#12 Michigan State 2018 Football Preview

Michigan State Spartans
Overall Rank: #12
#4 Big Ten
 Michigan State Logo
Michigan State was one of the best bounce back stories of the 2017 season as head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff led the Spartans to ten wins after a 3-9 season in 2016. Michigan State picked up signature wins over Michigan and Penn State last season along with a dominant performance against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. The Spartans will welcome back 19 starters so they are a sleeper to win the Big Ten, which is just the way Coach Dantonio likes it.
2017 Record: 10-3, 7-2
2017 Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State (42-17 W)
Coach: Mark Dantonio (100-45 at Michigan State, 118-62 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Bollman, Dave Warner
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Tressel
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: LJ Scott, RB, 898 yards
Passing: Brian Lewerke, QB, 2,793 yards
Receiving: Felton Davis III, WR, 776 yards
Tackles: Joe Bochie, MLB, 100
Sacks: Kenny Willekes, DE, 7.0
Interceptions: David Dowell, FS, 5
Other Key Returnees: WR Cody White, LT Cole Chewins, LG David Beedle, RG Kevin Jarvis, TE Matt Sokol, DT Mike Panasiuk, OLB Andrew Dowell, CB Justin Layne, CB Josiah Scott, SS Khari Willis, K Matt Coghlin, P Jake Hartberger, DE Raequan Williams, WR Darrell Stewart, C Matt Allen, RT Jordan Reid
Key Losses: C Brian Allen, RB Gerald Holmes, DE Demetrius Cooper, LB Chris Frey,
Michigan State was steady in 2017 offensively as quarterback Brian Lewerke did a nice job of moving the football through the air for the Spartans. Lewerke completed 59 percent of his passes and threw 20 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. LJ Scott will anchor the running game after rushing for 898 yards last season and will need to stay healthy all year long as there is not a ton of depth behind him. Felton Davis III, Darrell Stewart, and Cody White are big strong wide receivers that can make timely plays in the passing game to keep opposing defenses honest. The offensive line should be solid enough with Kevin Jarvis at right guard and Jordan Reid out at right tackle.
Look for a very salty Michigan State defensive unit in 2018 as they were stingy and ended the 2017 season number seven in the country in total defense. Kenny Willekes will provide plenty of pass rush after tallying seven sacks and both defensive tackles, Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams, will control the middle at a high level this season. Joe Bochie and Andrew Dowell are your textbook hard-nosed linebackers that you would expect out of the Spartans on an annual basis. The entire secondary comes back led Justin Layne and Josiah Scott. Those two guys can keep opposing passing attacks from dominating them. David Dowell is a ballhawk at free safety with five interceptions last season. Matt Coghlin and Jake Hartberger return at kicker and punter, respectively. Coghlin made 15 of 19 field goals and converted 38 of 38 extra points in 2017. Hartberger did a solid job of punting the football as teams were limited to a mere 31 return yards last season.
The Bottom Line:
Utah State will come to East Lansing for the season opener under the lights on Friday August 31st. The Aggies are one of those teams, when everything is clicking, that are capable of causing Power Five teams’ issues. Michigan State will travel to Arizona State in week two for an intriguing intersectional matchup. The Spartans have the better team but going on the road to Tempe to play the Sun Devils as a big-time non-conference opponent is always a trap game. Fast forward to October and the schedule gets interesting as Michigan State will host Northwestern, travel to Penn State, and battle Michigan at home in consecutive weeks. The Spartans will need to go 2-1 to stay in the Big Ten East race in those three games. On November 10th, Michigan State has their annual battle with Ohio State in what could decide the Big Ten East. Now, the wildcard in that scenario is the uncertainty with the Buckeyes as Urban Meyer is still on administrative leave currently. Overall, the Spartans should win about ten games in the regular season and go 7-2 in Big Ten play.
Projected Bowl: Citrus Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 167.8 (62nd in nation, 7th in Conference)
Passing Offense: 215.2 (76, 7)
Total Offense: 383.1 (91, 8)
Scoring Offense: 24.5 (96, 10)
Rushing Defense: 95.3 (2, 1)
Pass Defense: 202.3 (37, 7)
Total Defense: 297.6 (7, 3)
Scoring Defense: 20.0 (19, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (46, 7)
Sacks: 2.15 (55, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (39, 4)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#182 Kalon Gervin
#221 Trenton Gillison
#243 Xavier Henderson