Better Know a B1G: Adv. Stat Comparison Michigan State Spartans

This is the next in the series comparing some statistical rankings between BigTen opponents and UW. This week’s comparison is with the Michigan State Spartans-a team that UW will be somewhat familiar with since UW has played them the last two seasons. You can find the comparisons with Indiana here, Illinois here, Iowa here, Maryland here, and Michigan here.

Composite Ranking Comparison

Let’s start first by looking at the final ranking in the Massey Composite ( over the last 9 years.

To say that Michigan State has had its ups and downs over the last 9 years would not be an exaggeration. They finished 3 times in the top 12, and three times in the 80’s. And with some of their recent struggles, it may be hard to remember that Michigan State, under Mark Dantonio, won the BigTen in 2015 and was in the College Football Playoffs that year. (Let’s just hope that UW doesn’t drop as much the following year as Michigan State did!)

Mel Tucker had the Spartans back up in contention, ranking 3rd in the initial CFP rankings in the 2021 before a couple of losses dropped them out. But they still ended up in a NY6 bowl game-defeating Pitt in the Peach Bowl. They were led that season by a familiar name to many fans: Kenneth Walker III, who is now with the Seahawks. Notedly, Tucker signed a huge and long contract extension after that season, only to see his teams slide the next two seasons. Michigan State was able to fire Tucker and they hired a coach that Husky fans should know well, Jonatan Smith.


You can see this also in the Simple Rating System, SRS, ( tries to rate and rank teams, not just in a season, but across seasons.

Again, the results look somewhat similar. But, besides that bump in 2021, it is clear that UW has been the better team for the last 8 seasons. That shouldn’t be a surprise given how UW did against the Spartans the two times they played over that period.


Here’s a look at the F+ ratings for both teams. As a reminder, F+ is a combination of two advanced stats: FEI and SP+. This should be representative of most of the advanced stats.

This graph is also similar to the one above-showing that UW has been the better team since 2016-except for 2021. One note is that, despite Michigan State going to the CFP in 2015, UW was not ranked much behind them according to F+. That would be a good indicator that UW was poised to make it to the CFP the next year.

Talent Comparison

Here is the talent comparison using the average rating by 247Sports for all of the scholarship players. (

Michigan State’s talent level has been relatively flat until recently. That is the one thing that Mel Tucker seemed to do well-he was able to recruit at a higher level. It will be interesting to see what Coach Smith does with the talent level. He never did much while at Oregon State-but that is a very hard place to recruit to. With more resources at Michigan State, will he be able to continuing improving Michigan State’s talent level? Or, will he be able to be successful with lower talent level-like he’s done before, and like Dantonio did as well.

Final Thoughts

I think that most fans expect that Coach Smith will get the Spartans competitive in the BigTen again. The first question is how long it will take. And the second question is whether Michigan State will again reach the level that it was at the peak of the Mark Dantonio era. There are 4 now more teams in the BigTen that should be competing for the BigTen title. Michigan State will again play UW in 2026 when they also play Oregon, Michigan, and UCLA. We’ll see how the programs are doing at that point.

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