While Michigan State was 7-6 last season, the Spartans suffered five conference losses by 1, 3, 2, 4 and 3 points, respectively. Head coach Mark Dantonio remains one of my favorites in college football as he has guided the Spartans to six consecutive bowl games, including back-to-back bowl wins for the first time since 1989-1990. With fifteen returning starters and one of the best defenses in the nation, Michigan State could easily find themselves in the Big Ten Conference Title game in December.
Michigan State Offense:
- Quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw for 2,606 yards last season, but he was dead last in the conference with a 52.5% completion rate (13-9 ratio). With that said, Maxwell was plagued by a wide receiving corp. that dropped passes throughout the season, and I expect significant improvement from him in 2013.
- The strength of Michigan State’s offense is its offensive line that returns an incredible 97 career starts, including Fou Fonoti and Travis Jackson. Based on what I have seen in spring practice, this is the best offensive line coach Dantonio has had during his tenure in East Lansing.
Michigan State Defense:
- The Spartans enter the 2013 season with one of the elite defenses in the country, beginning with their linebacking unit that is led by leading tackler Max Bullough and sack master Denicos Allen (both seniors).
- Despite losing cornerback Johnny Adams (12 starts; 35 tackles; 3 interceptions; 11 career interceptions), the Spartans will once again field an outstanding secondary that looks to be one of the best in college football. I expect a lot from seniors Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis, and freshman Demetrious Cox could surprise many quarterbacks this season.
- My only concern with Michigan State’s defense is its defensive line, which allowed a mere 99 yards per rush attempt last season (3.3 yards per carry). While defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is very high on last year’s recruiting class, the loss of William Gholston to the NFL leaves a huge void in the Spartans’ line this year.
Michigan State’s success in 2013 is predicated upon its defense, and with seven returning starters on that side of the ball I expect the Spartans to boast the conference’s best stop unit. I also like the fact that Michigan State avoids both Ohio State and Wisconsin, but the Spartans have to travel to both Notre Dame and Nebraska on the road. While no one is really talking about Dantonio’s squad, I am calling for the Spartans to reach double-digit wins and land in the Big Ten Conference Title game.