Doubting the Doubters: Why Michigan State Will Win the Big Ten in 2011

Jim JonesContributor IIIAugust 10, 2011

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans returned to the sidelines for a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The season has not even begun, and many commentators already feel Michigan State is overrated. 

On one hand, there are good reasons to question how good of a season Michigan State will have. The schedule is TOUGH, with trips to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern, along with visits from Michigan and Wisconsin. 

Meanwhile, Michigan State lost important players on both sides of the ball. Their O-line is depleted and star receiver Mark Dell won’t be around to make big plays. Arguably the best linebacking tandem in school history, Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, have graduated, and Chris L. Rucker is now in the NFL. 

So will Michigan State disappoint this season? It’s a possibility, but the pieces are all there for Michigan State to surprise critics and win the Big Ten along with a trip to the Rose Bowl, or even the BCS championship. 

The biggest reason to hold such high hopes? Mark Dantonio. Year in and year out Michigan State has lost important pieces in this or that unit, and yet the team as a whole has kept improving and often the units that suffered the most losses either improved or remained steady. 

Just last year our O-line lost several important players, and yet they improved. Our secondary was abysmal just two years ago, but one year later and it was among the best in the conference. The defensive line is getting stronger and tougher to break through, and Michigan State has been exceptional at linebacking under Dantonio. 

Dantonio has built a system at Michigan State, and it’s a system that is producing increasingly good results. Now that system will be filled with players recruited by Dantonio and his staff. These are players that were selected because they fit in the system. The talent and focus of our team will benefit because of it.   

The pieces are there, and if Michigan State doesn’t get cocky, they have the chance to put together a really special season and end the Rose Bowl drought. With the challenging schedule, there are perhaps more obstacles in MSU's way this year than ever before, but they have the players and coaches needed to win the Big Ten.