Michigan State University is no longer just another Big Ten Basketball power. Coach Mark Dantonio has transformed the football program into one that is poised to compete every year, and this season is no exception. Look for the Spartans to compete in the Big Ten East, most likely finish second, and to end the year ranked 7th or higher in the nation. They have one 11 games in four out of the last five years, and that is where they should be headed this year as well. Senior quarterback Connor Cook is back, and his experience will certainly push the team forward. The one question mark will be on defense, as they will have a secondary that lost two of the top players, in addition to defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
At the end of this season, Cook should be the most winning quarterback in Michigan State school history, in addition to seeing several all time passing marks to boot. He is well protected by an offensive line that continue to get better every year, with this year looking to be the best in recent memory. Senior Jake Allen will be back at center, and he is a powerful and intimidating force to be reckoned with. Left tackle Jack Conklin is also back, and he is project first round NFL draft pick, so look for him to continue to showcase his stuff in order to keep that position solidified. The Spartans do lose their Big Ten Receiver of the Year Tony Lippet, and also rusher Jeremy Langford, who account for 1,500 yards last season. The team has recruited well, however, and appears to have more than enough talent at the receiver and running back positions to pick up the slack. What they are lacking is experience, so time will only tell if they can push the team over the top to actually contend for moving close to the playoffs. Their first test will come early in the season against Oregon at home, so more will certainly be known by then.
Cook does has incredible passing accuracy, and a strong arm. He led the Big Ten in passing yards last year, but his main receiving core in Aaron Burbridge and R.J. Shelton will need to be much more consistent. They also need to improve in their running yards at making the catch. The tailback position is up for grabs, particularly with Delton Williams being suspended indefinitely. Madre London and Gerald Holmes are battling it out for a starting position.
The defense at Michigan State continues to be strong, finishing in the top 10 in the nation for the past four years but could be challenged with an early matchup against the Oregon Ducks. Big Ten defensive lineaman of the year Shilque Clahoun will be back at one end, while Lawrence Thomas will be tackling from the other end. Both are quick and powerful. Damon Knox and Joel Heath are also back, along with freshman Malik McDowell. If the Spartans can answer the questions in the secondary, they should be poised to be right up there in contention come December. This talented Michigan State squad may even be able to keep up with Big Ten rival the Ohio State Buckeyes as they head closer to the College Football Playoffs.
Courtesy of Mlive.com