2. Michigan State Spartans
AP 11, Coaches 12
Final Record: 7-6
There was a reason the polls were in deep like with the 2018 Spartans.
The defense that was a rock late in 2017 was coming back loaded, and the offense that hung up 82 points in the final two games – including in a 42-17 win over Washington State – had plenty of weapons.
But the 2018 team could never find its offensive mojo.
The defense cranked up a historic season against the run and turned into a brick wall over the second half, allowing ten points or fewer in four of the last five games. But the offense scored six points in three of the last four games, and 32 points total in the stretch.
It was still a winning season, but the Spartans lost the Redbox Bowl to Oregon in a 7-6 nightmare. They lost at home to Ohio State, they lost at home to Northwestern, and while they were able to get by Penn State, they followed it up with a loss to Michigan.
But if head man Mark Dantonio can take a team that went 3-9 in 2016 to ten wins the season after, he shouldn’t have any problems getting this team back on track.
It stars with the offense. At least there’s experience with options at quarterback, almost everyone of note back in the receiving corps, and all five starters back up front.
The defense that was College Football Playoff-good last year returns nine starters.
Road games have never scared this program under Dantonio, but it’s not going to be easy going away to play Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern. Even so, this is about to be the Michigan State you’re used to.