Post-bowl, preseason 2012 football rankings

The 2011 bowl season has concluded, and the end brings with it the wayyyy too early 2012 season rankings from various media outlets.

Here is where Michigan State falls in what amounts to a projection before everything is known:

ESPN.com

Rank: 9

Why: “The Spartans continue to make tremendous strides under coach Mark Dantonio, winning 11 games for the second straight season. The Spartans also won a Big Ten Legends Division title and their first bowl game in his tenure, 33-30 over Georgia in the Outback Bowl. MSU will rely on its defense and running game in 2012, with quarterback Kirk Cousins and his top four receivers departing. Tailback Le’Veon Bell is expected back, along with four starting offensive linemen. All-Big Ten defensive tackle Jerel Worthy is leaving for the NFL draft, but eight defensive starters are expected to return. The Spartans play nonconference home games against Boise State on Aug. 31 and Notre Dame on Sept. 15, and they’ll have to play perhaps the two best teams from the Leaders Division (against Ohio State at home on Sept. 29 and at Wisconsin on Oct. 27).” — Mark Schlabach

Other Big Ten teams: Michigan (11), Nebraska (13), Wisconsin (19)

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 6

Why: “If a Big Ten program is going to challenge an SEC power before Urban Meyer gets things rolling at Ohio State, it’s going to be Michigan State. The Spartans may lose Kirk Cousins, but they remain the most athletic team in the Big Ten. No one in the league has a specimen like defensive end William Gholston, and tailback LeVeon Bell should ease the loss of Edwin Baker to the NFL. The Spartans also retained defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who had received interest from Texas A&M.” — Andy Staples

Other Big Ten teams: Michigan (11), Wisconsin (12), Nebraska (16)

USA Today

Rank: 6

Why: “Notable offensive stars (QB Kirk Cousins, his top two receivers) depart, but defense will stay a strength.” — Kelly Whiteside

Other Big Ten teams: Michigan (9) (Editor’s Note: USA Today ranked only the top 10)

Yahoo! Sports

Rank: 13

Why: “There are some questions on offense, as there will be a new quarterback and a drastically revamped receiving corps. But the line has the potential to be one of the best in the Big Ten, and there is a nice group of tailbacks. Defense is where the team should shine. The back seven should be quite good, and the line has a ton of potential.” — Mike Huguenin

Other Big Ten teams: Michigan (8), Wisconsin (14), Nebraska (17), Ohio State (18)

CBS Sports

Rank: 18

Why: “For the first time in what seems like forever, the Spartans will have a starting quarterback not named Kirk Cousins. The three-year starter is one of five offensive starters Michigan State must replace this year. Also gone is WR B.J. Cunningham. Andrew Maxwell is projected as Cousins’ replacement and making his transition easier is that four offensive line starters are back — tackles Fou Fonoti and Dan France, center Travis Jackson and guard Chris McDonald — along with running back Le’veon Bell. Even with DT Jerel Worthy’s early departure to the NFL, the Spartans are loaded on defense. Nine starters return from the Big Ten’s top rushing and overall defense led by DE William Gholston, LBs Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, SS Isaiah Lewis and CB Johnny Adams. The Spartans have another key contributor returning as defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi turned down an offer from Texas A&M. The schedule features home games against Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State in the season’s first five weeks. In the second half of the schedule, Michigan State has as difficult a three-game stretch as anyone with consecutive games at Michigan, at Wisconsin and home vs. Nebraska.” — Brett McMurphy

Other Big Ten teams: Michigan (10), Nebraska (14), Ohio State (16), Wisconsin (22)

 

Also of note, pre-preseason Big Ten rankings:

ESPN.com’s Big Ten blog

Rank: 1

Why: “The Spartans must replace a lot of leadership, including quarterback Kirk Cousins, receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin and All-American defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. But nine starters return off the Big Ten’s top overall defense, featuring Will Gholston, Denicos Allen and Isaiah Lewis as potential breakout stars. Le’Veon Bell could have a big year as the No. 1 tailback, and if Andrew Maxwell can adequately fill in for Cousins, the offense should be fine, especially if Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett gets his waiver to become immediately eligible at receiver. Plus, the road schedule (at Central Michigan, at Indiana, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, at Minnesota) is far more manageable than what the team navigated in 2011.” — Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg

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Posted on January 12, 2012, in Football. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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