Michigan State is viewed as a top-10 team by multiple national reporters in way-too-early rankings for 2018.
A mathematical approach also has the Spartans in that group.
Michigan State is No. 10 in ESPN’s initial Football Power Index preseason rankings, which were released on Wednesday morning.
FPI is a predictive rating system that factors team performance over the previous four seasons (with the most emphasis on the last season), returning starters, whether the head coach is returning and the past four recruiting classes. The overall FPI rating is designed to show how many points better or worse a team is than an average opponent on a neutral field.
Michigan State, which finished 10-3 last year and set a program record for the biggest single-season improvement at seven victories, has an FPI rating of 18.8. The Spartans’ offense is ranked No. 15, defense No. 10 and special teams No. 6.
Clemson is No. 1 in the ranking at 25.5, followed by Alabama (23.2) and Georgia (23.1) to round out the top three. The Big Ten has five of the top 12 teams in No. 4 Ohio State (22.4), No. 8 Penn State (19.9), Michigan State, No. 11 Michigan (18.8) and No. 12 Wisconsin (17.4).
The Spartans will play three of those teams this season as Michigan (Oct. 20) and Ohio State (Nov. 10) will come to East Lansing while they will have to travel to Penn State (Oct. 13).
Following a 3-9 season in 2016, Michigan State was No. 60 in the initial 2017 FPI rankings with a projected win-loss mark of 5.1-6.9. Despite a 10-3 record, the Spartans finished the 2017 season at No. 32 in the FPI rankings, behind a trio of Big Ten teams (No. 4 Penn State, No. 23 Iowa and No. 24 Michigan) it beat.
ESPN will release FPI projections for 2018 later in the offseason.