Big Ten media days arrive in just less than two weeks, on July 28. But we can hardly wait for the event and the season to arrive, so we’ll get you ready in the coming days by identifying three pressing questions that each league squad will face at media days, along with their possible answers.
Next up, the reigning conference champions, who will be bringing safety Kurtis Drummond, defensive end Shilique Calhoun and quarterback Connor Cook with coach Mark Dantonio to talk about Michigan State's chances of repeating last season's run to a title.
1. Are the Spartans here to stay?
Despite putting together the kind of dominant season in Big Ten play that is essentially unmatched in recent history, Michigan State still seems to be flying somewhat under the radar even within its own division -- let alone nationally. Ohio State is the odds-on favorite in the preseason to win the East and is generating all the buzz as the Big Ten's top contender for a playoff berth, despite the fact the Spartans won all of their league games last year by at least 10 points, including the championship matchup with those Buckeyes. Michigan State also gets to play host to Ohio State in the latest edition of a blossoming rivalry, a primetime meeting in November that certainly has the potential of becoming a de facto division title game. Do the Spartans care at all or notice any lack of respect for what the program has achieved or built for the future? Maybe not, but they're going to be asked about it often.
2. How much longer can Michigan State hang on to Pat Narduzzi?
Dantonio's defensive coordinator won't be around to answer any questions himself, but Narduzzi's name is likely to come up frequently as he continues to remain a hot coaching commodity. Considering the work he did with a unit that seemingly outperformed its talent by a wide margin based on the lack of Spartans drafted in May, it's still somewhat surprising that there wasn't an offer on the table strong enough to tempt Narduzzi away from East Lansing during the offseason. The Spartans, obviously, stand to benefit from one more year with their guru, but will this be the last campaign Narduzzi spends with them? And how are he and Dantonio planning to replace all those veterans on that side of the ball?
3. Is Cook ready to take the next step?
If his closing stretch was a glimpse at the future, the Spartans are in safe hands offensively with Cook in control. Granted, the sample size is small, but throwing for more than 300 yards in pressure-packed outings against Ohio State and Stanford is clearly ending the season on a high note and raising the bar heading into a season where Cook is the unquestioned leader for the Spartans. But just before those prolific outings there was an uneven performance against Minnesota, and a couple weeks before that he posted a completion percentage of just 48.4 against Nebraska. That's yet another small sample size, of course, but if the Spartans are going to contend yet again, they'll surely be counting on seeing more games like the two he delivered that won a conference crown and the Rose Bowl.