Michigan State football was 10-3 in 2017 in a bounce-back season. Can the Spartans take the next step and get to the College Football Playoff?
This is that time of year where national pundits speculate as to who will be in the College Football Playoff. Several ESPN commentators have Michigan in their playoff bracket. Recently, I proposed a poll on my Twitter account about how many in Spartan Nation thought MSU could make the playoff.
The results were pretty divided with 36 percent of fans voting yes that MSU could make it, while 31 percent said no. Still, there were about 33 percent who voted maybe. It’s extremely difficult to write about who will be in the playoff in August with teams not even playing a down of football. However, it’s always fun to speculate.
In my opinion, I believe Michigan State can make the playoff this year.
OK, now insert whatever MSU homer joke you may have here. I realize many of another fan base in Ann Arbor typically have a favorite they have been savoring all offseason to zing their Spartan buddies once the season begins. I will admit this, if (and there are many ifs) Shea Patterson plays well and decides to come back as well as Rashan Gary comes back then I would consider Michigan next season. I think they are a year away, but that is my opinion.
Patterson is the x-factor, however, in difficult games at Ole Miss he did tend to throw interceptions. Is he an upgrade? Yes. How good can he be this year? Again tough to say, but it all depends on how head coach Jim Harbaugh adjusts to him. When Patterson played LSU last year, he threw three interceptions and was 10-for-23 passing for 115 yards. Also, LSU got to him for five sacks.
He is a rhythm quarterback meaning when he is in shotgun and throwing several times on a drive then, he’s good. But if the defense pressures him, he makes bad decisions. Therefore, I’d like to see him in Harbaugh’s system before I put Michigan in the playoff.
My case for MSU instead of other choices like Ohio State or Penn State (all of whom would be good picks as well) is that the Spartans have chemistry and many returning starters. Penn State lost much and when your head football coach tells the fan base to ‘pump the brakes’ on expectations at Big Ten Media Days then that is a clue of what he thinks of the team. It was not just coach speak but honesty.
There is turmoil in Columbus, Ohio, plus the Buckeyes lost much to the NFL. Ohio State loses much every year but they reload. However, the Buckeyes have to play in East Lansing and the young Spartans now have experience.
Plus, OSU lost a key piece to their line in Center Billy Price. They are attempting to replace him with 6-foot-5 (various outlets have him taller) Michael Jordan, a former guard, on the line. Not to mention easing a young Dwayne Haskins into the quarterback position. He played well against Michigan, but playing a full season is different.
What about teams in the Big Ten West like Wisconsin? My doubts about Wisconsin are with its quarterback Alex Hornibrook. He has a slow release and threw 15 interceptions in 2017. He threw seven in nine games as a redshirt freshman.
Consider this, teams are already loading the box when they play the Badgers to defend the run, therefore, he has better wide receiver matchups yet he still threw 15 picks. The Badgers have a great offensive line and if Hornibrook puts everything together then it is not out of the realm of possibility. However, that is a big ‘if’ at this point.
Who are the other three teams in my playoff bracket? I put Washington, because of senior quarterback Jake Browning. They face a tough early test against Auburn, but I was not impressed with the Tigers loss to UCF in the Peach Bowl. Also, I like Washington’s Chris Petersen more than Auburn’s.
The next team is Clemson, they have the best defensive line in college football. Plus, they have true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He has been described as a ‘once in a generation’ type of gunslinger. I imagine if he plays well early you could see a scenario where incumbent Kelly Bryant shares the field with him. Something similar to Urban Meyer’s Florida days when he had a young Tim Tebow and the veteran Chris Leak.
Lastly, I am putting Alabama in. Not a shocker. Yes, they have a quarterback competition right now. Also, they lost much from last year’s squad. My reasoning is two words, Nick Saban. He is arguably the best coach in college football and at this time I would not bet against him.
Who is in the title game? Clemson and Alabama and the Tigers win.