Big Ten breakdown: Michigan State
Coach: Mark Dantonio, 100-45 entering 12th season at Michigan State, 118-62 entering 15th season overall
2017 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten (tied for second, East Division), defeated Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl
Offensive starters returning (10): QB Brian Lewerke, RB LJ Scott, WR Felton Davis, WR Darrell Stewart, WR Cody White, TE Matt Sokol, OT Cole Chewins, OG David Beedle, OG Kevin Jarvis, OT Luke Campbell
Defensive starters returning (9): DT Mike Panasiuk, NT Raequon Williams, DE Kenny Willekes, LB Joe Bachie, LB Andrew Dowell, CB Justin Layne, CB Josiah Scott, S David Dowell, S Khari Willis
Specialists returning (2): PK Matt Coughlin, P Jake Hartbarger
Returning statistical leaders: Rushing, LJ Scott 201-898; Passing, Brian Lewerke 246-417-7-2,793-20; Receiving, Felton Davis 55-776; Tackles, Joe Bachie 100; Interceptions, David Dowell 5
Joe Bachie: Was as dominant at middle linebacker last season as any player to fill the traditionally talent-rich role in the Spartans’ defense. Bachie, who broke up a Hail Mary in the end zone to preserve a win over Michigan, finished with 100 tackles last season, averaging 7.7 per game.
Brian Lewerke: The 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback threw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns last season as a sophomore in addition to helping himself by rushing for 559 yards. That blend of abilities makes him an all-Big Ten candidate as he remains at the controls of an offense which returns 10 starters from a 10-win season.
LJ Scott: Finally a senior, Scott has led the Spartans in rushing in each of the last three seasons although he has yet to top 1,000 yards in a season. The 6-1, 226-pound Ohio native carried 201 times in 13 games last season, gaining 898 yards to complement Lewerke’s abilities as a rusher. He’s working behind a line which returns five players with starting experience.
On the rise
Felton Davis: A senior, Davis creates mismatches with his 6-4 frame. He caught 55 passes a year ago, reaching the end zone nine times while averaging 14.1 yards per catch. He leads a deep group of targets that quarterback Brian Lewerke will have to work with, covering 776 yards last season.
Mustafa Khaleefah: With plenty of returning experience, cracking the depth chart will prove to be a beginning challenge for freshmen in the Michigan State program this year. Khaleefah and Blake Bueter, both redshirt freshmen offensive linemen, may have the best opportunities.
The big number
6: The Spartans have recorded a double-digit win total six times in the last eight seasons, including a year ago when Michigan State bounced back from a 3-9 season in 2016 to win 10 games.
“We return 10 starters on offense, nine on defense, all of our special teams performers. The biggest thing about our football team right now is that I feel a great sense of leadership, chemistry and focus. It’s exciting to watch them come to work every single day.’’ – Mark Dantonio, Michigan State coach
Aug. 31 – Utah State
Sept. 8 – at Arizona State
Sept. 22 – at Indiana*
Sept. 29 – Central Michigan
Oct. 6 – Northwestern
Oct. 13 – at Penn State*
Oct. 20 – Michigan*
Oct. 27 – Purdue
Nov. 3 – at Maryland*
Nov. 10 – Ohio State*
Nov. 17 – at Nebraska
Nov. 24 – Rutgers*
* -- East Division game
Where Michigan State ranked in the Big Ten in 2017:
Scoring offense: 21.8 (Ninth)
Rushing offense: 144 (Seventh)
Passing offense: 203 (Seventh)
Totals offense: 347 (Eighth)
Scoring defense: 20.1 (Seventh)
Rushing defense: 94 (Third)
Passing defense: 218 (Ninth)
Total defense: 312 (Fourth)
The Spartans’ record over the last five years:
Eye on Iowa
Iowa 23, Michigan State 22, Ties 2
Record in the last five games vs. the Hawkeyes:
2011: Michigan State 37, Iowa 21
2012: Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 (2 OT)
2013: Michigan State 26, Iowa 14
2015: Michigan State 16, Iowa 13 in Big Ten championship game
2017: Michigan State 17, Iowa 10