Michigan State Football Predictions
Michigan State has been a Big Ten powerhouse the last two seasons. After earning a share of the conference championship in 2010, it captured the Legends division last year. The Spartans are a combined 22-5 the past two years.
Michigan State’s success has placed it in some good company. It is one of just seven programs from BCS conferences to record at least 11 wins in each of the past two seasons.
Unfortunately, a third straight 11-win campaign doesn’t appear to be in the cards with all that was lost on the offensive side of the football. The defense still has the potential to be elite, and it will have to be if the Spartans are going to contend for a second straight Legends division title.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins will be missed more than any other player on the 2011 roster. His talent, poise and leadership qualities helped the Spartans finish second in the league in passing offense with 252.5 yards per game.
Junior Andrew Maxwell has the challenge of filling Cousins’ big shoes, and, unfortunately, he won’t have nearly the same supporting cast to work with now that wide receivers B. J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin and running back Edwin Basker have moved on to the NFL.
Maxwell still has at least one good option in junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who is the team’s top returning rusher and receiver. He had 35 receptions for 267 yards and rushed for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
An offensive line that brings back four starters will give Maxwell and Bell an opportunity to make plays.
Eight starters return from a stop unit that lead the Big Ten in total defense with 277.4 yards allowed per game. The Spartans also led the league in run defense, interceptions and sacks.
Junior defensive end William Gholston is the star of the defense. He is a rare player who can rush the passer and play the run. He frees up others to make plays by drawing extra attention from offenses.
The linebacker corps is led by juniors Denicos Allen and Max Bullough. Allen was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks in 2011 when he recorded 11 sacks. Bullough made 89 tackles last year – the most of any returning player on the team.
There is no drop off in the secondary with cornerbacks Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. Adams looks poised to land on the All-American list and Dennard earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season. Safety Isaiah Lewis also has big-play potential. He has four interceptions last season.
Big Ten Legends Prediction: 3rd Place
The defense has the talent to be as good as it was in 2011, but I believe it will take a step back. The offense won’t be able to move the football as well as it did a year ago, which means the defense will spend more time on the field.
The schedule is also more difficult this season as the Spartans must travel to Michigan and Wisconsin after getting both at home last year.
Home contests versus Boise State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Nebraska won’t be picnics either.
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