Preview 2016

Michigan State Spartans Preview 2016

Nov 28, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio leads his team onto the field prior to a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 28, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio leads his team onto the field prior to a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports


Michigan State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Spartans, best players and season prediction.


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What You Need To Know About The Michigan State Offense

Get ready for the ground and pound to take over.

The MSU offense was just okay throughout last season, but other than in the final moments against Nebraska and against Alabama, it was fantastic when it absolutely had to be. It was almost as if the Spartans did just enough to stay around, and then turn it on late. This year, they won’t have Connor Cook to rely on, and there’s no Aaron Burbridge to throw to, but there’s a lot to get excited about.

If the line can quickly come together despite the loss of Jack Conklin and two other key starters, the ground attack should be fantastic with L.J. Scott leading a killer rotation.

The quarterback situation will be the question mark, but Tyler O’Connor proved his worth with the win over Ohio State, and Damion Terry is a solid second option. Now they need more playmaking receivers to work with – the recruiting class might have helped out with that.

Biggest Key To The Michigan State Offense
Can the offense be stronger for a full sixty minutes? Western Michigan hung around with the Spartans for way too long, and so did Purdue, and so did Rutgers. Nebraska hung around, too, and the Spartans ended up paying for it. But veteran teams are able to come up with the key wins when things don’t go right all the time, and great teams win the Big Ten championship and go to the College Football Playoff.

There might be holes to fill losing three key stars in Cook, Burbridge and Conklin, but the Spartans know how to control the clock, they don’t make a ton of big mistakes, and they knew how to come through in the clutch. The goal, though, is to not have to and to settle things before the final drives.

What You Need To Know About The Michigan State Defense

The secondary had a few problems with big plays, but the run defense made up for it and the overall results were solid in the first year after losing star defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. With six starters gone, though, can MSU keep on producing at the highest of levels?

It’s Michigan State. Absolutely.

Getting back Ed Davis at one linebacker spot after missing all of last year hurt is a big plus, and having an NFL defensive tackle in Malik McDowell manning the nose certainly doesn’t hurt, but losing Shilique Calhoun and Thomas Lawrence on the line, and Darien Harris from the linebacking corps isn’t a positive.

As long as the line quickly reloads, the back seven should be able to get the job done – especially if Davis is back to form. The youth should help the cause, but early on, the frontline starters should be fine once the combination is figured out.

Biggest Key To The Michigan State Defense
The secondary has to be better. The Spartans were lit up for 285 passing yards or more seven times, and they didn’t always make up for the problems with picks. The pass rush did its part, and it should be able to again from all sides, but the secondary made Alabama’s Jake Coker look like Tom Brady, and they allowed too many okay teams to stay in games. Tighten up the secondary, and the defense back to its 2013 form.

Michigan State Will Be Far Better If …

The overall punting game starts to work. The Spartans might have come up with one of the biggest and most famous punt blocks in college football history – beating Michigan in the final seconds – but overall, everything involving a punt was a problem.

The Spartans netted just 35.1 yards per punt, and averaged a horrendous 3.38 yards per punt return. Neither area was a plus two years ago, either, but they were major positives in the Rose Bowl-winning 2013 campaign. Considering field position will be at a premium with the way these Spartans are going to play, the spotlight will be on punter Jake Hartbarger.

Best Michigan State Offensive Player

RB LJ Scott, Soph. – He flew a bit under the radar considering he was a part of a good three-man rotation – Gerald Holmes and Madre London can play, too – and with Connor Cook and the passing game taking center stage. But he rumbled around the goal line and he provided the power throughout. Holmes and London are going to have their moments – Holmes is the better of the two – but Scott should be the star.

Best Michigan State Defensive Player

DT Malik McDowell, Jr. – After all the drama and all the craziness of the recruiting process, McDowell has turned out to be just about everything the Spartans could’ve asked for out of a star defensive tackle. He’s built like an NFL 3-technique interior playmaker, but he’s strong enough to hold on at the nose. A possible first round draft pick is he comes out early next season, he’s got all the tools, but first has to be the anchor of a rebuilt line.

Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Tyler O’Connor, Sr. – Or Damion Terry, a talented 6-3, 238-pounder with all the tools. O’Connor was the backup throughout last year, forever known as the guy who completed 7-of-12 passes for 89 yards and a score – and, most importantly, no picks – in the win over Ohio State.

At 6-3 and 225 pounds he’s got Michigan State quarterback size, and he’s got the experience in the system, but Connor Cook was magical with the game on the line. On resume, Cook was one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Big Ten history, and now it’s up to O’Connor – or Terry – to fill the massive shoes.

The Michigan State Season Will Be A Success If …

It’s a third Big Ten championship in four years. And why not? The coaching staff is still fantastic, the defense is still terrific, and the offense has the ground game and the upside to be at least as good as it was last year, if not a whole lot better. This might be Mark Dantonio’s best team, but the biggest Big Ten games are all at home this time around. Hold serve at home against Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State, and the East title should be a given.

Key Game

Nov. 19 vs. Ohio State – This showdown has basically been the Big Ten title game over the last three years, and it probably will be again this time around.

The Michigan game is the gigantic rivalry date that should set the tone for the last part of the season, but Ohio State is probably going to be better. Considering the schedules, MSU can probably lose to the Wolverines and be fine, but they can’t lose to the Buckeyes if there’s any hope of winning the East.

2015 Michigan State Fun Stats

– Fumbles: Opponents 27 (lost 13) – Michigan State 15 (lost 6)
– Time of Possession: Michigan State 32:52 – Opponents 27:08
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 12.8 yards – Michigan State 3.4 yards

2016 Michigan State Season Prediction

What’s going to happen to Michigan State this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …