On Thursday, the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast premiered its annual Big Ten Preview episode with CBS Sports bloggers Tom Fornelli and Chip Patterson.
Fornelli was not exactly high on the Spartans chances of winning the Big Ten Conference title this year, but he did anoint the team’s defense as one of the best in the country. He also believes that the team will regress this year from the success that it had last year because of how many players are missing from the offense.
Fornelli said the following regarding the team as a whole:
Michigan State with Mark Dantonio is always a tough team. I think that there will be a little bit of a regression this year because they have so much talent to replace on the offensive side of the ball that I don’t think that they’ll be winning the Legends division again.
Fornelli on the team’s defense:
It’s a team that’s not going to be easy for anybody to beat because it really has not only one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, but one of the best defenses in the country led by guys like William Gholston, Johnny Adams and Max Bullough.
Fornelli on the team’s offense:
The offense is going to focus this year on [running back] LeVeon Bell, who could break out and be one of the top backs in the country as well. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell, I’ve only heard good things about him, you’ve seen him play, but it’s always been in mop up duty, but it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll play when he’s running the show. They’ve got new receivers. They got Dion Sims stepping up to play tight end. The good news is that they have four returning starters on the offensive line. That always helps when you got LeVeon Bell and four returning starters on the offensive line. That will help your new quarterback and your new skill position players adjust quicker. That defense will always make sure that the offense stays in the game.
And, finally, Fornelli on the team’s outlook in the Legends division:
As long as they can control the ball and not turn it over, this is a team that could definitely be in the running for the division title, but I’m not expecting it.
Overall, I have to agree with Fornelli because of the pieces that are missing on offense. Filling Kirk Coursin’s shoes is going to be hard for Andrew Maxwell to do and the wide receivers the team currently has on the depth chart are patchwork at best.
I can see the Spartans making a run at the division title, but they will have to get by Michigan first. Most media outlets are pegging Michigan as the division champions this year. We’ll see…