15. Michigan State
2011 record: 11-3 (7-1 Big Ten), first in Legends Division, Outback Bowl champions
Key returners: CB Johnny Adams (Senior), LB Denicos Allen (Junior), DE William Gholston (Junior)
Resilience will be the name of the game for the 2012 Michigan State Spartans. The team lost their starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, to the NFL, but they are still one of the favorites to win the Legends Division in the Big Ten.
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The Spartans might have to find success in their defense, which ranked No. 10 in the nation last season, allowing just 18.4 points per game. On the offensive side of the ball, the passing game will have to be rebuilt, and not only because they lost Cousins. The Spartans also lost several of their top targets, so new wide receivers and tight ends will have to emerge and provide new quarterback Andrew Maxwell with plenty of options.
Speaking of Maxwell — local media has reported positive tidbits about his growth during camp. While he only completed 18 passes in 2011 as Cousins’ backup, Maxwell has been getting rave reviews, so keep an eye on his progress as the season develops.
MSU opens their 2012 campaign at home against No. 25 Boise State one week from this Friday, so they will be tested out of the gate and will face four more teams ranked in the AP Preseason Top 25 after hosting the Broncos.