Call me crazy, but Michigan State, despite a disappointing 6-6 season in 2012, should be one of the favorites to win the Big Ten Leaders Division in 2013 and make the title game for the second time in three seasons.
Mark Dantonio and the Spartans have faced this kind of situation before in 2009. The Spartans finished with a disappointing 6-7 record after a loss in the Alamo Bowl. The same team overcame the adversity and the same core of players finished the following season with a record of 11-2 after a loss in the Capital One Bowl.
Dantonio helped bring the Spartans out of the dark and for the following two seasons after the disappointing 6-7 season saw over 20 Spartan wins and they missed the Rose Bowl by just one game in both years.
Although this isn’t a new task for Dantonio, he will have his work cut out for him if he wants to get this team to 10 wins in 2013.
The Spartan offense has been awful this season averaging just 20 points per game and their yardage per game was ranked in the bottom half of the nation.
Well, why do I think they will be Big Ten favorites next season if their offense is so awful? I’ll tell you why: their defense.
The Spartan defense, behind linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and defensive end William Gholston, has ranked at the top of the conference in total defense all season long and has been close to the top in defense in the country.
Barring a major defensive chance– like everyone leaving for the NFL– the Spartans should be No. 1 in the conference in defense once again in 2013.
Well if they have defense, how can they win with no offense because they didn’t this year? Well, I think the offense has the potential to be potent, but have yet to gel and reach their potential.
Andrew Maxwell was a first-year starter at quarterback and had big shoes to fill. Kirk Cousins led the Spartans to two straight 11 win seasons and Maxwell had a hard time repeating that same success.
He passed for over 2,500 yards and 13 touchdowns, but the accuracy wasn’t up to par.
He will be much improved in 2013 with some mechanical work in the offseason and with some more confidence.
One thing the Spartans are desperately hoping will happen is the return of junior running back Le’Veon Bell. He was the conference’s leading rusher in 2012 and could be a Heisman candidate in 2013 is he decides to stay.
The receivers had been a problem all season long and seemed to be a bit improved by season’s end. They were young and will also be better with an entire offseason to work. Not one of the receivers was a starter in 2011, so that just goes to show how inexperienced that core of players was.
With a lot of hard work in the offseason, some players deciding to come back for their senior seasons and some tweaks in Maxwell’s throwing motion and confidence, the offense will play well enough to make the 2013 Spartans Big Ten favorites. Watch out, Ohio State.