Michigan State Football Headed For Dubious Mark Amid Woes

Michigan State Football Headed For Dubious Mark Amid Woes
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

It has been a rough start to the 2023 college football season in East Lansing. The Michigan State Spartans are limping their way through a 2-5 start that included the sacking of their head coach over allegations of sexual misconduct and a host of on-field maladies. Any futures wagers that were placed on the team in Michigan sports betting are heading for losses.

The most recent and possibly most egregious example for the school’s fans was MSU’s 49-0 shellacking at the hands of Michigan on Saturday. That led interim head coach Harlon Barnett to tell members of the media that his team was nearing rock bottom.

When asked if the Spartans had hit rock bottom, the interim head coach responded: “It might be. I thought that was last week,” showing how far Michigan State has fallen from the glory years they experienced under coach Mike Dantonio.

Ahead of the Spartans’ Saturday afternoon showdown against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis – a clash in which  Caesars Sportsbook Michigan MSU is a 7-point underdog – we at BetMichigan.com stacked up whether the 2023 team could be the worst one to play in East Lansing over the last 100-plus years.

2023 Spartans Vs. Worst MSU Teams

2023: 2-5 (.286, projects to 3.4 wins)

  • Minus-63 point differential
  • Points for: 18.9 (120th out of 133 FBS teams) 
  • Points against: 27.9 (90th out of 133 teams)

2020: 2-5 (.286, season shortened)

  • Minus-140 point differential
  • Points for: 18.0 (117th out of 128 teams)
  • Points against: 35.1 (100th out of 128 teams)

1982: 2-9 (.182)

  • Minus-40 point differential
  • Points for: 18.4 (81st out of 113 teams) 
  • Points against: 22.0 (65th out of 113 teams)

2016: 3-9 (.250)

  • Minus-34 point differential
  • Points For: 24.1 (104th out of 128 teams)
  • Points against: 27.8 (61st out of 128 teams)

1980: 3-8 (.273)

  • Minus-60 point differential
  • Points for: 20.1 (68th out of 138 teams)
  • Points against: 25.5 (116th out of 138 teams)

1991: 3-8 (.273)

  • Minus-110 point differential
  • Points for: 14.7 (89th out of 107 teams)
  • Points against: 24.7 (70th out of 107 teams)
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Is 2023 Team Worst In Program History?

There’s an argument to be made that this year’s MSU squad is worse than the 1982 and 2020 squads, which does not bode well for Barnett’s chances of landing the head coaching job on a permanent basis (see our next Michigan State football coach odds). The 2023 team right now has the same win percentage (.286) as the 2020 team, which was 2-5 in a season shortened by COVID-19 restrictions. And the 2023 team has a worse point differential (minus-63) than the 1982 team (minus-40).

That 1982 team stands alone as the worst full-season team in MSU history, win percentage wise, going 2-9 (.182) in Big Ten play under then head coach Frank Waters.

Other contenders include the 1980 and 1991 Spartans teams under Waters and George Perles, who posted point differentials of minus-60 (1980) and minus-110 (1991), with bottom tier offenses and middling defenses to boot. These years came way before folks in the state could take advantage of Michigan sportsbook promos from legal operators.

Throw in the 2016 team that went 3-9 (.250) under Dantonio and you have the full list of contenders to challenge the 2023 Spartans collective as the worst teams in MSU history.

Through seven games, the Spartans are on pace to be outscored by 108 points (slightly behind the 1991 team and well behind the 2020 squad). Their 18.9 point-per-game average would rank as the fourth worst of the five teams spotlighted for this story.

Perhaps the biggest demerit against this year’s MSU team is the margin of defeat in this year’s fight for the Paul Bunyan Trophy (49 points), the largest in the series since the Wolverines shellacked the Spartans 55-0 in 1947.

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What Awaits Spartans Down The Stretch?

This year’s MSU team might eke out a few more wins, and perhaps reward their backers at Michigan sports betting apps, before the year is done. The Spartans face 3-4 Minnesota, 4-3 Nebraska (on Nov. 4) and 2-5 Indiana (on Nov. 18) before the season ends.

Those winnable contests are offset by grueling clashes with No. 3 Ohio State in Columbus (on Nov. 11) and No. 10 Penn State to close the season on Nov. 24 — putting the possibility of a 4-8 or 3-9 season in play for the Spartans.

Right now, Barnett’s No. 1 goal is to snap a five-game skid, in which MSU has been outscored by a combined score of 174-56, capped by last Saturday’s rout at the hands of their most bitter rivals.

And if football season keeps going this way, at least Spartans fans have basketball to look forward to soon. The MSU men have +1600 odds at BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook to win the national title.



Christopher Boan

Christopher Boan is a staff writer for BetMichigan.com. He has covered sports and sports betting for more than seven years and has worked for publications such as ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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