Michigan State Spartans
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
2013 Record: 13-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten Legends Division
2013 Bowl Result: Beat Stanford 24-20 in the Rose Bowl
2014 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 5 defense
Odds to Win 2015 College Football Championship: 25/1
Odds to Win 2014 Big Ten championship Game: 15/4
Odds to Win Big Ten East Division: 13/5
Regular Season Wins: under 9.5 -140 / over 9.5 +110
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Last season, the Michigan State Spartans had one of the best seasons in school history with a 13-1 record. The season culminated with their first outright Big Ten title since 1987 and a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford. The Spartans upset previously undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game keeping the Buckeyes out of the BCS Championship game.
The Spartans return 12 starters from that team and look to defend their Big Ten Championship. It won’t be easy in the newly realigned Big Ten since the Spartans are in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan.
The offense wasn’t spectacular last year averaging just 386 yards per game and 29.4 points per game. Seven starters return from that unit and the offense looks to improve in 2014.
Junior quarterback Connor Cook returns. Cook completed 58.7% of his passes for 2,755 yards with 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, plus a rushing touchdown. Cook looks to build on his Big Ten Championship game and Rose Bowl MVP’s last year.
Running back Jeremy Langford also returns after rushing for 1,422 yards with 18 touchdowns on 292 carries, along with 28 catches, 157 yards and a touchdown. Nick Hill and Delton Williams will get a few carries but Langford is a workhorse back who averaged almost 21 carries a game last year. Dantonio said Langford will also be a bigger part of the passing game this season.
The Spartans must replace leading receiver Bennie Fowler (now with the Denver Broncos) but they still return a deep group of wide receivers. Tony Lippett had 44 catches, 613 yards and 2 touchdowns. Macgarrett Kings, Jr. had 43 catches, 513 yards and 3 touchdowns. Keith Mumphery had only 18 catches last year but three of them went for touchdowns. Tight end Josiah Price had 4 touchdown catches as a freshman last year. Aaron Burbridge DeAnthony Arnett, and R.J. Shelton will also get a lot of targets.
The offensive line returns five players who started games last season. they only allowed 17 sacks all season, so it should be a strength of the offense again. Left tackle Jack Conklin was a freshman All-american last season.
While the offense did enough last season, the defense was #2 nationally allowing 252 yards and #3 in scoring defense allowing just 13 points a game. Only 5 starters return from that unit, so they could take a step back in 2014.
Defensive ends Shilique Calhoun and fourth-year starter Marcus Rush are among the best in the country. Calhoun won the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the year award in 2013. Freshmen tackles Malik McDowell and Craig Evans have star power written all over them.
The linebackers will be almost entirely made up of new faces except for Taiwan Jones. Even Jones moves from outside to middle linebacker. Darlen Harris and Ed Davis will likely be the starters on the outside.
Safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes return to anchor the secondary. Darien Hicks will start at the other corner and R.J. Williamson will be the other safety.
Punter Mike Sadler was all-Big Ten last year. He has been cleared for fall practice after missing the spring with knee surgery. Kicker Michael Geiger connected on 15 of 16 field goals last year and was a freshman All-American last season. Shelton will likely return kickoffs again, and Kings will return punts.
Michigan State has home non-conference games against Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan and Wyoming. They do face a very tough game at Oregon the second week of the season. In conference, Michigan State gets Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers in East Lansing. The Spartans travel to Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State. They should go 10-2 with losses to Oregon and Ohio State.
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