2018 Michigan State football projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
Michigan State won 12 games and earned an appearance in the 2016 CFB Playoff, before an uncharacteristic falloff in 2016 when they won just three games. Last season Mark Dantonio got his program back on track by reaching the 10-win threshold with one of the youngest rosters in college football. With 19 of 22 starters - and some 33 players with starting experience - returning this fall the Spartans will have high expectations to return to where they were in January of 2016.
The defense returns 10 starters from last year’s unit that ranked seventh in the FBS in total defense. So, the D should be the backbone of MSU in 2018, most particularly the d-line that returns Mike Panasuik and Raequan Williams - both of whom started all 13 games in ’17 - as well as Kenny Willekes. At linebacker, Joe Bachie Andrew Dowell also return after starting all 13 games last season. Antjuan Simmons should blossom into a star at LB in 2018, while Brandon Randle and Tyriq Thompson improve at coming off the edge. Jon Reschke is also hoping to rejoin the team for a sixth season, but that is far from sure at this point. The secondary will be super talented in the back with veteran playmaker Khari Willis and interception machine David Dowell returning. Justin Layne, one CB starter from 2017 is back, but the Spartans will have to develop depth and have someone step up on the edges.
It’s not often one of these team previews leads with the defensive outlook, especially a team with a returning starter at quarterback. Even with the addition of Shea Patterson for Michigan, Brian Lewerke is the top signal caller returning to the Big Ten in the state according to Hour Glass analytics. In fact, Lewerke’s HourGlass QB stamp of 13.6 is good enough for third in the conference. And he’ll have his running back LJ Scott back, as well. The duo could situate MSU into the top group, if not at the top, in 2018 because of their talent and experience. Not many teams around the league boast as much of a combination in the backfield. Meanwhile, Felton Davis, Darrell Stewart, Cody White and Matt Sokol return to aid Lewerke in the passing game.
While other programs in the Big Ten will grab more headlines and garner more hype this offseason, do not discount the experience and potential of Michigan State. This team’s bones remind you of a team that made the CFB Playoff in 2016, and they will be in contention to do so again. However, it’s hard to ignore the Utah and Arizona State matchups in the non-conference, plus a difficult road date against Penn State in conference play.
HG analytics pick: 9-3, 4th in Big Ten East
My pick: 10-2, 3rd in Big Ten East
2017 Michigan State projections were at 8-4; actual finish 9-3 (92 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 27th – Inside our College Football Playoff Bust Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Mark Dantonio on HG Scale: 25th (Dantonio Stamp at 11) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Michigan State quarterback play rated 34th in the country out of 130 teams. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Ohio State has a stamp of 3.04.