QB Kirk Cousins leads Michigan State, your Big 10 "Sleeper" Team

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I have to admit it, I'm drinking the green colored Kool-Aid being manufactured in East Lansing, Michigan this summer. I truly believe that Ohio State and Iowa are the class of the conference; but after that, Michigan State leads the way. I think they're the most complete team of the nine which happen to be a peg or two below the big two, and if anyone's going to contend for that Big Ten conference crown, and knock off the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, it'll be the MSU Spartans.

And on offense it all starts with their quarterback Kirk Cousins, a preseason all-conference pick who was rated the league's "most accurate passer" by Lindy's.

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The 6-3, 202 junior from Holland, Michigan already ranks tied for eighth in MSU history with 21 passing TDs. In his career Kirk Cousins has completed 62 percent of his passes (230-for-371) for 2,990 career yards. Last season, he was in a fierce position battle with fellow sophomore Keith Nichol for the starting quarterback job. The battle lasted long into the season. But Cousins won out, and Nichol moved over to wide receiver during Alamo Bowl practice. This year the job belongs to Cousins alone and Nichol is the starting split end. So both will be on the field all the time in 2010. 

"I see a lot of excitement between the two of them when they make a play together. Keith is still an outstanding football player at quarterback, and he could still play in that position, but the bottom line is he's too fast, he's too good of an athlete, he's too powerful, he's 223 pounds now, so when you have a guy like that you have to give him an opportunity to be on the football field full time," Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio said.

"I view Drew Brees as the guy that I want to be like, people may or may not think the's the best, and they have good reason to say maybe Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is the best," Cousins said.

"But I've always wanted to emulate Drew Brees, how's he played with fire and the passion since his days at Purdue when he took his team to a Rose Bowl when I felt that team had no business going to a Rose Bowl in 2000. That's the kind of leader and player I want to be, he's gone a long way with what he's had," Cousins continued.

Leadership is definitely an area where Cousins has  earned his stripes. Last year he became only the second sophomore to be named a captain in Michigan State's 113-year football history. He also earned the Biggie Munn Award as the team's most inspirational player on offense. And just how awesome of a name is Biggie Munn? "Biggie Biggie Biggie can't you see? Somehow you words just hypnotize me....."

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Part of the reason I'm so sold on State is the way their schedule plays out. Their first five games are at home, their first seven are in the state of Michigan, and the eighth is at Northwestern, where the crowd could very likely once again be 40-60% MSU fans. So that could be a de facto neutral site game. In other words, the whole first half of the season is perfect for the Spartans to get comfort and confidence; two of the most critical components for building a winner.

"Like you said, confidence can get going early if we're sitting there with a 4-0, 5-0 kind of a record, and the confidence in our team, the belief in our team is only going to snowball. And that can only help us. So like you said, the schedule sets itself up well, and now we just need to go out and make big time plays, take care of things in crunch time and we can have a special season," Cousins said about the favorable scheduling.

Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune's blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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