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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Preseason predictions: Michigan State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The presason predictions are jumping around, going in no particular order. We'll get to all 11 teams soon enough.

Michigan State is up next.

1. Kirk Cousins will eventually become Michigan State's starting quarterback -- It's very close between Cousins and fellow sophomore Keith Nichol for the top job, and both men will log significant snaps during September and the early part of Big Ten play. But Cousins' smart play and polished mechanics ultimately will push him into the top spot. I don't see Michigan State making dramatic changes to its offensive system, and Cousins ran things well last year behind Brian Hoyer. Nichol should be an asset for the Spartans, especially if Cousins gets hurt, but Cousins will be the starter.

2. A freshman will emerge as the Spartans' top running back -- None of the holdovers really took charge in the spring, though Caulton Ray made a nice push down the stretch. Still, I'd be surprised if heralded recruits Edwin Baker and Larry Caper don't separate themselves by the middle of the Big Ten slate. Baker and Caper both boast good size for freshmen, especially the 220-pound Caper, and they'll get a long look from the coaches in preseason practice.

3. Michigan State beats Michigan for the second straight year -- After ending a six-game slide to its top rival in 2008, Michigan State gets Michigan in Spartan Stadium on Oct. 3. Though the Wolverines will be an improved team, they likely will have a young starting quarterback making his first road collegiate start. The Spartans' improved defense will stifle a still-evolving Michigan offense and Mark Dantonio's team gets bragging rights for another year.