Last season the Michigan State Spartans led by a record setting defense was one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Spartans gave Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes their first lost in two years in route to a Big Ten Championship. And if that was not enough they out toughed and out muscled the bullies from the west the Stanford Cardinals to win their first Rose Bowl Championship since 1945. 2013 was truly a banner year for the Spartans but with expectations heightened what will they do for an encore?
The new kings of the Big Ten Conference must replace their two All Americans linebacker Max Bullough and Thorpe winner Darqueze Dennard but the cupboard is far from bare. Two-time assistant coach of the year Pat Narduzzi continues to turn unheralded recruits into prime time play makers and former basketball player Shilique Calhoun is his latest discovery. Calhoun and his 8.5 sacks 16.5 career tackles for loss will be relied on to terrorize opposing quarterbacks as the newest members of the no fly zone Trae Waynes and company get their feet wet.
Unlike in years past the Spartans offensive cupboard is far from barren returning 8 starters on offense. Quarterback Connor Cook confidence grew in the latter part of the season displaying pinpoint accuracy and mobility to extend plays. Running back Jeremy Langford was a human pinball whose punishing style led to big runs in the fourth quarter. Tennessee transfer Deanthony Arnett joins a deep stable of ball-hawking big receivers led by senior Tony Lippett.
Expectations in East Lansing could not be higher. In 2012 the Spartans were everyone’s darkhouse BCS title contender but they finished 7-6. Is another disappointing encore on the horizon or is there another Big Ten Championship and a trip to the College Football Playoffs in Arlington to play for a National Championship in the cards? Stay tuned…I know I will.
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Subscribe to podcast