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As much press Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State get in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East, the Michigan State Spartans enter 2019-20 as the forgotten team. That has everything to do with the fact that it only managed a 7-6 record a season ago and went on to lose its bowl game. However, the injury bug was extremely unkind to Mark Dantonio’s roster, and it was one of the main reasons why the 2018 campaign was marred right from the beginning. A whopping 10 offensive starters missed 48 games last season; that was the main contributor to the team’s lackluster offensive rankings cross the board. With that, Dantonio made some bold moves in the offseason by shuffling his staff and bringing in Brad Salem to run his new one-back, up-tempo attack. How the kids adjust to the plan of attack will have a huge say in how Sparty fares against the Wolverines, Buckeyes and Nittany Lions this upcoming season.
Love him or hate him, the Spartans offense is better when Brian Lewerke is under center taking snaps. Case in point, after playing through a shoulder injury in leading MSU to an exhilarating last second 21-17 win in Happy Valley last season, the Spartans went on to score a touchdown or less in four of their final seven games. One only has to look as far as the 7-6 loss to the Oregon Ducks in the Redbox Bowl for evidence as to how bleak Michigan State’s offense was him leading the offense injured or not at all. He’s said to be fully recovered from the injury and has his arm strength, accuracy and confidence all back. That bodes extremely well for the passing game as a whole considering all three of last year’s standouts that also succumbed to injuries are back. The backfield still needs to come up with a replacement for the now departed LJ Scott. Whomever steps up will be running behind an experienced offensive line that put some bulk on in the offseason after getting manhandled at the point of attack more times than not.
If the retooled offense dramatically improves upon last season’s horrid outputs, the Spartans will be on to something with eight starters and eight of the top 11 tacklers all returning in 2019-20. Michigan State was flat out nasty on the defensive side of the ball ranking out No. 1 against the run, No. 10 overall and No. 8 in points allowed. It was the owner of the Big Ten’s most unforgiving scoring defense, and it will need to at the very least match if not improve upon those marks for the team to have a say in how the B1G East shapes up. Defensive tackles Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams are back to make like a living hell for opposing O-Lines up front, while Joe Bachie is back to man the Mike linebacker position. Though the Spartans had its fair share of issues defending opposing passing games, it didn’t have the advantage of having a healthy Josiah Scott in the secondary for a bulk of the season. That won’t be the case this season, so you can expect Sparty to dramatically improve upon its No. 62 ranking against the pass from last season.
The pieces are in place for Michigan State to become the surprise team in the Big Ten this season. It’s often rare that the injury bug decimates a roster two straight seasons, so if nothing else, Sparty has that going for them. But is the talent on hand up to snuff enough to allow for it to compete for the Big Ten title and a possible trip to the College Football Playoff? That my friends is the million dollar question! The offense will only get two weeks to acclimate itself before big revenge games against Arizona State and Northwestern surface. It better be in high gear once October hits with games set to go on the road at Ohio State and Wisconsin before returning home to host the Nittany Lions. Survive that gauntlet, and the toughest opponent the rest of the way will be the hated Michigan Wolverines in the Big House. Still, the overall schedule isn’t kind and it’s highly likely the defense isn’t able to replicate last season’s historic outputs. It’ll all come down to the growth and effectiveness of the new-look offense. If you believe it will succeed, you might want to entertain the thought of hitting the over on the Spartans season win total odds at offshore sportsbooks.