2012 Michigan State Spartans: Battle for the BCS, Part 1
When talking about team rankings and predictions, Michigan State has been flying under the radar for far too long.
The Spartans' 2012 schedule is one of the toughest in the nation in my opinion. Although on many college schedule rankings such as, CBSsports, Phil Steele's 2012 college football strength rankings and Scout.com, they aren't even ranked in the top 10.
The offense must deliver with the new quarterback under center and a fairly new receiving corps. As for the defense, the Spartans have a great opportunity to deliver the National Championship trophy back to East Lansing for the first time since 1966 thanks to a bevy of returning players.
I will take you through weeks one through six of the Spartan's schedule and show you why they have one of the toughest schedules in college football. I will also explain how they can overcome their opponents on the road to the BCS National Championship.
Week 1: Boise State
Boise State enters this year's football season ranked No. 24 in the nation, according to ESPN's AP top 25.
Although Kellen Moore has left and it feels like Boise State isn't Boise without there gun-slinging quarterback, they still have Coach Petersen leading the way.
Boise State has nine returning starters, four on defense and five on offense. The strength of the Boise State team will lie with the secondary. Three of the four returning starters are in the secondary—two cornerbacks and one safety will lead the way once again for the Broncos defense.
For Michigan State to win this game, the Spartans must use their two power backs with Le'Veon Bell leading the way as the starter and Larry Caper supporting him in the backup role. The run game ranked 78th overall last season in rushing yards per game according to the team's site on ESPN. For the Spartans to win more games this season, they must improve in the running game.
This Spartans team must win this game if they want any shot to play for the BCS national Championship or the Rose Bowl. Also a win here will help build the momentum of the team as they learn to play with chemistry.
Boise State always prepares well for their games, but it seems they are always extremely well-prepped for their opener. Michigan State can win and must win this game for the season to go as they plan.
Week 2: Central Michigan
Michigan State can take a breather after beating Boise State in week one and go back to the drawing boards to see where improvement is needed.
Central Michigan finished last season with a 3-9 record, so this game shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Spartans. This will be the week where Michigan State can work on what they did wrong or what they can do better after seeing the film of the Boise State game the previous week.
Expect to see a lot of work with the passing game this week as Andrew Maxwell works on his mechanics and techniques against this Central Michigan defense. With one of the best defenses in the country, Michigan State will get a lot of work on the offense this week which will help the Spartans in their week three battle.
Week 3: Notre Dame
This is the second game in three weeks where Michigan State plays a ranked team. The Fighting Irish come into the 2012 season ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Last season, Michigan State fell to Notre Dame 31-13. This year the Spartans will come out victorious, and this is why.
Michigan State finished last season ranked No. 10 for points against according to the team's site on ESPN. This season, the Spartans return eight of those players on defense, including first and second team Big-10 All-Conference players such as CB Johnny Adams, DE William Gholston, LB Max Bullough and S Isaiah Lewis.
With impact players on every level of the defense, you can only imagine the effects that will have on the outcome of this year's season.
The defense is stacked and, according to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press, Max Bullough has been named captain alongside fellow linebacker Chris Norman.
Notre Dame named QB Everett Golson as the starter this season. Golson is very versatile in his style of play. For the Spartans to win this game, the defense will have to keep the offense on the field. This defense is skilled enough and is disciplined enough to be an overwhelming force to the other teams in the Big Ten conference and the country.
Expect Manti Te'o to challenge and try to disrupt the Spartans offense with his extraordinary defensive ability. After two strong outings, though, the Spartans' offense will be ready for all the Irish throw at them to survive another week.
Week 4: Eastern Michigan
After a hard fought battle and a well-deserved win against Notre Dame, Michigan State prepares for the bulk of there schedule.
Similar to the week the Spartans faced off with Central Michigan, this match up with Eastern Michigan will allow Michigan State to improve where it's needed on both sides of the ball.
Eastern Michigan finished last season with a record of 6-6, but won no big games. The Eagles finished towards the bottom in every category except rushing yards per game and according to team's page on ESPN, they finished 14th in the nation.
The Eagles will utilize their run game as much as possible with there primary running back, returning senior Alex Gillett. The defensive line for the Spartans will get some good work this week along with the linebackers. This battle will help improve the Spartans' defense with their read-and-react time when making plays against teams like Michigan and Ohio State.
There are a few teams this year that won't give the Spartans much of a challenge, but during these games the Spartans will learn lessons that will help them become a championship-contending team.
Week 5: Ohio State
The Spartans entered the season ranked No. 13 in ESPN's College Football Poll, USA Today Poll and the AP poll. By the time they play Ohio State, they'll have beaten two nationally-ranked teams. The Spartans should be breaking the top 10 in national rankings by kickoff in week five.
The Ohio State Buckeyes entered the season ranking No. 18 in only the AP poll, according to Fox Sports.
Braxton Miller is coming off a tremendous year where he was starting mid-way through the season as a true freshman. Even though Ohio State can't go to a bowl game or play for the Big Ten Championship, they'd still certainly like to shake things up in the national rankings as well as the conference rankings.
This season the Buckeyes are coming to East Lansing to face Michigan State. This will benefit the Spartans because of the fans at Spartan Stadium, and—with Ohio State under new leadership (Urban Meyer)—the Buckeyes would like to beat Michigan State and start his era off on the right foot.
The lessons learned from Central and Eastern Michigan will come into play this game. The team will be playing as one unit by now and know how to win when times get tough.
The Spartan will also have played two nationally-ranked teams coming into this game and have beaten them both which will only be more momentum for the Spartans as their confidence will run high.
Coming into this game, the Buckeyes will not have played any nationally-ranked teams and none of these teams would of challenged the Buckeyes for any of their wins. The game against the Spartans will be a big game for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes will fall short because of the lack of competition in their schedule up to this point.
The Spartans will go into week five undefeated, ranking high in the polls and ready for the next opportunity to show the nation why they deserve a shot at the National Championship.
Week 6: Indiana
Indiana won't be as easy of a game for the Spartans. Indiana is known to have upset some teams in the conference that were supposed to beat them.
This will give the Spartans a little tougher look than the competition they faced when playing Central and Eastern Michigan earlier in the season.
Coach Mark Dantonio won't let up when they face the Hoosiers in week six and won't let the team overlook Indiana. He'll keep working the offense for proper execution while putting pressure on the defense to continue making big plays.
Michigan State will continue with their undefeated season after a win against Indiana, continuing their road to the Big Ten and National Championship.
Recap Weeks 1-6
Michigan State plays three teams ranking in the Top 25 AP and Coaches Polls in the first six weeks of their season.
The Spartans have a tough schedule through week six, and it only gets tougher from here on out. Michigan State continues their season playing Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota. Talk about a load coming on the back end of your schedule.
By now you should see why Michigan State's schedule should be ranked in the top 10 most difficult schedules of 2012. They will possibly play a total of seven nationally-ranked teams, and some will be one right after the other.
This year is an uphill battle for the Spartans from week one. Even with one loss, Michigan State could still make a strong case for a spot in the BCS National Championship or at least the Rose Bowl.
The Spartans can do it though. They have the discipline, power and skill to go undefeated and play in the National Championship.