Michigan State Football: 5 Realistic Predictions for the Spartans' 2013 Season
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No other team in college football is more anxious to forget about the 2012 season and start fresh once again in 2013 more than the Michigan State Spartans.
After finishing nonconference play with a 3-1 record, Michigan State could not get anything to go its way against teams from the Big Ten Conference. The Spartans finished 3-5 in league play, but their losses came by a combined 13 points.
The Green and White capped a roller-coaster year off with a 17-16 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which should do wonders for Michigan State's confidence and morale as it prepares for the upcoming campaign.
Do not expect to find the Spartans in any of the preseason polls leading up to this season either. Michigan State did not receive a single vote in the national rankings after starting last year as the No. 13 team in the country.
All that being said, what are some realistic goals for the Spartans this year? Click ahead to find out!
Aaron Burbridge Finishes with at Least 500 Receiving Yards and 4 Touchdowns
Aaron Burbridge will need to replace the production Dion Sims brought to Michigan State's passing attack.
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With veteran tight end Dion Sims opting to declare for the NFL draft rather than return to East Lansing, rising sophomore wide receiver Aaron Burbridge should play a much bigger role in the Michigan State Spartans' passing attack in 2013.
The Spartans did not have a receiver with more than 524 yards last season, and Burbridge only managed to haul in 29 receptions for 364 yards and two touchdowns, but there is good reason to be optimistic about the former 4-star prospect.
Burbridge will benefit from spending an entire offseason improving his game, which he was not able to do leading up to the 2012 campaign due to an injury in fall camp.
The Farmington Hills, Mich., product flashed his play-making potential with a 134-yard effort against the Indiana Hoosiers. Burbridge also hauled in a touchdown reception in Michigan State's 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Although Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery will likely be two of the Spartans' top receiving targets, Burbridge will see an increase in playing time and overall production this season.
Michigan State Will Rank Better Than No. 20 in Scoring and Total Defense
Max Bullough will headline yet another talented Michigan State defense.
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Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will not have Will Gholston or departing senior Anthony Rashad White to wreak havoc along the line of scrimmage, but the Michigan State Spartans return eight starters and should be one of the nation's top defenses in 2013.
The Green and White finished the 2012 season ranked No. 4 in total defense, and only surrendered an average of 16.3 points per game.
First team All-Big Ten middle linebacker Max Bullough will once again be the spearhead of Michigan State's defense, while fellow senior Denicos Allen and junior Taiwan Jones round out the linebacking corps.
Redshirt sophomore Joel Heath and fifth-year senior Denzel Drone battle to replace Gholston at defensive end, and rising junior Marcus Rush could become the Spartans' next great pass-rusher.
The biggest concern for Michigan State's defense for this coming season is figuring out who will fill the shoes of All-Big Ten cornerback Johnny Adams.
Redshirt sophomore Trae Waynes performed well in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and will likely get the nod to be the Spartans' starter for their season-opener.
There is no reason why Michigan State should not find itself ranked among the top 20 defenses in the country for much of the year.
Jeremy Langford Will Be the Spartans' Starting Running Back Come August
Jeremy Langford is one of the early favorites to replace Le'Veon Bell. Photo courtesy of 247Sports.com.
The biggest issue the Michigan State Spartans need to tackle prior to its season-opener on Aug. 31 is figuring out who will replace star running back Le'Veon Bell, who passed up his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Bell and departing senior Larry Caper accounted for all but 158 rushing yards for Michigan State's offense last year along with 12 of its 13 rushing touchdowns.
Rising junior Jeremy Langford, who played mostly at wide receiver in 2012, appears to have the perfect combination of size and speed to replace Bell.
Langford started his career in East Lansing at running back, but the Spartans have converted him to cornerback and receiver over the past two seasons in an attempt to get the 6'0", 208-pound speedster on the field more often.
All-purpose back Nick Hill will also get several carries this year, and former 3-star prospect Nick Tompkins will make a push for the starting job in the months leading up to the season.
Once the depth chart is posted for Michigan State's first game of the year against the Western Michigan Broncos though, the Green and White faithful should see Langford occupying the No. 1 running back spot.
Andrew Maxwell Will Throw at Least 15 Touchdown Passes and Less Than 8 Picks
Andrew Maxwell will perform better in 2013 than he did in 2012.
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Despite the fact second-stringer Connor Cook led the Michigan State Spartans to on the final drive of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, head coach Mark Dantonio has made it clear that fifth-year senior Andrew Maxwell is still the team's starting quarterback.
The 6'3", 212-pounder struggled to jell with a young and inexperienced group of wide receivers last season, but with four of Michigan State's top five pass-catchers returning in 2013, Maxwell should be much more efficient.
The Spartans may be forced to throw the ball more than they did a year ago if their rushing attack is plagued by inconsistency, which could give Maxwell even more opportunities to shine.
Maxwell threw for 2,606 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, and with Le'Veon Bell no longer in the backfield to pound the ball across the goal line Michigan State could turn to its signal-caller more often in the red zone.
There were some growing pains for Maxwell in his first season as a starter, however, he will be a much better quarterback this season because of the experience he gained in 2012.
Look for Maxwell to toss at least 15 touchdowns and less than eight interceptions this year.
The Spartans Will Win 8 Games and Finish Above .500 in the Big Ten
Mark Dantonio and the Spartans should bounce back from a rough 2012 campaign with a strong season in 2013.
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Nothing seemed to go right for the Michigan State Spartans in 2012. The Green and White were always on the wrong side of several bad breaks in close losses last season, but their schedule has them set up for success this season.
The Spartans should start the year 3-0 with victories over the Western Michigan Broncos, South Florida Bulls and Youngstown State Penguins in East Lansing.
A road tilt with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to be the first game Michigan State will drop next season, and Big Ten Conference games against the Michigan Wolverines, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats are likely going to result in losses as well.
There is a silver lining for the Spartans, though. Michigan State does not have to play the top three teams from the Leaders Division and should be able to beat up on the league's bottom feeders to finish above .500 in conference play.
As long as head coach Mark Dantonio is able to keep his team from overlooking the easier games on their schedule, the Spartans should finish with an 8-4 record.
Just do not expect Michigan State to pull off any upsets in 2013.