Entering the 2012 campaign, the hopes for then-junior Andrew Maxwell were high. Former Michigan State starting quarterback Kirk Cousins spoke highly of the Midland native and the word became not to expect much of a drop off from the record-setting Cousins to the first-year starter.
Reality became the bar was set too high. Offensive line injuries and wide receiver struggles aside, Maxwell somewhat staggered his way to 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Setting the bar for an increase in production this year, will Maxwell throw for 20 touchdowns?
The case for over:
The Michigan State offense is going to look different this season and the pass has to be an integral part of it. The loss of Le'Veon Bell and the lack of an established – or clear-cut starter – at running back leaves the ball in the quarterback's hands.
Maxwell will be given the chance to air it out to a corps of wide receivers that gained experience last year and has worked hard this offseason to improve on its struggles from a year ago.
Maxwell threw 446 times in 2012 and should be at or near that number again, giving him ample opportunity to throw for 20 touchdowns.
The skills are there, but a few more bounces would help his chances
The case for under:
Dion Sims was the most productive Spartan when he was on the field last year and now he is gone. Without Bell, the Spartans appear to be lacking a real running threat and Bell also was an option in the passing game.
The wide receivers struggled last year and still lack a proven, seasoned option for Maxwell to turn to when a big play is needed.
Returning most of the offensive line and most of the wide receivers is a good thing, but also has the potential to look a lot like last season.
My prediction: Push
Former MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer threw 20 touchdowns in his second year starting at MSU. So did Cousins. I think Maxwell will, too. I leaned to say over, but with the expectation that another quarterback will see snaps, it's tough to say Maxwell will be given all the opportunities to be the beneficiary of a likely more-explosive aerial attack.