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College Football Preview 2024: Michigan State Spartans win projections, strengths and weaknesses, quarterback spotlight and more

2X28WWJ Michigan State receiver Nick Marsh, left, is tackled by defensive back Justin Denson Jr. (12) during the team's NCAA college football spring scrimmage, Saturday, April 20, 2024, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Michigan State endured a tumultuous 2023 season, during which head coach Mel Tucker was fired after just two games. Defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett then took over the program, and the Spartans finished just 2-8.

Former Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith was hired after doing an excellent job turning around the Beavers. He’ll need to do the same for Michigan State, as both its offense and defense finished outside the top 10 in PFF grading.

This year’s roster will look drastically different than in 2023, as the Spartans brought in 23 transfers, including a new quarterback in Aidan Chiles.


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Biggest Strength: The passing game should be improved

Michigan State's offense produced just a 59.2 passing grade in 2023, the Power Five’s fourth-lowest mark, so there’s really nowhere to go but up. There should be more optimism this year, though, with Jonathan Smith bringing quarterback Aidan Chiles and tight end Jack Velling with him from Oregon State. Chiles was a four-star recruit in the 2023 class, while Velling is a top-10 tight end.


Biggest Weakness: But will the defense get any better?

Michigan State’s defense finished outside the top 100 in grading (112th) and EPA per play (103rd) last season. Then, the Spartans’ three best defenders — Derrick Harmon, Simeon Barrow Jr. and safety Jaden Mangham — entered the transfer portal. Michigan State brought in several transfers on the defensive side of the ball and will need them to immediately contribute to improve the unit.


2023 Team Overview

Offense
EPA per play Yards per play Successful play rate Explosive run play rate Explosive pass play rate
-0.198 4.8 30.9% 9.7% 11.9%
130th 124th 117th 131st 111th
Defense
EPA allowed per play Yards allowed per play Successful play rate allowed Explosive run rate allowed Explosive pass rate allowed
0.058 5.9 36.2% 14.4% 15.2%
103rd T-92nd 92nd 52nd 96th

Three Notable Transfer Portal Additions

  • QB Aidan Chiles (Oregon State): 71.9 PFF grade
  • TE Jack Velling (Oregon State): 69.7 PFF grade
  • CB Ed Woods (Arizona State): 76.8 PFF grade

Three Notable Transfer Portal Losses

  • DI Derrick Harmon (Oregon): 78.4 PFF grade
  • TE Maliq Carr (Houston): 81.9 PFF grade
  • DI Simeon Barrow Jr. (Miami FL): 72.2 PFF grade

Quarterback Spotlight: Aidan Chiles

2023 Grade: 71.9
Key Stat: 7 total touchdowns, 0 turnovers last season

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