After school record setting back to back 11 win seasons the Spartans fell back to earth with a pedestrian 7 win season that required a win over a resurgent, bowl bound Minnesota squad just to squeeze out a 17-16 win over TCU to preserve a winning record for the East Lansing Eleven.
The Spartans rode a great defense to the top of the conference in 2010 and 2011. That defense kept them in games in 2012 as only 4 of their 13 opponents scored over 20 points in a game and none broke 28. This Spartan defense may just be the best (and last) of Coach Narduzzi's tenure. Will it be enough to continue the school record six season bowl streak or even take MSU to the ever elusive Rose Bowl berth?
I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
Michigan State had huge expectations coming into the 2012 season. 11 wins and a B1G title in 2010, 11 wins and seconds away from a win in the inaugural B1G championship game in 2012 (and that coveted Rose Bowl berth). A bowl win over a tough SEC squad from Georgia. The Spartans brought back one of the best running backs in school history in Le'Veon Bell coupled with a stout defense and was riding a home win streak of 14 games coming into 2013. A tougher than expected test against a rebuilding Boise squad was probably the high water mark for MSU as they squeaked to a 23-7 win over an Eastern Michigan team that would win two games total in week four. The Spartans failed to win another home game all season and limped to a 6-6 finish (3-5 B1G). It would be an understatement to say that the MSU faithful were disappointed.
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, should you believe what those in the media and other fanbases believe? That the return of OSU from suspension, the 28th consecutive recruiting championship claimed by Michigan and MSU's future placement with those two coupled with PSU in the future East division doom the Spartans to middling obscurity in perpetuity?
Or that a phenomenal returning defense (the 2012 squad gave up just 212 points on the season - the fewest since George Perles' 1989 squad gave up 163) coupled with increased output from the offense and a favorable schedule that drops Wisconsin and OSU and picks up a reeling Illini squad and a tepid Purdue couldn't find a way to slide into the B1G championship game in the last year of the current divisional alignment?
Keep in mind that every game with the exception of CMU during the 7-6 campaign was close win or loss. That speaks of luck and inexperience. The Spartans ranked 110th in points scored last season. I hear you. The best running back for the Spartans during the off season was a converted freshman linebacker and taking a page out of the Danny Hope playbook, the coaches in East Lansing have announced a four way battle for the QB position a week and half before the first game. For any other team I would agree that placing faith in the fact that a true freshman can come in and win the starting job a week before the start of the season is a recipe for disaster. Still this freshman can score with his arm (80 passing TD's and nearly 6500 yards in High School) or with his legs (22 rushing TD's). This true freshman is not a scatback...ehem "Shoelace" ehem..masquerading as a college QB. He's big (6-4, 210) and has improved by leaps and bounds as camp has progressed. And he just might have one of the best defenses in school history to cover for him until he finds his footing. Now last year we had the same idea. Andrew Maxwell had backed up the best QB in School history for two of the best seasons in school history and was just waiting for chance to shine. Look how that turned out. Still, I'd argue that Terry is probably a better QB now than Maxwell will turn out to be.
I'd argue that if all the breaks went against the Spartans last year that should even out no? MSU suffered on the wrong side of luck in 2009 and turned that into a history making season in 2010. If the Spartan offense can just be "average" combined with a great defense this year we could be in for a special season. Stranger things have happened.
A. What We've Written About Michigan State This Off Season
B1G 2013 // Keeping the Enemy Close: Mustering up some hate for lil' Bro
B1G 2013 // Did you know that "if" is the middle word in LIFE
B1G 2013 // OTE's MSU State Potluck
B1G 2013 // MSU's Smartest Guys in the Room
Your Off Tackle Empire Michigan State Shirts
B1G 2013 // Michigan State Cocktail Party Preview B1G Bold Predictions
III. Emotional Plea
Due to work and life commitments this will be my last post for a while here at the OTE. I am grateful to Graham for reaching out to me a few years ago to cover things here from a Spartan perspective. I've enjoyed working with some of the greatest writers that don't get paid for a living to write about sports. I am proud to call you my colleagues and I know that you would be a welcome addition to any paid staff that covers the B1G. Thank you as well to some of the greatest fans and commenters around this here internet. We are a success because of you. Thank you for your (mostly) astute comments and insights. Thank you for allowing me to entertain you over these past three years. Keep coming back. Keep supporting these guys. Keep supporting your teams and making Off Tackle Empire THE PLACE for Big Ten coverage.
I started with a bang and I'm going out heart (if not head) first. MSU in 2013 - 12-0 National Champions!
IV. The Verdict The Staff Calls It
Jonathan Franz 9-3 (5-3)
Jesse Collins 8-4 (5-3)
babaoreally 8-4 (5-3)
Graham Filler 8-4 (5-3)
Hilary Lee 9-3 (6-2)
Ted Glover 9-3 (6-2)
C.E. Bell 10-2 (7-1)
MNWildcat 6-6 (3-5)
Mike Jones 7-5 (4-4)
Brian Gillis 8-4 (5-3)
GoAUpher 9-3 (6-2)
Aaron Yorke 11-1 (7-1)
OTE Staff Average: 9-3 (6-2)
Thanks again everybody. It's been a fun ride!