The Michigan State Spartans continued their impressive run under head coach Mark Dantonio. With an improbable win at Ohio State, the Spartans won the Big Ten East. They followed that up with a thrilling 16-13 win over Iowa in the Big 10 Championship Game.
That was enough to land Michigan State in the playoffs, but their magical run came to an abrupt end. The Spartans were destroyed by eventual champ Alabama 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl.
When it was all said and done, Michigan State finished up at 12-2. Giving them a remarkable 36-5 record over the last 3 seasons. It was also their 5th double-digit win campaign in the last 6 years.
Entering his 10th season on the job, Dantonio has brought Michigan State to a national power. Keeping the Spartans there in 2016 will be a tough task. Michigan State loses a lot of fire power from last year’s squad and has just 10 starters returning.
Big Ten (East)
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/17||@ Notre Dame|
|11/26||@ Penn State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
Michigan State will kick things off with a cupcake game at home against Furman. They then get an early by before going on the road to face Notre Dame in huge non-conference matchup. With the Irish considered to be a national title threat, that game will be a great measuring stick.
The Spartans quickly turnaround the next week an open up Big Ten play at home against Wisconsin. They then go on the road to face Indiana before wrapping up non-conference play against BYU at home.
Michigan State returns to Big Ten action with a home game against Northwestern. After a road showdown at Maryland, they get another huge test at home against rival Michigan.
They catch a minor break in the schedule with a road contest at Illinois and home game against Rutgers. Then comes the big rematch against Ohio State at home before closing out the season at Penn State.
Getting both Michigan and Ohio State at home is huge. Keep in mind the Spartans have lost just once at home in the last 3 years. They also have just 4 conference road games compared to 5 home games.
One of the big surprises of last season was the big decline on the offensive side of the ball. Despite returning 7 starters, including star quarterback Connor Cook, they managed just 29.8 ppg. That’s a big drop off from the 43.0 ppg they put up in 2014. They also went from averaging 501 ypg to just 386.
That’s a huge concern going into 2016, as the Spartans only return 4 starters on this side of the ball. Not only do they lose Cook, but three of their top linemen and their top two receivers.
First order of business will be finding Cook’s replacement. It’s likely to come down to senior Tyler O’Connor and junior Damion Terry. O’Connor was the starter in that upset win at Ohio State, but he was far from impressive. He only attempted 12 passes and threw for just 89 yards. The coaching staff is confident in these two but a decline in production is almost a guarantee.
It will be that much harder for the new signal caller to produce at a high level given the losses up front. They lose two All-Big Ten performers in left tackle Jack Conklin and center Jack Allen. As well as guard Donovan Clark, who was a 7th round pick in the NFL Draft.
Junior guard Brian Allen will move to center and should be one of the Big Ten’s best interior linemen. They also get back senior right tackle Kodi Kieler. Senior Benny McGowan isn’t technically a returning starter, but did start in 8 games. The key here will be the play of new starting left tackle Dennis Finley. If he produces at a high level, this unit will be fine.
The new starting quarterack also has to deal with the top two weapons on the outside no longer being around. The biggest loss being wide out Aaron Burbridge, who had 85 catches for 1,258 yards and 7 scores. The unit will be counting on two youngsters to produce. Those being sophomore Felton David and true freshman Donnie Corley.
The loss of star running back Jeremy Langford ended up being bigger than most expected. Note that Langford had rushed for 1,522 yards and 22 touchdwns in 2014. As a team they went from averaging 235 ypg on the ground to just 151.
Last year the Spartans used a committee approach. LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London all had 100+ carries. Scott was a true freshman, London was a red-shirt freshman and Holmes was a sophomore. That’s a good sign that the production will increase. While all 3 figure to get their touches, don’t be surprised if Scott ends up with the majority of the reps.
While there’s concern with the offense, the Spartans identity is their defense. They have allowed 22.3 or fewer points/game each of the last 6 seasons. All signs point to another dominant stop unit in 2016.
There are some concerns with the defensive line. The unit loses star defensive end Shilique Calhoun. Along with two other starters. The good news is they get back junior defensive tackle Malik MCDowell. He’s not just one of the best at his position in the Big 10, but the entire country. Several backups played well last year and they add in 4 highly touted true freshman, plus a couple of talented red-shirt freshman.
At linebacker, the Spartans have a stude in the middle in senior Riley Bullough. They also get back STAR linebacker Jon Reshke.
The strength of the defense will be the secondary, which has 3 starters back and 10 of the top 12 from last year. The unit is led by senior safety Demetrious Cox and sophomore corner Vayante Copeland.
Regular Season Win Total
Big Ten East Odds
Big Ten Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
Anytime a team loses a talent like Cook at quarterback, the initial thought is they will take a big step back. While I don’t think the Spartans will be as good as they were a year ago, they are still a serious threat to win the Big 10.
It’s also worth noting that Dantonio has a history of getting his team to exceed expectations. Especially when they aren’t getting a whole lot of respect. This is also a team that I believe will come out with a chip on their shoulder after that showing against Alabama.
If they can take care of Michigan and Ohio State at home, they will have a great shot at repeating as East champs. Personally, I think they go 7-2 inside conference play and 9-3 overall.
Big Ten (East)
Big Ten Record
Win Total Prediction