Quick 2021 Recap
Sparty was one of the surprise teams of 2021, starting the year 8-0 with impressive wins on the road at Miami 38-17 and then at home against in-state rival Michigan. Michigan State rose all the way to the No. 3 ranking in the country on November 6, but they fell on the road to Purdue 40-29. A few weeks later, they were completely blown out by Ohio State, trailing 49-0 at halftime of a game that ended up 56-7. Sparty bounced back though, beating Penn State in a different kind of “White Out” to end the regular season, and then upended Pitt in some New Year’s Six Bowl that no one really cared about.
Offensive Player to Watch: Peyton Thorne (QB)
A mid-three-star prospect in the 2019 recruiting class, Thorne was quite impressive during his first full year starting, finishing the 2021 campaign with 27 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions on a 60.4 completion percentage. Those aren’t gaudy stats by any means, but certainly something to build upon heading into 2022. Without Kenneth Walker, Sparty will be relying on Thorne to carry the offense — though he’ll be aided by potential First-Team All-Big Ten wideout Jayden Reed.
Defensive Player to Watch: Jacoby Windmon (LB)
Given Mel Tucker’s penchant for using the transfer portal, it only makes sense that one of their players to watch is a transfer. Sparty picked up one of the better linebackers on the market in UNLV’s Jacoby Windmon, who finished last season with 119 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, and 6.5 sacks. The jump from one of the non-Power 5 schools to the Power 5 doesn’t always work out well, but Windmon definitely has the accolades to be a real player in the Big Ten.
Michigan State Wins If...
Sparty will go as far as Peyton Thorne takes them this year. Like I mentioned above, they are going to have to lean on the passing game more this season with Kenneth Walker. They certainly have the talent on the outside with Reed and Tre Mosley, it’ll just be a matter if Peyton Thorne continues his improvement like we saw last season.
Penn State Wins If...
I mean, the same thing can be said about Penn State and Sean Clifford. It’s a bit point-out-the-obvious, but both these programs are hoping for some progress from their quarterback. It might just be as simple as which one is better.