Mark Dantonio has done a lot to rebuild the Michigan State football program in his first five years in East Lansing. The Spartans are 44-22 in his time at the helm. Twenty two of those wins have come in the last two seasons.
Michigan State football is back on the map, but Dantonio isn’t letting anyone feel like now is a time to relax and feel comfortable.
The 2011 Spartans had some extremely exciting late-game victories. Who can forget the Hail Mary pass that gave the Spartans a thrilling win over previously-unbeaten Wisconsin last October? The Outback Bowl saw the Spartans take down the Georgia Bulldogs in a tense 33-30 triple-overtime affair. The win marked the school’s first bowl victory since 2001.
100% bonus up to $500
at GT Bets
With the rebuilding process complete, Dantonio believes now is the time to aim for the top. During the offseason, the coaching staff has let the entire team know that expectations are now higher for this squad. This is a team that genuinely believes they are on the path to a National Championship.
There is no doubt that Michigan State has a great foundation to build from, but getting a national title in the current environment is no easy task. You can’t blame people around the sport for thinking Dantonio’s National Championship talk is overly optimistic, but Dantonio is making believers out of Spartans fans as well as the team.
Is this program getting ahead of itself or are big things truly in the near future for Michigan State?
Here is Doc’s Sports 2012 Michigan State Spartans football predictions with Big Ten and BCS odds:
The aforementioned Dantonio has a great background in coaching, and he is quickly climbing the college coaching rankings. He was the engineer of the Ohio State Buckeyes defense in 2002 when the Buckeyes won the BCS Championship. He then turned around the Cincinnati Bearcats football program before taking the top job at Michigan State. Dantonio signed an extension in October 2011 that makes him a “Spartan for life.”
The hallmark of this coaching staff has been the amazing stability of the group. Since 2006, the Spartans have lost only two assistant coaches, both to head coaching jobs. Dantonio is a loyal guy, and it appears his coaching staff will largely stay the same for the long run. There is something to be said for the fact that the players are hearing the same message over the course of their time at the school.
It’s tough to lose a guy like Kirk Cousins without experiencing a drop in production. Cousins was a great veteran leader under center, and he will be badly missed. Still, Andrew Maxwell seems to be a good fit for the Spartans offense. Maxwell has been great in offseason practices, and he has all the skills necessary to be a winner. Maxwell must take care of the football and be a good decision-maker.
Michigan State has been loaded with talent in the backfield the last few years, and that is the case once again in 2012. Le’Veon Bell will be the starter in the backfield, but Larry Caper should see plenty of action as well. Bell looks like a future NFL back because of his combination of size and speed. Caper is a terrific receiver out of the backfield, and he is a great third-down specialist.
The offensive line has been a question mark each year over the past five years, but this group looks like a major strength for the team. Six guys with starting experience return, and this unit has shown great cohesiveness over the past few months. Look for this to be one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten.
The Spartans must replace a ton of talent at the wide receiver spot. B.J. Cunningham set many records at the school, but he is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol are also gone. Those three guys hauled in 171 catches for 2,356 yards last year, so that will be tough to replace. Inexperience in this area is a major concern.
Michigan State’s defense has improved by leaps and bounds in the past four years. This coaching staff has made it a top priority to get athletes at every position, and this group has really turned the corner of late. How good was this group in 2011? Michigan State finished fifth in the nation in total defense despite facing a brutal schedule.
The Spartans will certainly miss Jerel Worthy up front. Worthy was a second-round pick in this year’s draft, and he had 10.5 tackles for loss last year. The defensive tackle spot is a question mark, but the talent around whoever the tackle is will be terrific. William Gholston and Marcus Rush are stars at the defensive end spots. Look for the Spartans to get tons of pressure on the opposing quarterback this season.
Max Bullogh and Chris Norman are defensive leaders at the linebacker spots. In the secondary, the Spartans have two of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten. Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard are able to lock down receivers in one-on-one coverage, which allows the safeties to be more aggressive.
2012 Michigan State Spartans Football Schedule Analysis
The season opens on Thursday Aug. 31 against the Boise State Broncos. Boise State will be replacing a ton of key starters, but that certainly isn’t a team that should be taken lightly. Michigan State will play two directional Michigan schools in September, and one has to assume they’ll win those games. A big plus for the team is that they get Notre Dame, Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska all at home this year.
Circle the calendar for Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 as the two biggest games of the year for Michigan State. The Spartans will travel to Michigan and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks. It will be a major test for this team. Michigan State gets its toughest conference games out of the way early on this year, so they certainly have the potential of closing the season on a nice winning streak.
2012 Michigan State Big Ten and BCS Futures Odds
Michigan State is listed at +8,000 to win the BCS Championship and +3,300 to play in the title game at 5Dimes. BetOnline lists the Spartans at +325 to win the Big Ten Legends Division and +750 to win the Big Ten Conference overall. 5Dimes posts odds on a matchup of Oklahoma vs. Michigan State in the final USA Today Poll. Oklahoma is listed at -420 to finish higher, while the Spartans are listed at +300. 5Dimes also lists Le’Veon Bell at +12,000 to win the Heisman Trophy. The season win total on the Spartans is set at 8.5 wins.
2012 Michigan State Spartans Football Predictions
Michigan State isn’t getting a ton of love from the oddsmakers going into 2012. Even though the team has had consecutive 11-win seasons, it seems the Spartans are still seen as a couple notches below the top two or three in the Big Ten. The Spartans lost some very important players from last year’s team, but you can’t overlook how much talent returns to East Lansing in 2012.
The schedule is quite a bit easier than it was a year ago, and I think the Spartans are likely to go “over” the season win total of 8.5 games. With Michigan and Ohio State gaining traction over the next year or two, the Spartans best chance to reach the top of the Big Ten may be right now.
Still, I don’t think this team has what it takes to top the best in the league this year. Nine or 0 wins seems like the most likely scenario for the Spartans in 2012.
Doc’s Sports is offering $60 worth of member’s picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Doc’s Sports Advisory Board list of expert sports handicappers. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.