Michigan State football schedule 2013: Opponents, game dates and more

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

The Spartans had a down year in 2012, but could be in for a bounce-back season in 2013. Let's take a look at how their schedule breaks down for them.

The Michigan State Spartans enter the 2013 season with something to prove. The Spartans have enjoyed a very successful stretch under head coach Mark Dantonio, but slumped to 7-6 in 2012 while their offense regressed badly. A bounce-back year from Michigan State would go a long way towards confirming their presence in the upper echelon of the Big Ten, and their 2013 schedule presents a favorable roadmap for them.

2013 Michigan State schedule

Date Opponent Conf. Projected ranking

8/30/2013 Western Michigan MAC 96

9/7/2013 South Florida AAC 67

9/14/2013 Youngstown State FCS

9/21/2013 at Notre Dame IND 10

9/28/2013 Open Date

10/5/2013 at Iowa B1G 40

10/12/2013 Indiana B1G 62

10/19/2013 Purdue B1G 79

10/26/2013 at Illinois B1G 87

11/2/2013 Michigan B1G 28

11/9/2013 Open Date

11/16/2013 at Nebraska B1G 20

11/23/2013 at Northwestern B1G 35

11/30/2013 Minnesota B1G 72

12/7/2013 B1G Championship (Indianapolis)

Date Opponent Conf. Projected ranking

Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.

A pessimistic analysis of Michigan State's schedule leaves them around an 8-4 record. They avoid Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State, and play Michigan in East Lansing. Their out-of-conference schedule should yield at least three wins, and with much of the Big Ten looking vulnerable, wins could be had in bunches in September and October. If the ball bounces the right way for the Spartans, they have a shot at double-digit wins. That's a big if, though.

Michigan State's season will be made or broken in November. In the span of four weeks, the Spartans play Michigan at home, and then Nebraska and Northwestern on the road following a bye week. Add in a September visit to Notre Dame, and Michigan State has to play three of their four toughest opponents on the road. Granted, Northwestern's Ryan Field is hardly a fortress, but the Wildcats lost only one game at home last year, and it was by one point to Nebraska.

If Michigan State can win at least two of their three games against Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern, then they have a real chance to get back to the Big Ten Championship Game. That task is easier said than done, though, and it would also require no other slip-ups in their conference schedule, something at which Michigan State has historically not excelled. The road back to the top of the conference is maneuverable for the Spartans. They won't be the favorites to win the division, but with some inevitable improvement on offense and a little bit of luck, they can make it happen.

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