2014 Michigan State Spartans Odds to Win the Big Ten with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/18/2014
Michigan's State 2013 season was nothing short of amazing. The Spartans only loss came early in the year at Notre Dame by a score of 17-13. Michigan State outplayed Notre Dame in that game, and they likely would have won if it weren't for a couple of very questionable pass interference calls. The Spartans didn't let that keep them down for long, though. Michigan State went unbeaten in the Big Ten regular season and then knocked off Ohio State as a five-point underdog in the Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan State proceeded to beat Stanford 24-20 as a touchdown underdog in the Rose Bowl.
Mark Dantonio was a tremendous hire at Michigan State, and the job he has done in turning this program around is nothing short of remarkable. When Dantonio took over the program in 2007, John L. Smith had driven it into the ground. The Spartans had endured three consecutive losing seasons, and the last time they had finished ranked was 1999. It's hard to imagine that this is where the program was, because now Michigan State has won at least 11 games in three of the last four seasons. The Spartans return 12 starters from last year's team, but there are some key names to replace.
2014 Michigan State Offense
At the beginning of 2013, the Michigan State offense was a total mess. The Spartans gained just 297 yards against Western Michigan and 265 yards against South Florida in their first two games of the season. The offense eventually got it going thanks to a major spark from quarterback Connor Cook. Cook didn't start the year as the team's starting quarterback, but he played his way into that position. Cook lit up the Ohio State secondary and then torched Stanford for 332 passing yards in the Rose Bowl. Can Cook continue his extremely high level of play from the end of last year? That's really what this team needs from him.
Jeremy Langford was better than anyone could have expected last year for the Spartans. Langford ran for 1,422 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Nick Hill averaged 5.1 yards per carry in limited work as his backup. The Spartans return their top five rushers from last year. One of the reasons this group was so successful last year was the excellent play of the offensive line. Three offensive linemen from last year are gone, but this is a deep group, and Dantonio has done a great job recruiting this position. How much of a drop off will there be? The wide receivers appear to be the best Michigan State has had in several years, which should make this passing attack tough to stop. Look for more consistency out of Michigan State's offense in 2014.
2014 Michigan State Defense
I believe Pat Narduzzi is one of the best defensive minds in all of football. Narduzzi's job with last year's Michigan State defense was just amazing. In fact, Michigan State's defensive numbers have improved in four straight seasons. The Spartans allowed only 252 yards and 13.2 points per game last season. Only five starters return from last year, and those numbers will be extremely hard to match.
The linebackers unit suffered a couple major losses as Denicos Allen and Max Bullough are both gone. No one on this year's roster will be able to step in and produce the way those guys did, so I definitely expect a dip in production. Still, Michigan State's coaching staff should have this group playing good football by the end of the year. The defensive line is in better shape. Calhoun and Rush were their top two sack men from the end positions, and they both return this year. Tyler Hoover is a major loss in the middle of the line, but Joel Heath and Damon Knox appear to be strong run stuffers.
Michigan State's secondary was fantastic a year ago, and while they should be down a bit in 2014, this unit will still be very good. Free safety Kurtis Drummond will be one of the best safeties in the nation this year, so he's a great one to have at the back of the defense. The team will badly miss Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis, but the talent in the secondary is still far above average.
This defense is going to be down, but don't expect a massive decline.
2014 Michigan State Spartans Odds to Win Big Ten
Michigan State is listed as the second favorite at odds of 15/4 to win the Big Ten Championship, according to odds from Bovada. The Spartans are priced at 2/1 to win the Big Ten East Division. What about their chances for a national title? Bovada lists them at 28/1. The Spartans season win total is 9.5 games .
2014 Michigan State Spartans Picks & Predictions
The Spartans need the offense to carry more of the weight this year, because the defense lost too much to have such awesome numbers in 2014. If Cook is able to lead the team the way he did late last year, this team could absolutely win the Big Ten. They host Ohio State in what should be a terrific game. The new defense of Michigan State gets tested in a huge way early on when they travel to Oregon in their second game of the year. Michigan State takes a small step back, but this team probably still reaches 10 wins.
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