2019 Michigan State Spartans Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
After reaching double digits in wins in four of the five prior years, the 7-6 record the Spartans tallied last year was a serious step back for the team. But it wasn't one without excuses. Namely, 10 different offensive starters missed a combined 48 games due to injury. It was inevitable that the unit was going to struggle, but they still shouldn't have been as bad as they were - they ranked just 117th nationally in total offense. It was only thanks to a defense that was tops nationally against the run that the team was at all respectable.
The struggles last year make this year particularly important. Michigan and Ohio State remain very strong, and like Penn State, the Spartans need to fight to make sure that the Big Ten East remains a four-team battle like it has been in recent years, not a two-team affair like it more traditionally has been.
2018 in a Nutshell
There was just no such thing as momentum for this team last year - they never won or lost more than two in a row. They beat Utah State in the opener but then lost at Arizona State. They beat Indiana and Central Michigan - hardly cause for celebration - but then lost to Northwestern by 10 at home. They won at Penn State in the highlight of the season, but then were outclassed at home by Michigan. They beat Purdue and Maryland - again hardly a major accomplishment in either case - but then they lost badly to Ohio State, and then lost a snoozer at Nebraska. They beat Rutgers to close out the season, though not by nearly as much as a decent team should be beating Rutgers. Their 7-5 mark earned them a berth in the Redbox Bowl - hardly the premier Big Ten assignment. Their 7-6 loss to Oregon there was quite probably the worst football game I have ever watched. If forced to choose between watching it again and swimming with hungry crocodiles, I would have to really think about it.
Key Additions and Departures
The surface storyline is that Mark Dantonio made some changes to his offensive coaching staff in an attempt to modernize what had become a stale and outdated unit. I wouldn't even dream of arguing against that idea - it was much needed. I just don't like how he did it. Last year he had co-offensive coordinators in Dave Warner and Jim Bollman. Loyal almost to a fault, Dantonio demoted both but kept them around - Warner, who is one of three assistants who arrived in East Lansing with Dantonio in 2007, is coaching quarterbacks, and Bollman is with the offensive line. Taking over as coordinator is Brad Salem, who has been with the team since 2010 and was QB coach last year. The team needs fresh blood and new ideas, but the program has become where assistants come to die - eight of the 11 assistants have been with the teams since at least 2013, and two of the other three had previously served under Dantonio before taking other jobs and then returning last season. At a time when Michigan and Ohio State both aggressively brought in new coaches with fresh ideas, the insular nature of this staff is a real concern.
The team lost just two players to the draft. Both were from the secondary - corner Justin Layne in the third round, and safety Khari Willis in the fourth. Willis, in particular, will be missed for his leadership. Another notable loss for the team was receiver Felton Davis, who was strong in the seven games he played. He joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent.
The Spartans don't recruit nearly as well as their conference rivals, and that trend certainly continued this year. They not only had no five-star recruits, but only two four-stars in a class that ranked 30th nationally. There isn't likely to be a whole lot of immediate help from the group. The recruit who has had the most buzz since joining the program is running back Anthony Williams Jr., who could break through on a team that lacks a feature back after L.J. Scott graduated, or even an obvious candidate.
Biggest Area of Concern
The offensive line. The good news is that they return seven guys who had starting experience last year. The problem, though, is that those guys played in nine different starting combinations due to injury and other factors, and none of them were any good. They were far from physical and were beaten up by any defensive line with talent. And in the Big Ten they face strong defensive lines. New offensive line coach Jim Bollman - he takes over from Mark Staten, another Dantonio lifer who has been moved to tight ends this year - has a major task ahead of him.
Michigan State Spartans Schedule Analysis
Last year this team mostly won the games they were absolutely supposed to win. If they continue that this year, then they will beat Tulsa, Western Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland, and that will make them bowl eligible. It's the other six games that will be far more telling. They host Arizona State in their third game, and then visit Northwestern the next week. Both teams are beatable, but they lost both games last year. Starting Oct. 5, they have an absolutely brutal stretch - at Ohio State and Wisconsin, then at home against Penn State after a bye week. And on Nov. 16 they have to travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan. The best-case scenario feels like about three wins from that group, and that feels optimistic.
2019-20 Michigan State Spartans Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline lists 27 different teams with their odds to win the national title. Michigan State is not one of them, which tells you everything you need to know about both their chances and their national perception and appeal right now. Bovada has them as the fifth choice to win the Big Ten at +1400, far behind favorites Ohio State and Michigan, and also trailing Penn State and Nebraska. They are very slightly ahead of Wisconsin, currently at +1450.
2019-20 Michigan State Spartans Predictions and College Football Picks
I'm just not that optimistic. They will improve on offense if they can stay healthy, but not enough to blow the doors off anyone. And the defense will again be sound but will be asked to do too much. I don't see a path to more than nine wins, and I expect closer to eight.
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