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Spartan fans have two people to thank for the wild success of their football team over the past few seasons. The first is obviously Mark Dantonio. The head Spartan has slowly but surely built MSU into a perennial conference contender, rather than the late-season doormat everyone was used to mocking.
The second person Sparty should send a bouquet of roses to is former Michigan running back Mike Hart.
Following Michigan's come-from-behind win over Michigan State in 2007, Michigan's Hart famously (or infamously) said, “Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and stuff, let them get the lead, then you just come back and take it back.”
That didn't sit well with then-new MSU head coach Dantonio, who couldn't help but respond.
Dantonio's Spartans responded on the field, too. Michigan hasn't won a single game over Michigan State since.
Sometimes, the older brother gets too cocky and complacent, and you have to take him down a couple pegs.
As funny as that is (unless you live in Ann Arbor), it's looking like 2012 may finally be the year for the maize and blue to break through.
MSU has just five offensive starters returning from last year, and the most important loss is easily quarterback Kirk Cousins.
One of the most underrated QBs in the nation, Cousins was an incredibly accurate pocket passer whose influence on a game transcended his statistics. Over the past decade, Michigan State hasn't had a single player that can match Cousins' on-field leadership ability.
A calming influence when needed, Cousins could also provide an instant spark to a flat MSU offense. The importance of his departure cannot be overstated.
While MSU will start 2012 with a moderate ranking, it will be interesting to see how the Spartans handle themselves as they open the season against Boise State.
Preseason Prediction: No. 10