5 Big Predictions, Offense - #4, Offensive Line Will Be Offensive

5 Big Predictions, Offense - #4, Offensive Line Will Be Offensive

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5 Big Predictions, Offense - #4, Offensive Line Will Be Offensive

With four starters returning to the Spartan offensive line, the unit will dominate more than any other offensive line has in the Dantonio Era.

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Duffy Daugherty and Jud Heathcote each had variations on the quote that went something like this:

“The good news is that we have a lot of guys from last year’s team returning.  The bad news is that we have a lot of guys from last year’s team returning.”

Often, internet knuckleheads like myself point to a healthy dose of returning starters when trying to rationalize predictions of success.

Too often, the returning starters weren’t any good to begin with and shouldn’t give anyone any real reason to think that, all of a sudden, those guys who were mediocre are going to turn into world beaters and lead the team to the promised land.

However, when the returning starters are actually good, strong, experienced, tough, fast, and determined badasses, it’s perfectly fair and reasonable to use the “returning starters” argument.

While there are plenty of ways to quantify the productivity of an offensive line, I happen to emphasize two areas more than any others: rushing offense and time of possession.

In 2017, Michigan State finished the season in the middle of the Big Ten pack when it came to rushing offense.  The Spartans wound up literally in the middle as the 7th best rushing team in the conference with 2182 yards over the course of the season – good for a per game average of 167.8 yards.

Not bad.

However, where Michigan State’s offensive line really proved to be a major part of the Spartans’ fantastic turnaround season was in the all-important area of time of possession.

Michigan State ended the 2017 season second in the Big Ten with a 35:18 time of possession stat line, a mere nine seconds behind of Wisconsin’s 35:39 time of possession per game average.

To put that into proper perspective, the third best time of possession line in the Big Ten was UMAA at 31:57.

To put that into even better perspective, consider that Michigan State finished the season third IN THE NATION in time of possession behind only Wisconsin and, not surprisingly, the United States Naval Academy.

Possessing the ball for long periods of time almost always leads to goodness, happiness, and cheering.

And smiling.

And clapping.

And winning.

Think back to the 2015 Big Ten Championship game when Michigan State gobbled up more than nine minutes on that epic championship-winning final drive.

The 2018 Michigan State offensive line features four returning starters along with about 67 other beefeating monsters who have played all over the line and have done so in ways that have led the Spartans to possessing the ball for enough time to give fans opportunities to catch cat naps in the stands if necessary.

Cole Chewins at Left Tackle.

David Beedle at Left Guard.

Matt Allen at Center.

Kevin Jarvis at Right Guard.

Luke Campbell at Right Tackle.

Matt Sokol at Tight End.

Mustafa Khaleefah, Tyler Higby, Jordan Reid, Noah Davis, and a collection of other bubbas are all going to be running on and off the field, making sure legs are fresh.

Injuries, of course, will play a key role in the line’s ability to plow holes and protect Brian Lewerke.

But this entire group of players is the strongest overall collection of offensive lineman in the Mark Dantonio Era and it’s quantified in that time of possession statistic.

So, in terms of specifying a prediction with regard to the offensive line, here are some:

Michigan State will, once again, finish the season in the nation’s Top 5 in time of possession.

The Spartans will improve on last season’s 7th place Big Ten rushing performance and will finish the season in the Big Ten’s top three.

To specify the rushing productivity with some more detail – the Spartans will finish the season with more than 3,000 yards on the ground, good for somewhere in the Big Ten’s top three and the nation’s top fifteen.

And, individual Spartans will be recognized as stars within the Big Ten and beyond.

Cole Chewins and Luke Campbell will be First Team All Big Ten.

David Beedle will be Second Team All Big Ten.

And Matt Allen will be First Team All Freshman in the Big Ten and in the nation.

Beneficiaries of all of this mumbo jumbo will be LJ Scott, Brian Lewerke, Felton Davis, Cody White, Mark Staten, Mark Dantonio, and Spartans fans who enjoy seeing Michigan State wins lots of football games.

Oct 21, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio and offensive line coach Mark Staten reacts to a play during the second half of a game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

 

 

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