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IF you’re looking for a high concentration of buzzards (and why you would be doing so, I have no idea), you might allegedly check the skies of East Lansing, Mich.
After all, it’s only a matter of time, right? Ohio State went into their sty and rolled in their mud, their signature win on the way to a championship that re-asserted what’s been common law for the past 15 years … that the Buckeyes pretty much own the Big Ten while everyone else pays variations of rent.
Then you’ve got Michigan, thrown into the lake with a few cinder blocks attached to their legs the moment Lloyd Carr retired. It’s been nearly a decade. Certainly there’s no way they’re still breathing down there, right? Then they went and hired the most can’t miss coach possible in pretty much any level of football in Jim Harbaugh, and they’ll be back soon.
Penn State weathered sanctions and hired an elite SEC coach and is on the way back up, just to rub salt in the wound. And speaking of that state, potentially the best defensive coordinator in the nation in Pat Narduzzi took his wares there to coach Pittsburgh football.
Back to reality for Michigan State football, right?
While it’s naive to suggest the Spartans haven’t benefited from Michigan’s running in quick sand act through the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke tenures as well as the ugly Penn State situation that could have crippled a lesser program, it’s equally naive to think Michigan State will suddenly drop off the face of the earth now that the other two are trending up instead of in mud.
College football programs are about coaches, and MSU has a good one in Mark Dantonio. Until he leaves and MSU makes a bad hire, they’re here to stay no matter what anyone else is up to. That’s a testament to what Dantonio has built, specifically over the last two seasons when MSU went from pretty good team in the Big Ten to “oh, hell, nationally, we need to notice this.”
MSU need look no further than their buddies in Ann Arbor to understand that no matter what your brand or power, the wrong hire at head coach means you’ll fall quick, fast, and in a hurry. Not convinced? You can throw Florida in there too.
Recruiting wise, which is always a crap shoot individually but genuinely by class ranking determines who is going to compete for championships, MSU is recruiting at the level they need to after elite talent has seen this is a program that can win the Big Ten, win the Rose Bowl, come back, compete again for the conference crown, and then win a thrilling bowl game against an alleged CFB Playoff contender that supposedly got slighted.
Soon, MSU will enter the 2015 season with an all-important for perception NFL first round talent in Connor Cook at quarterback. They’ll get back three starters from their always harrowing defensive line, including Shilique Calhoun, possibly the best in the nation.
They’ll bring back three in their annually vaunted secondary, and really will have only one major position hole … wide receiver, where there will need to be a quick break through by a few there.
A quick scan of the Red Cedar Message Board shows one of the top topics about the performance of Michigan wide receiver/tight end/something catching the ball Devin Funchess … which is eternally odd because MSU has had enough success recently to not bother with what their rivals are doing as if it somehow props up themselves.
Michigan State is propping themselves up plenty with their own successes.
And that will only continue as long as Dantonio is there. The great programs in college football, or at least the competitive ones at the championship level all have one thing in common … elite head coaching. In college football, the fish rots from the head down, always and forever.
Expect MSU to be fresh until they have to find a new fish. At which case, they’ll need more of the same, and they’ll be just fine no matter what anyone else is up to.