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Spartam head coach and his team want to be all alone at the top of the Big Ten heap.
This year there will be no co-champions of the Big Ten and head coach Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans prefer it that way.
Last year MSU shared the title with Ohio State and Wisconsin. They also got routed by Alabama, 49-7, in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Minnie Mouse probably said "Oh, my!" several times during the game.
Michigan State was 11-2 in 2010, but I'm sure Dantonio has reminded his team that the two losses were blowouts. The 37-6 road loss to Iowa cost them sole ownership of the Big Ten title.
Are there any NFL teams looking for a pocket quarterback in the 2012 draft? They should take a look at the Spartans' Kirk Cousins.
The senior quarterback is so well respected among his teammates that he begins the 2011 season as a third-year captain. He can throw the ball down field and his quarterback rating is second only to Northwestern's Dan Persa among quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten this year.
Though the Spartans have a new offensive coordinator in Dan Roushar, they will continue to lean on the running game. Running back Edwin Baker is No.1 returning rusher in the Big Ten. He could be an even bigger gamebreaker this season.
Opposing defenses may become nauseous when they realize big Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper will also be part of the running game. There are probably plenty of Division I teams that wish they had Bell or Caper as starters.
The Spartans are equally deep at wide receiver with B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. Martin proved last year that he can be used effectively both catching and running the ball.
Though MSU needs to replace some starters on the line, Dantonio seems to be able to recruit the personnel to reload the offense. It helps that their starting guards, Joel Foreman and Chris McDonald, are returning this year.
The Spartan defense has taken a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality during Dantonio's term as head coach. The good news is they will have a very strong defensive line. The potential bad news is how reliable will the back seven be on defense.
Jerel Worthy and Tyler Hoover anchor the defensive line. Defensive end William Gholston is definitely a player to watch this year. He has the potential and ability to be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Due to graduation, Michigan State lost a determined leader and great linebacker in Greg Jones. Max Bullough, who comes from a family of MSU linebackers, is being challenged to fill the middle linebacker spot.
Chris Norman made several big plays as the Spartan weak-side linebacker. This year he moves to strong side, while the coaches go through a list of candidates to fill Norman's former spot.
Safety Trenton Robinson proved last year that he could be a team leader in the secondary and he will be joined by another veteran in cornerback Johnny Adams. Sophomore safety Isaiah Lewis is expected to be the hard-hitting complement to teammate Robinson.
Michigan State's fate will be decided in October. They begin October going to Columbus to face the Buckeyes. The game could be a toss-up, because Ohio State will not be able to start some key players who are serving a five-game suspension.
After facing the Buckeyes, they face cross-state rival Michigan and the Wolverines' new head coach Brady Hoke. They remain at home on October 22nd to face the Wisconsin Badgers and finish October on the eve of Halloween, when the Spartans go to Lincoln to face fellow Legends Division contender Nebraska.
The Spartans should enter the Horseshoe with a 4-0 record. A win over Ohio State would be a great momentum builder in their push for the Legends Division title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
It will come down to how strong the Spartan defense plays in 2011. On paper, Nebraska's defense is better than the Spartans and their offenses may be evenly matched.
As I wrote in the previous slide, circle October 29th and watch the Michigan State-Nebraska game. It should decide who wins the Legends Division.