Returning Starters – Offense: 6 Defense: 7
Preview: The Michigan State football program has been transformed under head coach Mark Dantonio who’s compiled a 75-31 record during his 8 years as the head man. Michigan State put together another fantastic season last year as the Spartans went 11-2 overall including a 42-41 bowl win coming against Baylor. Michigan State’s only losses in 2014 came against playoff participants Oregon and Ohio State. The Spartans look primed for another run at the Big Ten crown, but getting past Ohio State on the road seems unlikely.
The offense is set up for success with the return of QB Connor Cook who’s likely to become the best statistical QB in the history of the program. Cook will work behind a stout O-line that’ll be one of the better units in the Big Ten. The O-line is led by veterans Allen and Conklin who’ll like be all-conference performers in 2015. The RB position is the one area of concern with a number of less proven commodities fighting for a starting role. The receiver position will look to replace the production of Tony Lippett with guys like Burbridge and Shelton who’re ready to step up.
Defense has been Michigan State’s calling card as the Spartans have ranked in the top ten in total defense over the past 4 seasons. Michigan State was solid on defense again in 2014, but the unit was exposed against tougher teams like Ohio State and Oregon who each scored over 40 against the Spartans. The defense will build around a stout front four which includes talents like Calhoun and Thomas on the outside and Knox and Heath on the inside. The LB position is also set with guys like Davis, Harris, and Bullough looking to play significant roles. The secondary is an area of concern as this unit has to replace top talent with Drummond and Waynes moving on.
Prediction: Michigan State has a lot of seniors on a roster that is in position to make a run at the Big Ten crown. The return of QB Connor Cook will help steady an offense that losses it’s top two playmakers from 2014. The strength of the Spartans comes in the trenches on both sides of the ball and that’ll be a difference maker in most of the games Michigan State will play in this season. The Spartans have a sneaky tough nonconference slate with a tricky road game coming against Western Michigan to open the season followed by tough home games against Oregon and Air Force’s triple option. If Michigan State gets through this portion of their schedule unscathed then a 10 win campaign seems like a lock.
Projected Record: 10-2 (7-1)