out, which makes it worth keeping an eye on.
6. Nov. 15: at Maryland
The intrigue with this game comes mostly from the fact that it will be MSU’s first B1G game against one of the newcomers to the league. This game probably won’t be a nail-biter but it will be fun to watch these two teams compete as conference opponents.
5. Oct. 4: NEBRASKA
The Cornhuskers will return to Spartan Stadium for the first time since their controversial 28-24 win over the Spartans in 2012. These teams aren’t in the same division anymore and Darqueze Dennard isn’t around to be victimized by the referees, but this game still has plenty of intrigue. The best part of this game might be watching the two best pass-rushers in the league, Shilique Calhoun and Randy Gregory, go toe-to-toe.
4. Nov. 29: at Penn State
A road game in Happy Valley against the Spartans’ new East Division rival to close out the season is must see television. Seeing Christian Hackenberg square off with the Spartan defense will be one of the best matchups of the B1G season and this game could decide which team represents the East Division in the B1G Championship Game.
3. Sept. 13: at Oregon
Likely a top-10 matchup, this duel in Autzen Stadium could have a big impact on which teams make up the first ever College Football Playoff. It will be interesting to see how the new starters on the MSU defense fare against the high octane Oregon offense after having only a game against Jacksonville State to prepare. A loss this early in the season would hurt, but it isn’t a conference game and MSU would likely still have a shot at the playoff if it ran the table in the B1G.
2. Oct. 25: MICHIGAN
It’s hard to imagine the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy not topping this list, but the recent dominance by Michigan State, especially at Spartan Stadium, has taken some of the luster out of the rivalry. This will still be the most intense and hatred-filled game of the year for the Spartans, and if Michigan improves it could be crucial to the East Division race. Seeing how Michigan responds after being physically dominated by “little brother” in 2013 will be fun to watch, as things could get heated. Michigan vs. Michigan State is always must see T.V. and the 2014 installment of the rivalry will be no different.
1. Nov. 8: OHIO STATE
The last time these two teams met on December 7, 2013 it ended with Urban Meyer eating Little Ceasar’s on a golf cart in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium and Michigan State celebrating it’s first berth in the Grandaddy of them All since 1988. The Spartan’s victory in the 2013 B1G Championship Game ended Ohio State’s 24 game winning streak and ruined it’s chances at a National Championship. Looking ahead to 2014, OSU and MSU are expected to be the two best teams in the B1G and this game could decide who makes it to Indianapolis. Both these teams could be vying for spots in the College Football Playoff as well, which means this matchup has national implications. The storylines in this game are never ending. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss it. It has all the makings of an instant classic.
Related article: MSU Football: 2014 schedule update