The preseason rankings have been out for a while now, and according the The USA Today the Spartans are the 13th best team in the land, trailing the rival Wolverines who sit in eighth place. But a new ranking is out, this one from Sports Illustrated and things look a little different. In that listing the Spartans are a top ten team, No. 8, and the Wolverines have taken over the 13th position.
SI's reasoning in why they have Michigan State ranked No. 8 is that while the Spartans have lost Kirk Cousins, the man that will be replacing him is actually better than he was. SI explains that even though Cousins had the game experience, that his replacement, Andrew Maxwell, has a better arm and is more athletic. With the full stable of receivers the Spartans have this season, Maxwell shouldn't have trouble finding someone to throw to.
Maxwell was named the "Breakout Player" on this Spartans team, as he will take over a club that has posted back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. Michigan State's defense is just as good, if not better than it was last season, and will keep opponents from scoring regularly, giving Maxwell and his offense many opportunities to get and maintain the lead.
SI noted four-star safety recruit Demetrious Cox as the Spartans top recruit, but with as good as the secondary was last season (18 interceptions to lead the B1G) Coach Mark Dantonio will likely follow his blueprint and red-shirt Cox for the 2012 season.
William Gholston was spotlighted by the magazine, as one of the best players on the defensive side of the ball, and with the performance the former five-star recruit turned in during the win in the Outback Bowl over Georgia he is quite impressive.
Yes, Gholston has had his bad times, after twisting Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's helmet and punching Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan in the facemask, but he served his suspension and came back to his team playing a clean game, but playing with the same ferocity that he had before the ban.
Michigan State did lose a defensive force in Jerel Worthy to the Green Bay Packers, but another former five-star recruit Lawrence Thomas has transitioned from a linebacker to a defensive end. Meaning that this Spartans team will now have a five-star defensive end on each end of the line every down while the middle of the defensive line sports names like Anthony Rashad White and Marcus Rush.
With an impressive defense returning, and improving from last season, and a quarterback in Maxwell that is thought to be even better than Cousins, the Spartans simply need to get their receiving corps in order and they will be the favorites for the Legends Division crown for another season.
The Michigan State preseason depth chart has Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery listed as the starting receivers, but former four-star recruit to Tennessee DeAnthony Arnett is making a push for a job of his own. Redshirt-freshman recruit Juwan Caesar is also pushing for his own starting job. With the Spartan receiving corps bristling with this much talent, Dan Roushar's pass happy offense should continue to cruise.
Coach Dantonio has said that he wants to get back to running the ball and no one should be happier to hear that than Le'Veon Bell who is listed as the starting running back. Bell is a physical back who almost seeks out contact, a la Adrian Peterson, when he gets through the line and is in the secondary. He will be pushed however, as senior Larry Caper hopes to regain his starting job.
With the defense as solid as ever and the offense reloading, it appears as though the No. 8 seed placed on the Spartans by SI is well deserved.