Southern Football Report Preseason Top 25 – Team #13

#13 – Michigan State SpartansMichigan State Logo
East Lansing, Michigan
Spartan Stadium
2013 Record: 13-1 (8-0)

The Spartans had a tough year in 2012 as they fell from two consecutive 11-win seasons to a 7-6 campaign where they only won 2 games at home all season to only Boise State and Eastern Michigan. Head Coach Mark Dantonio’s squad bounced back in a big way with an undefeated Big Ten season in 2013 with a Rose Bowl win over Stanford. When you talk about Michigan State every conversation begins on the defensive side of the ball where the Spartans only allowed 13.2 points per game in 2013 but lost 6 starters off of that team. In 2014, all five returning starters were key leaders on last year’s team like senior linebacker Taiwan Jones (67 tackles), senior defensive end Marcus Rush (30 tackles, 5 sacks), junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun (37 tackles, 7.5 sacks) and the unquestioned leader of the 2014 Spartan defense and defensive playmaker, senior strong safety Kurtis Drummond (91 tackles, 4 interceptions). That is a lot of leadership from guys who have been in the program and the defense for a long time. Even the guys who are expected to fill in the vacated positions are all juniors and seniors except for cornerback Darien Hicks who played a lot last season as a freshman. Offensively, the Spartans had an incredible running game in 2013 and that will continue this season as Jeremy Langford returns for his senior season after rushing for 1422 yards and 18 touchdowns a season ago. Michigan State will need to replace three of five offensive lineman but will promote two seniors and a junior to the starting offensive line. Quarterback Conner Cook also returns after throwing 22 touchdowns in 2013 to only 6 interceptions for over 2700 yards. He does lose his top wide receiver in Bonnie Fowler but literally returns everyone else who caught a pass in 2013.

If Kurtis Drummond can continue to make plays like this Michigan State will be back in the Rose Bowl
If Kurtis Drummond can continue to make plays like this Michigan State will be back in the Rose Bowl Game. 

The first thing that jumps off the page at you when you look at Michigan State’s schedule is the week 2 trip to Eugene, Oregon, to play the 4th ranked Ducks according to the USA Today Coaches Poll. The new offensive lineman and especially the new defenders will need to have their ducks in a row before they play Oregon, who also returns some serious firepower on both sides of the ball. The Spartans open Big Ten play at home against Nebraska followed by back-to-back road games at Purdue and Indiana. After that, Michigan State will play the annual contest for the Paul Bunyan Trophy against in-state rival Michigan, a team the Spartans have beaten in 5 of the last 6 meetings. Michigan State will then benefit from a well positioned bye week before welcoming the Buckeyes of Ohio State to Spartan Stadium. After meetings with Big Ten newcomers Maryland on the road and Rutgers, the Spartans will travel to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions in their regular season opener.

Michigan State was able to play their way into the Big Ten Championship game in 2013 and scored the final 17 points in the game to win the Big Ten Championship game and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. The 2014 Spartans have a chance to repeat as Big Ten champions, a feat that has never been done in East Lansing. Whether or not Michigan State stays in the College Football Playoff discussion completely hinges on the September 6th game in Eugene, for both teams. The Spartans have senior leadership all over the field on both sides of the ball but must figure it all out early. Michigan State has all the players and the schedule to win the Big Ten again in 2014 and if everything works out, may just happen.

Spartan Stadium
Spartan Stadium

Stay logged on to for Team #12 on Thursday and tune in to the Southern Football Report every Saturday from 10am-Noon starting on August 23rd! Here is a hint for Team #12:  This team’s colors came about as they were the two colors being stockpiled by the local seamstresses in the nearby city.

#12 – ?????????
#13 – Michigan State Spartans
#14 – South Carolina Gamecocks
#15 – Ole Miss Rebels
#16 – Wisconsin Badgers
#17 – Stanford Cardinal
#18 – North Carolina Tar Heels
#19 – Florida Gators
#20 – Texas Longhorns
#21 – Iowa Hawkeyes
#22 – Arizona Wildcats
#23 – Boise State Broncos
#24 – Northwestern Wildcats
#25 – Michigan Wolverines 

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