The Michigan State Spartans rebounded from a disastrous 2016 season with a 10-3 record this past season, including a dominant win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. With a large majority of their top players opting to return for another year, the Spartans figure to be one of the Big Ten's best teams again in 2018 and compete for a College Football Playoff berth. Here's how they rank in the way-too-early top 25 polls published by major publications:
Breakdown: "Michigan State is coming off a 10-win season and will return all of their major offensive players. We know head coach Mark Dantonio's squad will always play good defense, and if the offense can play at an elite level, the Spartans could be making a return to the College Football Playoff."
Breakdown: "Michigan State’s bounce-back 2017 season paints a bright picture for 2018, with an offense built around quarterback Brian Lewerke and a defense that returns the wide majority of this year’s main contributors. Defenders such as linebacker Joe Bachie and lineman Kenny Willekes are set to assume roles as some of the best at their positions in the Big Ten."
Breakdown: "After winning at least 10 games for the sixth time in the past eight seasons, the Spartans' 3-9 disaster in 2016 seems like a distant memory. With 19 starters coming back in 2018, Michigan State might be poised to challenge Ohio State in the Big Ten East.
Brian Lewerke was dramatically better in 2017, becoming the first MSU quarterback to pass for more than 2,500 yards and run for more than 500. Tailback LJ Scott is also coming back, along with breakout receiver Felton Davis III.
Cooper and Frey are the only starters leaving from a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in run defense and total defense.
Another reason for optimism: MSU gets to play both Michigan and Ohio State at home in 2018."
Breakdown: "Brian Lewerke emerged as Michigan State's quarterback of the future in 2017, and that was the key to another successful season — and remarkable turnaround — in 2017 under Mark Dantonio. Running back LJ Scott is returning, and Ohio State and Michigan must visit East Lansing. As Dantonio likes to say, “It's never over.""
Breakdown: "Sparty is absolutely loaded with 21 returning starters. Brian Lewerke is a dual-threat weapon and should have four returning offensive line starters to protect him. The defense that allowed only 20 points per game returns mostly intact."
Breakdown: "The Spartans were one of college football’s most improved teams in 2017, increasing their win total by seven games from 2016. Can coach Mark Dantonio’s team challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten East Division title in 2018? The hopes of a trip to Indianapolis start with quarterback Brian Lewerke. As a sophomore in 2017, he threw for 20 touchdowns and 2,793 yards and added 559 yards and five scores on the ground. Running back LJ Scott already announced his intentions to return in 2018, and the senior-to-be will anchor a backfield that also features Madre London (304 yards). Lewerke will lose starting center Brian Allen, but four other starters return up front. The receiving corps is also a bright spot, as Felton Davis (55 catches), Darrell Stewart (50) and Cody White (35) all return in 2018. The defense only gave up 20 points a game in 2017 and returns nearly intact. End Demetrius Cooper and linebacker Chris Frey are the lone seniors set to depart this group, with linebacker Joe Bachie, end Kenny Willekes, safety David Dowell and cornerback Josiah Scott forming a strong foundation. The Spartans also have a favorable schedule. Dantonio’s team misses Wisconsin in crossover play and catches Michigan and Ohio State in East Lansing."
Breakdown: "It’s possible to have the Spartans higher in this given the amount of talent that’s returning to the team. But could we have three teams from the same division in the top 10? Michigan State returns 10 starters on offense including running back L.J. Scott and quarterback Brian Lewerke. The defense brings back as many as nine starters too, including everyone in the secondary. The Spartans are going to be dangerous."
Breakdown: "The 2017 season was enough to prove 2016 was an aberration in East Lansing. Between quarterback Brian Lewerke’s continued development and the slew of returning starters, including leading rusher LJ Scott, things look good for the Spartans."
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