Sparty is Your Big Ten Underdog with Bite

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TwinSpires Staff

August 13th, 2018

by DS Williamson
Jim Harbaugh coaches the Michigan Wolverines. Urban Meyer (for now!) coaches the Ohio State Buckeyes. That’s why no matter what happens with any other team in the Big Ten, no other team will get the love from college football analysts the way Urban’s Buckeyes and Jim’s Wolverines get.

The nature of Big Ten football is brutal if you want attention. Then again, if you’re like Michigan State coach Mike Dantonio, you don’t want any attention until you’re undefeated and ready to destroy Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. This understated confidence is why, out of all the teams in the Big Ten, the one with the best shot of making it to the College Football Playoff are the Michigan State Spartans.

Sparty’s got the best offense in the Big Ten Unless you’re a true Michigan State Spartans fan, you probably don’t know that MSU returns 10 starters on offense. That’s correct. A team that averaged close to 25 points per and 383.6 yards per game returns 10 players, including 4 players along the offensive line, quarterback, top rusher, and two elite wide receivers.  Felton Davis and Darrell Stewart each caught over 50 passes last season.

The top rusher is LJ Scott, a senior. Scott could be even more effective this season than last season because Craig “Ironhead” Heyward’s son, Connor, is a sophomore. The key for both running backs is how center Matt Allen plays.

Center is the most important position along the offensive line. If Allen doesn’t immediately have great communication with his O-line mates, things could go south in a hurry for returning quarterback Brian Lewerke. Overall, the offensive line play was strong last season and that should carry over in to 2018.

Lewerke must bring his completion percentage up over 59%. If that happens, Michigan State should easily eclipse 30 points per game this season, which would be plenty in this age of fast offenses. The reason? When Lewerke and the rest of Sparty’s offense is taking a breather, MSU’s defense might be impossible to score against.

Yep, Sparty’s defense is good this season.

Michigan State returns 9 starters on defense The Spartans return 9 starters on defense. Although cornerback Josiah will miss 2 months, the defense should have no trouble performing without him.

MSU’s defensive pressure starts with defensive tackles Mike Panisiuk and Raequan Williams. Both helped Michigan State hold opponents to 95.3 rushing yards per game. That ranked first in college football. The defense ranked seventh in total yards allowed last season. Sparty gave up just 297.2 yards on average per game.

Michigan State’s defense could end up the best unit in the entire nation. If the defense holds up while Scott’s out, MSU could go undefeated because the schedule isn’t that crazy difficult.

Sparty should be a top SU team, but ATS? Maybe, not… The Michigan State Spartans went 10-3 SU and 8-5 ATS last season. This year, because the schedule appears somewhat easier, and because the Spartans are loaded on both sides of the football, there’s a chance they go undefeated. The only tough road game is at Penn State on Oct. 13.

As far as their chances of being a reliable sports betting pick, Sparty could be worse than 8-5 ATS. The reason? After the first couple of months, when Michigan State is 8-0 SU, odds makers will adjust the college football betting lines.

That won’t be a problem for Michigan State and its fans. The Spartans, with 19 returning starters, 10 on offense and 9 on defense, is the dog that’s got the best chance to bite Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan for the Big Ten Championship.