By Matt Heinz @MattHeinz_Rant on August 22, 2014
Michigan State is coming off their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988, and boy oh boy are the Spartan faithful excited. Many expected a significant drop-off in 2013 after losing Le’Veon Bell and his 1,700 yards rushing but college football is a coach dominated sport. The Spartans have a good one in head coach Mark Dantonio as he has compiled a 64-29 record over 7 years. He must answer five key questions if MSU expects to duplicate 2013's success.
Bennie Fowler and his team-leading six TD receptions are gone, but Sparty returns talented pass catchers Tony Lippett, Keith Mumphery and Macgarrett Kings Jr. Lippett is the deep threat at 6-foot-3 and has hauled in 80 passes over the past two seasons. Mumphery has lots of experience as he has collected 62 catches over the past three years. Kings Jr. was second on the team with 43 receptions in 2013. All three will be relied on more in 2014.
While it is hard to replace a first-round corner like Dennard, Waynes looks to fill his shoes. Waynes had an impressive interception in last year’s Rose Bowl when the game was still tied at 17. He went up at the ball’s highest point and took it right out of the hands of Stanford WR Michael Rector. The media thinks very highly of Waynes, as he is on the Nagurski award watch list which awards the nation’s best defensive player.
Game manager or gamechanger? Which Cook will fans see in 2014? The Spartans' recipe for success under Dantonio has had key ingredients of a smash-mouth run game and strong defense. While the defense is still expected to be strong in 2014, the Spartans will need QB Connor Cook to win games in the fourth quarter. He will also need to improve on his 58.7 completion percentage from last year in order for the Spartans to make the playoffs.
Jones has started 17 games at weak side linebacker for the Spartans. His eight tackles in the Rose Bowl against one of the best rushing offenses in recent memory showcase his ability. With Max Bullough and Rose Bowl hero Kyler Elsworth gone, Jones needs to take charge of the defensive unit. The middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, the coach on the field. If Jones takes care of this, the Spartan D will succeed.
As of this week, Michigan State is now the favorite to win the Big 10 after Braxton Miller has been sidelined for the 2014 season. Michigan football hasn’t been living up to its standards, and Penn State just had a coaching change amid scholarship losses. Michigan State scored key upsets late in the year against Ohio State and Stanford, but now they have a target on their back. Will the success get to the heads of the Spartan players?
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