Sparty Soul Searching While Wolverines Chomping at the Bit

The WolverineCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 06:  Sparty the mascot for the Michigan State Spartans looks on in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

My how a year changes things. It was around this time last year that Wolverine fans questioned the entire Michigan system. Was Rich Rodriguez a good hire? Will the bowl game streak end? Will we ever recover from the downward spiral?

Now it's Sparty's turn.

The preseason No. 27 team in nation and No. 3 team in the Big Ten is turning inward to find itself again.

Spartans fans are wondering whether they'll finish in the top eight of the Big Ten, whether they'll get to a bowl, whether their defense can stop anybody, and whether Mark Dantonio will fall into the same trap of his predecessors.

In some ways, this is the key game for the Spartans for the rest of the season. Fall to 1-4 and the bowl hopes are a near impossibility.

Rebound to 2-3 with a win over your in-state rival, and maybe, just maybe, the season can be put back on track.

Dantonio's latest move is to turn things inward. He reportedly held a practice on Sunday (Note: Detroit Free Press, don't worry, you have quotes from MSU players saying the team doesn't break the rules, so I'm sure everything's okay. I did hear, however, that Rich Rodriguez may have ties to al Qaeda, so maybe that's worth looking into.).

The MSU depth chart has 10 "OR" starters out of 22 positions, including at quarterback, both corners and strong safety. His goal? To increase the competitive energy level.

Dantonio's move will either succeed wildly, reinvigorating a team that began to question itself and see its intensity fade, or will fail miserably, catapulting a sunken team to new seasonal lows.

It's critical for each team to get out to an early lead. Michigan has shown it can succeed with its back against the wall, but Sparty hasn't.

If Michigan leads going into halftime, this one may be over.