After a disappointing 2012 season, Michigan State hopes to climb back into discussion for the Big Ten Legends Division title.
The Spartans had a top-10 defense last year, but the offense was one of the worst in the Big Ten. Question marks remain about this unit in 2013, especially with the departure of running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims.
Michigan State has a favorable schedule and should win more than seven games in 2013. However, with a questionable offense, getting to eight or even nine victories won’t be easy.
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May.
Will Michigan State Win More Than Seven Games in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Michigan State should come close to matching the 2012 win total (seven) just by virtue of the schedule -- Western Michigan, USF, Youngstown State, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois are six right there. And that doesn’t include Iowa on the road and Minnesota at home. The schedule is manageable and all the close losses last season indicate a team that’s going to turn around, but I’m going against the trends I usually like. Michigan State is going to continue to slide. This is a team that had a top-10 defense and a running back that rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and still went 3-5 in the Big Ten with a team that was painful to watch. Le’Veon Bell is gone as are play-making defenders William Gholston and Johnny Adams. With Ohio State and Michigan rebounding, I fear Michigan State is headed to a similar fade as what we’ve seen out of Iowa in recent years. Last season may have been the first indication.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
If the 6-6 regular season record is the benchmark then the answer is yes. Ohio State, Boise State and Wisconsin are no longer on the schedule, which automatically bodes well for the Spartans. Michigan State won't play Penn State either as Mark Dantonio's squad will play the three worst teams in the Leaders Division — Indiana, Illinois, Purdue. And on the whole, this team should be better and more balanced. The defense is still stacked with All-Big Ten talent on all three levels and Andrew Maxwell can only get better in his second season. Losing Le'Veon Bell hurts but Dantonio always finds someone to carry the ball. Without pulling a single upset — at Notre Dame, at Nebraska, at Northwestern and Michigan at home — Michigan State could easily finish two games better in 2013.
Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com, (@KevinonCFB)
Michigan State should be an interesting team in Big Ten play this season but I would have to consider them a bit of a rebuilder in 2013 more than anything else. The offense has a good formula with a solid offensive line and experienced starting quarterback but must find some new legs to run with, while the defense will be a mystery backed up by a solid linebacking unit. All of that said, can Mark Dantonio's program scratch out seven wins? I think so.
Michigan State should pick up three wins right out of the gate, and if they can establish an identity early on they could sneak out of South Bend with an upset win against rival Notre Dame. In Big Ten play, as I look over the schedule now, I am already jotting down four wins in conference play (home vs. Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota and on road vs. Illinois). That gives the Spartans seven wins in my book, with a number of toss-ups scattered throughout.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite having a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally of the four major statistical categories (rush, pass, total and scoring), the Spartans finished 7-6 and needed a second-half rally against TCU in the bowl game just to get over the .500 mark. While the defense was one of the best in the nation last year, the offense averaged only 20 points a game and struggled to get consistency from quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
The bad news for Michigan State? The same scenario is setting up for 2013. The Spartans will have one of the Big Ten’s top defenses, but the offense is a major issue. Although everything that happens in spring isn’t a good indication of what will happen during the regular season, Michigan State’s passing game looks questionable once again, and there’s no clear No. 1 back to replace Le’Veon Bell.
Despite the personnel concerns on offense, I think Michigan State can get to eight wins. The Spartans play Indiana, Purdue and Illinois – arguably the three worst teams from the Leaders Division – in crossover action and should go 3-1 in non-conference games. If Michigan State wins those six matchups, it would just need to beat Minnesota or win at Iowa to match last year’s win total, with the potential to beat Michigan or claim a bowl victory.
Considering the suspect offense, getting to eight wins won’t be easy. However, the schedule certainly sets up well for Mark Dantonio’s team.
Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Michigan State won seven games in 2012, and that's only because the Spartans eked out a 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Can Mark Dantonio's bunch top that this fall? Thanks in large part to a manageable schedule they'll have a chance.
The non-conference schedule is fairly easy with Western Michigan, South Florida and FCS member Youngstown State the first three on tap. After that, things get much tougher, starting with a visit to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame. Ohio State is not on this season's Big Ten slate, which is a break for Sparty, as is the fact that the Buckeyes are replaced by Illinois. The worst stretch for Michigan State will come in November, which opens with a home game against Michigan and also includes back-to-back road trips to Lincoln, Neb., and Evanston, Ill. As difficult as that trifecta is, the rest of the Spartans' slate is very favorable, making eight wins in the regular season alone realistic.
However, the issue for Michigan State is Le'Veon Bell, the Big Ten's leading rusher last season, has left campus, as has Dion Sims, one of the top tight ends in the nation, and William Gholston, the anchor of last season's defensive line. There will be a drop off of some sort with whoever takes their places in the lineup. The defense should be fine with enough talent and experience returning, the question lies with the offense. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell struggled in his first season as the starter under center, completing less than 53 percent of his passes for just 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He must show improvement, especially since the running game is basically starting over from scratch after Bell's departure, who accounted for 84 percent of the team's rushing production last season.
The schedule sets up very nicely for the Spartans to surpass last season's seven wins before the postseason, it's just a matter of the team taking advantage of it. As good as the defense should be, I think there are too many questions on offense for me to fully endorse eight wins by the end of November. Anything less than seven, however, would have to be considered a disappointment.
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