Are the Michigan State Spartans the Team to Beat in the Big Ten?

Mark Dantonio photo courtesy of Tom Ackerson.
Mark Dantonio photo courtesy of Tom Ackerson.

Last season, Michigan State won the Big Ten Championship and made it to the College Football Playoffs, which should make them the favorites to win the conference again, but according to reporters who vote in the preseason, the Ohio State Buckeyes are the team to beat in the Big Ten, followed by the Jim Harbaugh coached Michigan Wolverines. In this type of situation, a lot of coaches would be throwing fits and complaining about the team being disrespected, but Michigan State coach Mike Dantonio (isn't that what they call him at ESPN), isn’t losing any sleep over it because he knows preseason polls have nothing to do with the college football national championship odds.

When asked about his thought on the fact that none of the 39 media members that took part in the preseason polls had the Spartans winning the Big Ten, Dantonio said he didn’t care because he didn’t vote for any of the writers either.

Despite his thoughts on the media members, Dantonio understands that they didn’t pick the Spartans because of the players the team lost after the season. 

Quarterback Connor Cook, two All-American linemen, and other contributors on last season’s team will be lining up on Sundays now, leaving big holes that need to be filled this season. Despite the exodus of players to the NFL and graduation, Dantonio is confident in his bunch because as he said, he has 31 players returning that have started at one point in their careers.

Dantonio said we will soon find out how things will play out, but he is excited about the team he has this season.

Even with the loss of Cook, Dantonio isn’t worried about his offense this season because he has a lot of talent at the running back position with Gerald Holmes, Madre London, Delton Williams and LJ Scott lining up at the running back position, a great defense, loaded with weapons on both sides of the ball and an impressive stable of signal callers. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Spartans are far from depleted.

If the running backs are as good as Dantonio believes, they will allow him to break in his new quarterback at his own pace instead of giving the new signal caller a baptism by fire, which usually ends in disaster for most teams.

Dantonio said that every team in college football goes through a cycle in terms of the players, and he fills that the players remaining on the team will be able to keep the team’s success going.

However, the last time the Spartans lost their quarterback was in 2012, after Kirk Cousins was drafted by the Washington Redskins, and the Spartans went from an 11 win team to a 7 win team the following season. Things are different now thanks to Dantonio and his staff's impressive haul of recruits. The Spartans are no longer lean with talent, in fact they are loaded.

The Spartans won only seven games that season because they had a lot of inexperienced players, especially at the quarterback position. This time around, Dantonio is hoping the team’s running game will help mask their inexperience at the quarterback position.

Dantonio said he and his staff learned from the 2012 season, and are better prepared to handle the departures of some their best players. The coach also said that good programs continue to win year after year, despite losing top players to the NFL Draft and graduation, and he feels that his team has done a very good job in that department, which is why he is confident about their chances this season.