As the 2010 college football campaign grows ever closer, it’s time to examine what Michigan State’s schedule actually means.
Actually, it’s time to realize the early Christmas gift the team received as Ohio State was left off the schedule for the second consecutive season.
The Spartans do not have to play Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes—the favorites to win the conference. Not having to account for Terrelle Pryor is a comforting thought in itself, but it also adds pressure to a program which is trying to live up to lofty expectations.
The Spartans have improved on both sides of the ball, recruiting some talented running backs and linebackers. Kirk Cousins is still slinging the pigskin and Greg Jones is still going to be all over the field making tackles. But this season will be more than individual achievements; it will be about playing as a team and getting off to a good start.
Last season went downhill fast. With losses to Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin, the Spartans didn’t have an opportunity to exhale. They had to make things right just to be bowl eligible.
The team did make it to a bowl game after a late season surge, but another lackluster start will prove devastating for Mark Dantonio and the rest of the team.
The Spartans have to take into account the fact that not having Ohio State on the schedule is a blessing in disguise, so making the same mistake twice is not really an option. It would be a waste of an opportunity when you get to avoid playing the Big Ten front-runners and still have a sultry record.
To say the Spartans are a dark horse is kind of like saying that Cousins will throw 30 touchdown passes. Both premises are entirely possible but not guaranteed. Michigan State had the same opportunity last season and let one sloppy loss turn into a failure of a season, at least in terms of conference supremacy.
As it currently stands, the Spartans are probably the fifth best team in the conference, behind the aforementioned Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State. This means that they will have to put extra focus on beating the three teams ahead of them in which they have to play.
Not having to play the Buckeyes is a luxury, but it also adds more pressure when it comes to beating other talented conference competitors. This time around, the Spartans will most likely take such a gift more seriously.
Otherwise, this upcoming season will be an even bigger disappointment than the one last year.