Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spartans' position varies in 2012 way-too-early football polls

As soon as a season ends, we want to see preseason rankings for the following season. It's natural.

Although spring football hasn't even started, it's fun to take a look at 2012 rankings. MSU's position in these polls is varied. While everyone agrees the defense should be one of the best in the nation, having to replace a quarterback, receivers and tight ends leaves a question mark.

Here is where MSU is positioned in some early 2012 media polls, along with the writers' comments:

Mark Schlabach, No. 9 — The Spartans continue to make tremendous strides under coach Mark Dantonio, winning 11 games for the second straight season. The Spartans also won a Big Ten Legends Division title and their first bowl game in his tenure, 33-30 over Georgia in the Outback Bowl. MSU will rely on its defense and running game in 2012, with quarterback Kirk Cousins and his top four receivers departing. Tailback Le'Veon Bell is expected back, along with four starting offensive linemen. All-Big Ten defensive tackle Jerel Worthy is leaving for the NFL draft, but eight defensive starters are expected to return. The Spartans play nonconference home games against Boise State on Aug. 31 and Notre Dame on Sept. 15, and they'll have to play perhaps the two best teams from the Leaders Division (against Ohio State at home on Sept. 29 and at Wisconsin on Oct. 27).

Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated: No. 6 — If a Big Ten program is going to challenge an SEC power before Urban Meyer gets things rolling at Ohio State, it's going to be Michigan State. The Spartans may lose Kirk Cousins, but they remain the most athletic team in the Big Ten. No one in the league has a specimen like defensive end William Gholston, and tailback Le'Veon Bell should ease the loss of Edwin Baker to the NFL. The Spartans also retained defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who had received interest from Texas A&M. 

Brett McMurphy, CBS Sports: No. 18 — For the first time in what seems like forever, the Spartans will have a starting quarterback not named Kirk Cousins. The three-year starter is one of five offensive starters Michigan State must replace this year. Also gone is WR B.J. Cunningham. Andrew Maxwell is projected as Cousins' replacement and making his transition easier is that four offensive line starters are back -- tackles Fou Fonoti and Dan France, center Travis Jackson and guard Chris McDonald -- along with running back Le'veon Bell. Even with DT Jerel Worthy's early departure to the NFL, the Spartans are loaded on defense. Nine starters return from the Big Ten's top rushing and overall defense led by DE William Gholston, LBs Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, SS Isaiah Lewis and CB Johnny Adams. The Spartans have another key contributor returning as defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi turned down an offer from Texas A&M. The schedule features home games against Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State in the season's first five weeks. In the second half of the schedule, Michigan State has as difficult a three-game stretch as anyone with consecutive games at Michigan, at Wisconsin and home vs. Nebraska.

Bill Connelly, SB Nation: No. 20 — I'm all in on a defense that includes William Gholston, Denicos Allen, Max Bullough  and a quality secondary. But it is difficult to overlook the losses on offense: quarterback Kirk Cousins, receivers Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham, and disappointing running back Edwin Baker. Good luck with your 40 carries per game, Le'Veon Bell.

Mike Huguenin, Yahoo! Sports: No. 13 —  There are some questions on offense, as there will be a new quarterback and a drastically revamped receiving corps. But the line has the potential to be one of the best in the Big Ten, and there is a nice group of tailbacks. Defense is where the team should shine. The back seven should be quite good, and the line has a ton of potential.

Lost Lettermen/Fox SportsNo. 17 —The bad news? The top three WRs, QB Kirk Cousins and DT Jerel Worthy are all gone. The good news? RB Le’Veon Bell is just getting warmed up, LB William Gholston can be great and QB Andrew Maxwell looks legit. Sparty on.

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