Michigan State has made a habit of flying under the radar during head coach Mark Dantonio’s tenure, fashioning perceived disrespect into fuel for the Spartans’ fire.
That apparently won’t be an issue next season. Not according to ESPN, which figures Michigan State will be one of seven programs facing plenty of hype for 2018 in a story posted Friday.
Going 10-3 — including a Holiday Bowl thumping of undermanned Washington State —and returning just about everybody will do that.
“Mark Dantonio just earned his 100th win at the school, a victory that figures to resonate in the months ahead as the Spartans return 21 starters from a 10-win team,” Mitch Sherman of ESPN writes. “Yes, 21 starters, barring any offseason surprises. Just one year removed from a 3-9 finish that followed a trip to the College Football Playoff, Michigan State is riding high again.”
Sherman notes the return of rising quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back LJ Scott, who will be a junior and senior, respectively, and linebacker Joe Bachie, David Dowell and Josiah Scott on defense.
“And if defensive end Kenny Willekes develops into an elite pass-rusher,” Sherman writes, “the Spartans may not have a weakness.”
Facing offseason hype isn’t a bad thing, Sherman writes, as “the hype is often justified. Preseason expectations regularly equate to postseason performance. Other times, issues interfere.”
Big Ten rival Wisconsin also is included in ESPN’s list. As far as Michigan, Sherman says he made a point not to include the Wolverines, who went 8-5 but, like the rival Spartans, return loads of talent.
“ … for the purpose of this exercise,” he writes, “we’re not including any of the playoff participants, plus Ohio State, any team led by Jim Harbaugh or a first-year coach. Offseason hype is a given at those spots.”
Michigan State opens its season Aug. 31 at home against Utah State. Michigan opens Sept. 1 at Notre Dame.