Michigan State was nowhere to be found in the top 25 when the preseason Coaches Poll was released. The Spartans fared much better in Sports Illustrated’s rankings, which came out on Wednesday. SI has Michigan State at No. 15 in the country, three spots ahead of Michigan.
The top five, according to Sports Illustrated: Alabama, Stanford, Texas A&M, Ohio State and Oregon, with Notre Dame (an opponent of both Michigan and Michigan State this year) slotting in at No. 8.
As for the Spartans and Wolverines … Here’s what SI’s Ben Glicksman had to say about MSU:
The defense will be good, and it has the potential to be dominant. Six starters return from a unit that ranked first in the Big Ten in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and scoring defense, led by hard-hitting linebacker Max Bullough and ball-hawking cornerback Darqueze Dennard. After limiting opponents to 16.3 points per game in 2012, the group’s focus is now on creating takeaways — and scoring defensive touchdowns. Meanwhile, the offense has four starters returning on the line, plus its two leading receivers, Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery. Michigan State lost five games by a combined 13 points last year. Even slight improvement could push the Spartans to the top of the league.
The Wolverines, meanwhile, landed just one spot below their ranking in that initial Coaches Poll. From Ted Keith:
The Wolverines bring back four starters on offense, and they’ll reintroduce the pro-style attack that was the maize-and-blue’s hallmark for decades. The change should work well for quarterback Devin Gardner, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound redshirt junior who completed 59.5 percent of his passes with a 2.2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in five starts at the end of last season. He’ll be protected by arguably the nation’s best offensive lineman, left tackle Taylor Lewan, who passed up NFL riches to return for his senior year. Senior wideout Jeremy Gallon is poised for a breakout season, and the country’s No. 1 running back recruit, Derrick Green, will be pressed into immediate action.