Before the Notre Dame game, the Michigan State Spartans looked like world-beaters who were destined for another Big Ten Title and perhaps a better postseason showing than last year (Roll Tide!). After the Irish put it on the Spartans to the tune of 31-13, Michigan State is a has-been, out of the Top 25 with question marks all over the field.
So which team is Michigan State really? Probably neither, instead falling somewhere in the middle. The Spartans were likely a smidge overrated coming into this season on the merits of their 11-2 record last year. However, that record involved some come-from-behind wins against Northwestern, Purdue and Notre Dame to name a few.
There were lofty expectations for the Spartans' running game and defense coming into 2011, but the inexperienced offensive line as well as the true impact of Greg Jones' and Eric Gordon's departures may have been overlooked.
With that said, Michigan State still has a solid (not spectacular) defense, four impressive running backs and a battle-tested senior quarterback. They have the tools in place to at least contend for a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis this December.
It is far too early in the season to label any team a success (besides Boise State) or a failure (besides Georgia). However, for the Spartans to live up to their own expectations, there are a few concerns they must address.