The odds are out for favorites to win the Big Ten. The Vegas favorite to win the first ever B1G (that is as ugly to write as it is to read) Title Game is Nebraska and I can't say that I disagree with it. Before I get too far into my picks, here are the odds according to Bodog:
Ohio State- 5/1
Penn State- 11/2
Michigan State- 10/1
Nebraska is also the overwhelming favorite to win the Legends division with MSU coming in second at 4/1 odds. Some of you might look back to last year's co-Big Ten Title and wonder how MSU is slotted to finish 5th in the league. Yes, they do have one of the top senior quarterbacks in the nation returning in Kirk Cousins. Yes, they have one of the scariest trios of running backs with Edwin Baker, Larry Caper, and Le'Veon Bell. The biggest problem the Spartans face for the 2011 season is their schedule.
Nebraska technically has the toughest schedule of the Legends Division. They have to play out of division games against Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. MSU's schedule isn't much easier facing Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern all on the road. Toss in a non-conference game at Notre Dame and a non-division home game against Wisconsin and this is a near impossible schedule.
The MSU offense doesn't worry me. I was actually never a big fan of Don Treadwell's play-calling. He was great stepping in as the HC but very predictable as the OC. Without seeing a game, I already like Dan Roushar more just from hearing his thoughts on using big plays more often.
The thing that scares me the most about this Spartan team is the defense. Pair the addition of the man on the left to the league with the loss of Eric Gordon and Greg Jones and it should be painfully obvious why MSU is only favored to finish 5th. Chris Norman could shine with his athleticism and Max Bullough has the bloodline to be a great Spartan LB but the unit is young.
In fact, the defense on the whole is young with only two senior returning starters in the form of S Trenton Robinson and DT Kevin Pickleman. The good thing is that while the depth chart lacks age it has talent. Jerel Worthy is poised to be an All-Big Ten lineman and everyone who watched the Spartans last year knows how scary Will Gholston can be once he grasps the defense and position.
Whether or not the defensive line can generate pressure on its own determines where MSU will finish this year. If they can force opposing QBs to rush throws it will greatly help a seemingly always questionable secondary. The Spartans simply can't afford to only record only 20 sacks again this year. I expect the offense to remain close to the same at 29.5 ppg, but I expect to see the defense give up more than the 22.3 ppg it gave up last year.
Overall I'm putting Michigan State at 8-4 this year finishing second behind Nebraska in the Legends Division. As long as Taylor Martinez stays healthy, I pick Nebraska to win the Conference Championship over Ohio State. My surprise pick is Northwestern. Dan Persa when healthy proved how dangerous he is as a dual-threat QB and their non-division games are at Illinois, vs. PSU, and at Indiana.
As much as I love Kirk Cousins (I said before Andrew Luck returned for his senior year that Cousins would be the first QB picked in next year's NFL draft) I don't think he will be the Offensive POTY. With three dual-threat quarterbacks who change the game as much as Taylor Martinez, Dan Persa, and Denard Robinson, Cousins would have to put up absolutely disgusting numbers through the air to take it from one of those three. I vote for winners for my awards. Therefore my vote is going to Taylor Martinez with Cousins as a close All-Big Ten 2nd team QB.Back to the Michigan State Spartans Newsfeed