Making the case for...Michigan State
As the season approaches, we decided to count down why five teams will win their respective Big Ten divisions. Three reasons apiece will break down why each respective team can punch a ticket to Indianapolis.
Today, we’ll look at Michigan State’s reasons it’ll win the East.
1. Chef is Cookin’
If you’re going to build a national title contender, a senior quarterback with over 6,000 career passing yards is a pretty good place to start. There might not be a better pocket passer in America than Connor Cook. To beat an Oregon and an Ohio State, offensive firepower like Cook is needed. The guy put together the best offensive season in school history and could be capable of even better things if he improves on his 58 percent passing. In last year’s loss to Ohio State, Cook threw for 358 yards and a pair of scores but couldn’t get much help from the Sparty defense. Who’s to say Cook can’t have a performance like J.T. Barrett’s en route to the upset of the season?
2. Trench Warfare
There’s a scary thought for the rest of the Big Ten. Michigan State might be better up front on both sides of the ball than anybody in the conference. Jack Allen and Jack Conklin will solidify a line that will give Cook and the MSU ground game all the space it needs to dominate again. On the flip side, Shilique Calhoun and Malik McDowell are going to cause all sorts of problems for Big Ten offensive lines. Games in the Big Ten are won and lost up front, which was the formula that led Sparty to 11-win seasons in four of the last five years. Michigan State is going to have to overcome inexperience in the offensive and defensive backfield, but that’s a much smoother transition when a team is as solid in the trenches as the Spartans are.
3. Under the Radar
In any normal season, Michigan State would be the talk of the conference. Instead, the defending national champions just saw their rival make its most high profile coaching hire in school history. Naturally, the majority of the attention surrounding the preseason chatter is focused on Ohio State and Michigan. But that’s just that way Mark Dantonio and his team prefer it. MSU doesn’t have the outside distractions that the Buckeyes do, nor do they have the world already telling them they’re the best. In reality, MSU’s best stacks up against Ohio State’s best. Everyone expects the Nov. 21 showdown in Columbus to determine the East. Sparty doesn’t have to play out of its mind to hang with the Buckeyes. They’ll need their most mistake-free game of 2015, which could end up being fueled by a lack of national respect.