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Phil Steele: Michigan State Will Be One of College Football’s Biggest Surprises in 2016

“The Spartans play best with a chip on their shoulder.”

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Phil Steele knows college football, and in his official preview magazine he says the Michigan State Spartans are one of college football’s biggest potential surprises for 2016.

Here’s what Steele had to say about MSU this fall, per an ESPN post:

My No. 9 surprise team last year was Clemson, and the Tigers made it to the national title game. This year my No. 9 surprise team, Michigan State, also made it to the 2015 CFP but did not fare as well. The Spartans play best with a chip on their shoulder. Last year they came in as the preseason No. 5 team and played differently than in years past. Well, the chip is back! They will not be in the top 10 and all the talk is "Michigan or Ohio State" to win the East. Well, this just in, Michigan State beat both of those teams on the road last year (with a combined 37-15 edge in first downs) and gets them both at home this year! The Spartans also avoid Iowa and Nebraska out of the West. They are one of the least experienced teams in the country according to my ratings, with just 10 returning starters. But Mark Dantonio will have them coached up and they are back in their preferred spot of being overlooked.

The other teams on the list were Washington, TCU, Iowa, Baylor, UCLA, Miami, Georgia, Houston, Ole Miss, Louisville, North Carolina and Oregon. Nebraska also made it in as a "bonus long-shot pick."

So three Big Ten teams made the list, but as Steele notes, the Spartans avoid the other two.

Sort of amazing that people will still be surprised when Michigan State has a good season this year.