Many Questions Looming for Young Michigan State Squad

michigan state football

Rainman M.

Friday, August 18, 2017 1:34 PM GMT

Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 1:34 PM GMT

Oddsmakers have set Michigan State's win total at 6.5 games. The Spartans lack the depth and experience to exceed that number. Read on to find out why you should bet the 'under.'

Kirk Cousins. Connor Cook. Tyler O'Connor. Notice the disjunction? A major part of Michigan State's success in recent years has been the strong play, athleticism and leadership of its quarterbacks. O'Connor was a confident leader, but he lacked consistency and competency against strong opponents and was a major reason why the Spartans went 3-9 last season. Unfortunately, the problems don't end at the quarterback position for 2017. The Spartans lack depth and experience in several key positions. They will be an exciting team in 2018. But for this season, bettors would do best to capitalize on the expectation of another disappointing year in East Lansing.

Quarterback

Coach Mark Dantonio loves to compare Lewerke to Cousins. Lewerke is a dual-threat who possesses a strong arm and great mobility. For instance, last against No. 2 Michigan he was 6-for-10 with 100 yards and a touchdown and ran the ball 3 times for 24 yards. He hasn't played a lot but has shown promise. 

Running Back

LJ Scott deserves the attention that he received when he was recently named to the 2017 watch list for college football's best player and best running back. Scott finished the last 6 games of last season with 4 100+ rushing yard performances. He shredded the likes of Michigan for 139 rushing yards and Ohio State for 160.

Offensive Line

The optimism for the Spartans' offense ends with Scott and the promise in Lewerke. The offensive line was a mess last season and in fact much accounts for Lewerke's display of mobility -- he was forced to run so often out of the pocket in order to not get sacked. The offensive line largely failed to protect its quarterback in conference play. A big reason was the poor play of then-left tackle David Beedle, who will struggle to transition to right guard this season. A redshirt freshman will start at right tackle. Overall, despite the return of the reliable senior Brian Allen at center, Michigan State lost a lot of experience. 

Wide Receivers

This group also has minimal experience: 5 of Sparty's 6 top receivers from last season are no longer with the team. No matter how good Lewerke and especially Scott may look, the inexperienced line and wide receiving corps may hinder the offense from getting into a rhythm.

Defensive Line

Last season saw a major regression for Sparty's defense. The pass rush was anemic. Not a single Spartan made the Big Ten ranking of top 40 sack leaders. A few important players unexpectedly departed and current Seattle Seahawk Malik McDowell was plagued by injuries. Two guys who played as true freshmen last season were dismissed due to charges of sexual assault in what has been a tumultuous offseason in East Lansing. The Spartans are set at defensive tackle with Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams returning. The bigger questions loom at end. Demetrius Cooper has not only failed to live up to the hype but is trying to secure his position on the roster after off-the-field issues. Hype is buzzing around Brandon Randle. He is a freshman, a linebacker by nature, who has also been taking reps with the defensive line.

Linebackers

This group should be the Spartans' greatest hope for improving their pass and rush defense. They return a significant veteran presence and level of talent from last season. One exception in terms of experience is middle linebacker Joe Bachie. He is a rising sophomore but his coaches have been very impressed with his performance in the spring and summer.

Secondary

The pass defense was a disaster in 2016, so it may not seem too bad that pretty much the whole secondary is gone. The returning player with the most experience is Justin Layne, who made 5 starts as a freshman. But the two cornerbacks who were expected to start this year were among the departures. It is questionable whether enough talent exists at cornerback.

The Verdict

Sparty has too many questions to inspire much optimism. Even if Lewerke begins to live up to the hype this season, who will block for him and who will he throw to? Defensively, Randle and Baschie have bright futures. But the defensive line has so much work ahead of itself in order to improve last season's anemic pass rush, and the secondary seems like a hopeless cause. Even 6 wins will be tough to obtain playing in the rugged Big Ten East. Look for underdogs with good passing attacks to cover against Sparty on NCAAF Picks. 

Free NCAAF Pick: 'Under' 6.5 WinsBest Line Offered: 5Dimes
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