Mark Dantonio enters year 13 in East Lansing, making him one of the longest-tenured coaches in the country. The Spartans have made a bowl 12 of 13 years, with a Rose Bowl win, a College Football Playoff appearance, and a 3-9 blip in 2016 to make sure things weren’t *too* consistent. Pretty much everyone is back from last year’s 7-6 season though, so the Spartans have a chance at something better if only they could find a reliable offense.
The Michigan State offense was bad last year, averaging just 18.7 points per game. One of the best defenses in the country meant the season wasn’t a complete waste, but if the Spartans want to return to national prominence they need to figure the offense out.
QB Brian Lewerke returns after being flat out not good enough last year (54%, 6.0 YPA, eight TDs vs 11 INTs), but the options to challenge him aren’t really there. Connor Heyward and La’Darius Jefferson are back in the run game, but neither were particurally impressive (4.0 yards per carry combined). At least there a freshman has emerged to challenge the status quo in Anthony Williams.
Some talent emerged in the receiving game, most notable Cody White (13.2 yards per catch) but they didn’t have a reliable QB to get the ball from. The line was great too, and most return, but again, an offensive line doesn’t really matter if the guys in the backfield can’t make plays. The offense should progress to the mean a little bit, but I don’t expect much.
The Spartans were terrific on defense last year, allowing just 17 points per game. Practically everyone is back from that group, including end Kenny Willekes (8.5 sacks, 12 TFL!), MLB Joe Bachie (one sack, 7.5 TFL, five PBUs), DT Raequan Williams (two sacks, 8.5 TFL) and many others in pass rush and run support.
The secondary does lose a few pieces but David Dowell (two INTs) returns and they get excellent corner Josiah Scott back from injury. This may be the best defenses in the country, but it won’t matter if the offense can’t put up points.
I love the Michigan State defense but the offense gives me tremendous cause for concern, and the Spartans do draw @ Wisconsin from the West. Despite the obvious flaws on offense I do expect a return trip to a bowl, but I think this team has a pretty low ceiling unless Lewerke can break out.
|Date||Opponent||OPp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|5-Oct||at ohio state||5||-14.0|
Average Projected Record: 7.3 wins, 4.7 losses (4.8 wins, 4.2 losses)