No. 10: Michigan State

I was a having a beer—a Pabst Blue Ribbon, to be specific—with friends after a round of golf, and one of the guys made a wisecrack about my beer of choice. As if PBR is inferior because it’s less expensive, is not available wherever beer is sold and because it doesn’t air entertaining and clever ads on television.


``You’re drinking Bud Light,'' I replied, ``and you’re making fun of PBR?’’

Here’s the difference: Bud Light has better marketing. PBR tastes better, in my humble opinion. (Even that `Light’ thing is misleading. Bud Light has 110 calories, PBR has 144. It’s not a Diet Coke deal.)

And yet there’s a perception that Bud Light (and Miller Light and Budweiser) are better than PBR.

Which brings me to Michigan State, which might be the PBR of the Big Ten East.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State have better marketing and wider reaches. For good reason. Because of their storied pasts.

But it’s possible that Michigan State will have a better team this fall. Especially with the cloud hanging over Columbus.

The Spartans return 19 starters from last year’s 10-3 squad, including junior quarterback Brian Lewerke, who does a lot of things well, especially getting the ball to the right people and winning. MSU has a talented receiver corps. And it wouldn’t be surprising if running back L.J. Scott had a big year.

Nine starters return on a defense that allowed 20 points a game and was seventh in the nation in total defense (297.6 yards a game), and second in run defense (95.3 yards).

The schedule is more favorable than last year. Notre Dame is out, replaced by a trip to Arizona State (Herm Edwards!) as the marquee non-conference game. Michigan and Ohio State come to East Lansing. So does Northwestern, which surprised the Spartans in Evanston last year.

Like most so-called experts, I am more intrigued by the upsides of MSU’s Big Ten East rivals. While I admire Mark Dantonio, the other three coaches seem, at first glance, like they'd be more interesting guys to chat with over a beer.

As a longtime home brewer, though—my Czech pilsner and coconut porter always win their divisions—I am not as drawn in by beer marketing, I suppose, as gridiron marketing.

And yet, Michigan State stacks up very well on the recent-accomplishments list. Since 2010, it has won at least 10 games six times and shared or won its division four times.

In short, Michigan State has a lot of reasons to win this fall.

The storylines may be better at Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. When the games are played, we’ll find out if the teams are.[/membership]