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B1G 2014 // Michigan State's Smartest Guys in the Room: The View from the Top*

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*Recognizing that, in fact, there are still mountains to climb.

Sure, but what's he done LATELY?
Sure, but what's he done LATELY?
Harry How

Michigan State's staff returns completely intact from last season, so I'll dispense with lengthy biographies. You probably know something about the HMIC, Mark Dantonio. Former Jim Tressel assistant and defensive architect of the 2002 OSU national title team. He then moved on to the head coach gig at Cincinnati, turning that team into a Big East power when that phrase still meant something before being hired to replace John L. Smith at MSU following the 2006 tire fire season.

Top assistant Pat Narduzzi also returns, and is widely regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in college football. He's considered, but ultimately turned down, head coaching offers elsewhere over the last two offseasons, which might tempt Spartan fans to think he'll stick around until Dantonio retires and then step into the HC job in East Lansing. I wish that were the case, but I think it's more likely the Nard-dawg is just waiting for the right opportunity, and in that light, turning down Storrs is understandable. Plus, it's not clear that Dantonio is looking to retire anytime soon. His health has actually improved since his heart attack in 2010, and having achieved his greatest single professional goal will probably ease some of the stress on him. Well, for a minute, before he has to get back to recruiting.

Offensive coordinator Dave Warner also returns with his full complement of assistants, having successfully extracted the Spartan offense from the ditch it spent 2012 in. He has plenty of returning personnel to work with, and even a relatively depleted offensive line should be fine with Jim Bollman's guidance. A quick sidenote here: it's still sort of funny to think how OSU fans mocked us when we hired him, given how instrumental he's been to rebuilding this offense. Sure, those opinions weren't without justification, but it sure looks like he was a smaller part of the problem than previously thought. Run the DAVE, forever and ever. Amen.

So with the whole gang coming back, what is there to talk about on the coaching front?

I'm intently curious to see how the program's mentality changes, if at all, now that the goal it's been aimed at for the last seven years has been achieved. In a way, the team picked the perfect time to get to Pasadena. With the playoff starting this fall, the Granddaddy of Them All can't help but lose a bit of its luster. The debate about whether a Rose Bowl is good enough or if national titles should be the ultimate goal becomes more academic when you've already accomplished one of them. Another Rose Bowl appearance would be cool, but it can't be the ultimate goal anymore. The coaches and players have also made enough comments about now wanting to play for a title to be believed; the sights are now set on wherever the playoff games will be in a given season.

Normally, this is the kind of season where you worry about complacency. But the team's saying the right things. They saw a sort of disrespect in that only one of their ranks was drafted by the NFL this year. And, probably because of the way the conference is perceived nationally, there isn't a ton of buzz around this team that I've noticed on the WWL and the like. If the team continues putting up comparable on-field results, the sources of disrespect, real or perceived, will eventually dry up. But until then, a team that's been driven by the chip on their collective shoulder still has plenty to play for.