Rankings MSU’s future non-conference opponents from least to most intriguing

·7 min read

Last week Michigan State announced updates to their future football schedules with the additions of numerous non-conference games. With that news — and since there isn’t much else going on — it got me looking ahead to the future schedules and who all the Spartans will line up against outside of the Big Ten.

Here’s my ranking of the 16 known future non-conference opponents on Michigan State’s schedule based on purely how intrigued and interested I am in the match-up:

No. 16 - Youngstown State

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When: 2021 & 2025 (both home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 1 FCS opponents don't generally draw a ton of interest and intrigue, especially if they've recently been on your schedule (Michigan State played Youngstown State in 2011 and 2013). So, this isn't a shot at the Penguins but they simply don't peak a ton of interest as a fan.

No. 15 - Richmond

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When: 2023 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 2 Richmond is the only other FCS team on the Spartans future schedules, and historically is a solid program. The Spiders have a pair of upsets over FBS power five teams (Virginia in 2016 and Duke in 2011) in the last decade so maybe Richmond can hang with the Spartans in this match-up. Hopefully, by year four under Mel Tucker that won't be the case though.

No. 14 - Akron

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When: 2022 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 2 Akron is the first of many Mid-American Conference (MAC) teams coming up on this list, with the Zips coming in as the least exciting match-up for fans. This will mark the first meeting between Michigan State and Akron -- so there's that -- but the Zips have also been one of the MAC regular bottom-feeders with only one winning record in the past 15 seasons.

No. 13 - Toledo

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When: 2026 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 2 Like with Akron, Michigan State has never played Toledo before so this match-up in 2026 will be the first ever between these programs. The difference between Toledo and Akron, is that the Rockets have been solid on a consistent basis and even knocked off the Wolverines in the Big House not too long ago.

No. 12 - Florida Atlantic (FAU)

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When: 2024 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 3 If Lane Kiffin was still roaming the Owls' sidelines this game would be higher on my list. But Florida Atlantic still could pose some challenges for Michigan State in this future match-up -- especially if former Oregon and Florida State head coach Willie Taggart gets things rolling in Boca Raton.

No. 11 - Western Kentucky

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When: 2021 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 3 This year's match-up with the Hilltoppers will be the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers have consistently reached the postseason -- playing in a bowl game in seven of the last nine seasons -- so this may end up being a tougher game than many believe.

No. 10 - Central Michigan

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When: 2023, 2027 & 2030 (all at home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 4 Central Michigan has been a regular on the Michigan State schedule since the 90's and there are three more meetings lined up in the next 10 years. Some of the luster in these match-ups has been lost since the Spartans and Chippewas play each other so often, but an in-state battle always peaks some interest.

No. 9 - Western Michigan

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When: 2022 & 2025 (both at home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 4 Like with Central Michigan, the Broncos have become a regular foe for the Spartans over the years. However, Western Michigan has recently been more consistent than Central so they are one spot higher on my interest rankings.

No. 8 - Louisana

Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

When: 2024 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 5 Maybe there's some recency bias in play here but this match-up with Louisana has me very intrigued. The Ragin' Cajuns -- what a great team name by the way -- were 10-1 this past season and proved to be one of the best group of five teams in the country. That obviously won't make a difference when they visit Spartan Stadium in 2024, but I'm personally pretty excited about this future match-up.

No. 7 - BYU

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When: 2032 (away) Interest Rating (out of 10): 6 Michigan State was supposed to head to Provo this past season but COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of that game -- which was probably for the best with how good BYU looked in 2020. That game has been rescheduled for 2032 so it'll be a long time before the Spartans head out to the Utah mountains -- but it should be a fun match-up when it finally is here.

No. 6 - Boston College

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When: 2024 (away) & 2025 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 7 Michigan State and Boston College have experienced similar success over the years and should be on the same competition level when these two teams in 2024 and 2025. Heading to Boston will be a fun early season trip for Spartans' fans and will provide a nice test for Michigan State in what could be the first season under Tucker where the Spartans have truly high expectations.

No. 5 - Boise State

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When: 2022 (away) & 2023 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 7 Michigan State hosted Boise State in a season-opening win back in 2012, and will finally return the favor by heading to the blue turf in 2022. I grew up when Boise State was the hot mid-major program and the blue turf was a huge fan attraction. The Broncos aren't what they once were when Kellen Moore was under center but this will still be a pair of really fun non-conference battles in the upcoming seasons.

No. 4 - Oregon

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When: 2029 (home) & 2030 (away) Interest Rating (out of 10): 8 Oregon is one of the college football powers and will always draw intrigue when they're on your schedule. That is the case now and I'm sure it'll be the same thing in 2029 and 2030 when the Ducks and Spartans link up once again.

No. 3 - Notre Dame

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When: 2026 (away) & 2027 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 9 Michigan State-Notre Dame used to be a regular match-up that fans would circle on the schedule every year. Sadly, these two programs only play every few years now and the next battle between the Spartans and Fighting Irish won't be until 2026.

No. 2 - Washington

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When: 2028 (away) & 2031 (home) Interest Rating (out of 10): 9 Michigan State will head out west to Seattle for the first time since 1970 to take on the Huskies in 2028. The Spartans will first travel to Washington, and the Huskies will come to Spartan Stadium a few years later in 2031. Washington has historically been one of the better football programs in the Pac-12 and these games should be high-level early season match-ups for both teams.

No. 1 - Miami (FL)

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When: 2021 (away) Interest Rating (out of 10): 10 Again, my recency bias may be coming into play but I'm super excited for the Spartans trip down to South Beach this upcoming fall. Part of that is because we missed out on non-conference play last season but I'm also very interested in seeing how Michigan State fares in this early-season tough test. I don't personally have super high expectations for Michigan State in year two of the Tucker era, but maybe the Spartans can surprise us with all of the incoming transfers Michigan State added this offseason. This game should be a good indication of how the 2021 season will play out and I'm pumped to see this game in September.

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