B1G 2012 // Michigan State Cocktail Party Preview

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 22: B.J. Cunningham #3 and Keith Nichol #7 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate Nichol catching a game-winning 44 yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins #8 as time ran out to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 37-31 at Spartan Stadium on October 22, 2011 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)

ELEVENTH IN A SERIES: THE MICHIGAN STATE COCKTAIL PARTY PREVIEW

(Ed. I apologize for the holdup in getting this posted. Internet problems and a memorial service for a friend caused the delay.)

It's MSU's turn for the cocktail party preview. Just like last year our week comes a bit to early for our hopes and expectations. Don't get me wrong: back to back 11 win seasons for the first time in school history is nothing to shake a stick at. It's just that even though we ended the regular season with the best record in the conference, and beat an SEC team in a bowl game...we missed out on what we really wanted: a trip to Pasadena.

After the jump a primer on what went right, what went wrong and topics to avoid when talking to the hypothetical Spartan you meet at a cocktail party on in an elevator. Or if Budweiser commercials are to be believed at a cocktail party inside an elevator.

On last season

The good news is...

The are few things to complain about in a season that included the aforementioned 11 wins. On the positive side, we beat Michigan for the fourth year in a row. We received some measure of satisfaction for the events of 2010 by beating Wisconsin in one of the most memorable B1G games in a while. We broke the jinx in both Iowa City and Columbus winning in each place for the first time since Reagan (1987) and Clinton (1998) were President, respectively. Coach Dantonio got his first bowl win for the Spartans while Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham left school as the all time statistical leaders at their respective positions.

The bad news...

Very few people had forecast that the Spartans would be the inaugural Legends Division representative in the B1G championship game. Still, it seemed like MSU had a great opportunity to end the Rose Bowl drought, yet just came up short. The men from East Lansing also suffered what seem to be the annual head scratching "didn't show up" road loss to both Notre Dame and Nebraska. It's one thing to lose on the road in a hostile environment (and those two are at the top of the list for tough places for road teams), but to appear outmatched when highly ranked is another thing entirely.

On the offensive side of the ball

The good news is...

Le'Veon Bell and an experienced offensive line are back. Le'Veon is a junior this year and his stats through his sophmore year are very similar to those of Montee Ball at the same point in his career. We all know how Mr. Ball did in his junior year with an experienced offensive line and a new quarterback at the helm.

The bad news is...

That is all that's back. The majority of the Spartan offensive skill position starters are gone. We'll have to break in a new QB and most of the receivers in a schedule that doesn't leave much room for on the job learning or rookie mistakes. Bell can't do it all and with the unexpected departure of Edwin Baker, a position of strength gains a question mark.

On the defensive side of the ball

The good news is...

Most of the starters from a defense that finished the season ranked 6th in the country in total defense are back. These same group of defensive players were ranked no worse that 3rd in the conference or 19th in the nation in any purely defensive statistic. These guys are good. If they merely maintain the level they performed at last year, MSU will be in most of the games it plays.

The bad news is...

There really isn't a lot of bad news here. As expected Jerel Worthy left early for NFL riches but most of the other important pieces are back. This isn't bad news but it remains to be seen if Marcus Rush can continue to improve on his late season performance last season.

On special teams

The good news is...

Conroy, Muma and Sadler are back to kick, kick off and punt. Freshman Mike Sadler ranked 10th in the conference in net punting, however his statistics improved as the season went along and he was a large reason why the team was in the B1G championship game late and won against Georgia. Former Groza semifinalist Dan Conroy had 99 points last season and seems on track to do so again. Nick Hill and Bennie Fowler form a formidable one-two punch as return men.

The bad news...

Bennie Fowler has proven to be injury prone so far in his career. MSU ranked 10th in Net Punting in the conference last season...albeit only 3 yards behind Iowa's 1st place average.

On the schedule

The good news is...

Seven home games where the Spartans are riding a 15 game winning streak. Managable road games against Minnesota, Indiana, and directional Central Michigan. A night game on the Friday of opening weekend against media darling Boise State sets the table for another great Spartan season.

The bad news is...

Boise, while diminshed, is always prepared to play these opening weekend games (just ask Georgia, Va Tech and Oregon; all victories BSU has claimed over the past three seasons). Directional Central Michigan is the only team to beat MSU on the field since we joined the B1G (Miami has a forfeit and WMU beat us last a year after the first Great War) and this one is in Mount Pleasant (neither mountainous nor pleasant). The conference schedule makers did us no favors, placing our bye week two weeks before the end of the season and including an Iowa, UM, UW, Nebraska gauntlet with both UM and UW on the road.

If you're talking to a Michigan State fan

Don't mention...

Wisconsin's back to back Rose Bowl trips. As the facts now exist the first should have belonged to the Spartans and the second came due to a Bo Ryan trained punter. The Sugar Bowl. Heck, just skip BCS bowls entirely. We sure have.

Do mention...

How successful Coach Dantonio has been recruiting his style of player and coaching them into All-B1G selections. The back to back 11 win seasons. Beating Michigan for the fourth year in a row.

B1g_2012_medium

This week...

MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview

TUESDAY | Smartest Guys in the Room

WEDNESDAY | Michigan State Potluck

THURSDAY | Shh...Don't wake the Giant

FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close

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