The Spartans enter 2011 on the back of a fantastic season and Al Dannity expects another strong year for Michigan State. Repeating the 11 win performance of 2010 will be a big ask for Mark Dantonio’s team.
The schedule The Spartans’ non-conference slate is as light as we have sadly come to expect from Big Ten schools. Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic, and Central Michigan will all be served up before the main course of conference play. There is one game that could shake Sparty early however as Michigan State must contend with Notre Dame in South Bend. Admiral Ackbar remembers how that game ended last season. [youtube]http://youtu.be/9mETdvqY_Z4[/youtube]
Ohio State on the road would normally get chalked up as a loss but the Spartans should be favored when they enter the Horseshoe. Michigan visits October 15 before the Spartans face a huge clash with Wisconsin. You may remember the Badgers were selected to go to the Rose Bowl over Michigan State, despite losing to the Spartans last season. Nebraska will provide a big road test just a week later. A road trip to Iowa looks to be the most perilous game down the stretch while Dan Persa will aim to give the Spartans nightmares when Northwestern host MSU in the final game of the regular season.
The players Most of the critical pieces from last year’s team are back. Senior Quarterback Kirk Cousins leads a veteran offense with 7 returning starters from last year including All-Big Ten running back Edwin Baker. Three new starters on the offensive line will need to be broken in this year, which is a concern for some NCAA Football betting fans.
Defensively the Spartans return 6 starters including the bulk of the defensive line and All-Big Ten selections Johnny Adams (cornerback) and Trenton Robinson (safety). The linebacker corps is an issue, with a brand new unit being broken in this season. Michigan State also return All-Big Ten kicker Dan Conroy.
The forecast This is a very good team missing just enough pieces to stop short of being great. Their match-up with Wisconsin may be the most anticipated but the road game with Nebraska will probably decide the Legends division. There’s also the small matter of that trip to South Bend, where the Fighting Irish look poised to avenge 2010’s stunning overtime loss. The Spartans are good enough to go 9-3 against this schedule, they may even make it to 10-2. That might be enough to make the Big Ten title game but I expect them to fall just short.