Spartans surprise in SI.com's latest power rankings

Spartans surprise in SI.com's latest power rankings

Mark Dantonio

Former BTN contributor and current SI.com writer Andy Staples released his post-spring power rankings Tuesday. Most interesting of note, perhaps, is Michigan State’s placement. Staples put the Spartans, who went 7-6 last season and lost star RB Le’Veon Bell and several others, at No. 14. That’s two spots higher than rival Michigan, if you were wondering.

[ SI.com: Alabama, Texas A&M headline post-spring top 25 ]

Staples, it seems, surprised himself with where he placed Mark Dantonio’s team. But, he wrote that a visit to East Lansing and a conversation with a respected assistant brightened his forecast.

Here’s a portion of what Staples wrote about Michigan State:

“Because after visiting with defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and boring into the stats from 2012, it became clear that Michigan State had an elite defense, a terrible offense and a ton of bad luck last season. Since the Spartans bring back most of that defense and the offensive players have had time to mature, another double-digit win campaign — as in 2010 and 2011 — seems far more likely than a repeat of last year’s .500 regular-season record.”

As for the other Big Ten teams in Staples’ power rankings, Ohio State, the nation’s lone team to go undefeated in 2012, is No. 4 and Northwestern lands at No. 22. The aforementioned Wolverines come in at No. 16.

On the topic of Northwestern, Staples spotlighted the Wildcats, along with a few other premier academic institutions, in his intro.

“Meanwhile, Pat Fitzgerald has quietly built Northwestern into a program that in no way resembles the Big Ten doormat it used to be. James Franklin seems to be doing the same thing at Vanderbilt in spite of the ferocity of the SEC. If these coaches can string together a few more successful seasons, the academics/athletics combo becomes a more potent recruiting tool. Elite players do want a great degree, but not at the expense of winning. If Northwestern and Vandy keep proving they can win, they could join Stanford and Notre Dame in the upper reaches of the rankings.”

What do you make of these rankings? For what it’s worth, I think Staples nailed Michigan and Northwestern’s spot but misfired on Michigan State and Ohio State.

It’s hard to argue about a team being ranked No. 4, however with what Ohio State returns from a team that went 12-0 in its first year under Urban Meyer, it’s difficult to imagine there are three better teams to start the season. And for Michigan State, I think even Michigan State fans would say their spot is a little too optimistic.

What about Nebraska? That’s a good question. With that offense, it’s surprising not to see the Huskers included.

About Brent Yarina BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.
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