Michigan State returns 48 letterwinners from last season’s team that reached the College Football Playoff and finished in the top 10 for the third straight season.

 

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State, which won the 2015 Big Ten Championship and reached the College Football Playoff last season, enters the 10th season of the head coach Mark Dantonio era in 2016 ranked No. 11 in the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on Thursday.

The Spartans closed last season with a 12-2 record and finished ranked among the nation’s top 10 for the third year in a row in 2015 (No. 3 in 2013, No. 5 in 2014, No. 6 in 2015).

The Spartans were also ranked in the Preseason Coaches Poll in 2015 (No. 6), 2014 (No. 8), 2012 (No. 13), 2011 (No. 17), 2002 (No. 18), 2000 (No. 22), 1998 (No. 23) and 1991 (No. 22). Three of MSU’s 2016 opponents are ranked in the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll: No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan and No. 9 Notre Dame.

Michigan State returns a total of 48 letterwinners and 12 starters in 2016. A total of 28 players returning have starting experience (12 offense, 13 defense, three special teams). On defense, the Spartans return 22 letterwinners and six starters from a unit that finished No. 11 in the FBS in rushing defense, No. 25 in scoring defense and No. 26 in total defense.

Michigan State, which has posted a 36-5 record since 2013, is one of only four schools in the nation to play in a Bowl Championship Series Game (2014 Rose Bowl), a New Year’s Six game (2015 Cotton Bowl) and the College Football Playoff (2015 CFP Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl) in the last three seasons (Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State). MSU’s 36 wins since 2013 are fourth most in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.

The MSU football team opens preseason practice Saturday, Aug. 6.