By Nick Richardson @NickSonofDave on August 26, 2014
Coming off of a season in which they won both the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl, expectations are sky-high for the Michigan State Spartans. Mark Dantonio and his club expect to compete for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Here are five reasons why that expectation will become a reality.
This may seem a bit silly, but the fact that the Spartans aren’t from the SEC could help them in December. By season’s end, everyone will be sick to death of all the talk about the SEC and how many teams should get into the playoff. If the Spartans can run the table, or even manage to lose only once, the committee could be willing to select them to avoid any SEC favoritism.
Few coaches in college football have found more success with less fanfare than Mark Dantonio. He has turned Michigan State into a perennial contender in the Big Ten. Perhaps more importantly, he has made East Lansing a more desirable destination than archrival Michigan. In addition, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is one of the best around; his defenses are always among the elite.
If the Spartans can get past what should be an epic contest against Oregon in Autzen Stadiun on Sept. 6, they have a very real shot at running the table. Michigan State gets Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State at home, and their contest against the Buckeyes looks much more winnable with Braxton Miller out for the season. Their only potentially tough road game outside of Oregon is against Penn State.
As mentioned earlier, the Spartans won both the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl, due in large part to the clutch play of Connor Cook, only a sophomore last year. Cook may not contend for the Heisman Trophy in 2014, but few teams in the country have such a proven clutch performer at the most important position on the field. Cook has shown that no game is too big for him.
Michigan State lost several big contributors from one of the nation’s best defenses, including first-round NFL draft pick Darqueze Dennard. It speaks to Dantonio and Narduzzi’s abilities as recruiters and teachers that Sparty could once again have one of the best D’s in the country. Shilique Calhoun will be a contender for every national award out there and Trae Waynes might follow Dennard in the first round in next year’s draft.
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