2012 Big Ten Football: Why Mark Dantonio's Spartans Will Win Big
Michigan State and Head Coach Mark Dantonio have been seeking one thing since he became the head coach in November of 2006. They want to make it to the Rose Bowl.
They will have a difficult road this year in Big Ten Conference play. They face Ohio State in their opening conference game that will teach the young Spartans who they really are.
They will also have to travel to Big Ten rivals Michigan and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks in the middle of their schedule. Although Michigan State has defeated Michigan for the past four seasons, Michigan's new coach, Brady Hoke, will do everything in his power to prevent another loss in the heated rivalry.
The Spartans have missed out on the Rose Bowl by one game for the past two seasons. Third time is a charm for the Spartans.
Le'Veon Bell's Rushing Attack
Le'Veon Bell is a force in the rushing game. If Michigan State will have any success in the run game this year, it will depend on the 6'2", 240 pound running back.
Bell will be a junior in the upcoming season and has proved himself for the past two seasons, rushing for 605 yards his freshman year and 948 yards his sophomore season. He is hoping that his junior campaign catapults him into one of the best rushers in the country.
If Bell can improve his numbers from last year, the Spartans will be unstoppable in the run game; that will help out a young quarterback in Andrew Maxwell.
Andrew Maxwell's Leadership
Andrew Maxwell has some big shoes to fill. After watching his former teammate and current Washington Redskin Quarterback, Kirk Cousins, have success at Michigan State, he will try to follow suit.
Cousins was one of the best leaders in Michigan State program history, and for Andrew Maxwell, learning from him can only be a positive thing. Maxwell has a great throwing arm and no experience, which will be an interesting combination for the upcoming season.
Maxwell only played in four games last season but showed great accuracy, completing 70 percent of his passes and passing for one touchdown.
Just like Cousins, Maxwell is not a running quarterback, so he will make most of his throws from the pocket. That is not necessarily a bad thing, because the Spartans return much of their offensive line from last year to protect him.
Maxwell needs to prove his leadership and have his teammates trust him like they trusted Kirk Cousins.
The Michigan State defense was one of the strongest not only in the Big Ten but in the country last year. They allowed the least amount of yardage per game last year in the Big Ten and accumulated the most interceptions and interception touchdowns as a team in the conference.
If their defense can stop opponents from scoring as they did last year and even score some points of their own, then the Spartans will have no problem shutting teams down. There aren't many great offenses in the Big Ten, so that bodes well for the top-tiered defense.
Led by defensive end William Gholston and linebacker Max Bullough, the defense is poised to send the Spartans to end their Rose Bowl drought and send them to Pasadena for the first time in over twenty years.
Experienced Offensive Line
Losing only two offensive lineman from last year's squad, the Spartans should be very strong in the trenches.
Led by Fou Fonoti and Travis Jackson, the offensive line, which became stronger as the year progressed, should be a force in the Big Ten.
They will have a large task in protecting first-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell and improving the running game from last year with power running back Le'Veon Bell.
They should do the job and assist the young Spartan offense in 2012.
Previous Big Ten Success
Michigan State has been a force in the Big Ten ever since Mark Dantonio's first season in 2007. They boast a record of 44-22 under the head coach and have been a thorn in the side of many teams in the conference.
They have defeated in-state rival Michigan for the past four seasons and proved that they no longer take a backseat to the Wolverines.
Michigan State has tied for the best record in the conference for the past two regular seasons but have failed to make the Rose Bowl in both of those seasons. They felt snubbed in the 2010 season because they beat Wisconsin, yet Wisconsin made it to the Rose Bowl over the Spartans.
Michigan State got a chance at revenge during the 2011 regular season. They played one of the best games of the entire college football season, defeating the Badgers on a last second Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol. They had a chance at the Rose Bowl later in the season by making it to the first ever Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. They were defeated by the Badgers in another close back-and-forth game.
They have proved that they are a top-tier team in the Big Ten and the country, and they won't back down from any challenge.
The special teams have always been a strong point for Mark Dantonio's teams. Last season, they had a solid kickoff return team led by speedy running back Nick Hill.
The Spartans' kicking game is also solid.
Dan Conroy is one of the most consistent kickers in the conference and has a leg that can hit field goals from over fifty yards.
Kickoffs and punt teams are very much overlooked on every team. Michigan State has a kickoff team that can get down the field in a hurry and collapse on the returner and a kicker, Kevin Muma, that can give them time to get down the field. Kickoffs and punts can sway the momentum of a defensive possession. The farther back that the offense starts, the more confidence the defense has in stopping the ball.
Don't overlook the Spartans' special teams, because they can make or break the momentum in any game.
Head Coach Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio is 44-22 since taking the reigns at Michigan State and 27-13 in the Big Ten. He has made five consecutive bowl games, although he has only been victorious in one.
It seems as if his teams have gotten better every year since he has been the head coach. The last two seasons he has shown how good of a coach he is, because they were successful with the players that he recruited.
Dantonio coached his first three seasons with many of former coach John L. Smith's players and had success, but the past two seasons, his teams have really shined under his control. He proves year after year that he can recruit and turn three-star recruits into quality players that consistently contribute.
He has had more success than any Michigan State coach in the past decade and has brought Michigan State from the basement of the Big Ten to one of the best teams year after year.
He may be considered as the best coach in the Big Ten because of the success he has with the talent he recruits. He will be the reason that Michigan State makes their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1988.
Spartan nation is starting to smell the roses thanks to Dantonio.