EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — It wasn't until November last year — after Michigan State pounded rival Michigan — that the idea of the Spartans playing in the Rose Bowl started to feel like a serious possibility.
This season, coach Mark Dantonio's team won't have the luxury of remaining under the radar.
"You're always trying to I think build on things you've been able to accomplish and we are trying to do that," Dantonio said. "But we have got to handle success, and I guess that's been one of the main focuses or topics here."
The Spartans went undefeated in the Big Ten last year, which was a surprising rise after the team could hardly move the ball on offense during the first couple games of the season. The question now is whether Michigan State can handle heightened expectations. Dantonio's program has always seemed to have a bit of a chip on its shoulder. That's an attitude that has served Michigan State well recently, but will the Spartans be able to maintain that hunger after everything they accomplished last season?
"We still feel that we need to prove ourselves nationally," defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun said. "Nationally, we don't still feel like we're respected in the way that we should. And maybe we shouldn't be respected that way because we haven't done it on a consistent basis. That's our goal. Try to be consistent."
Here are five things to watch as the Spartans try to repeat as Big Ten champions — and possibly secure a berth in the four-team playoff for the national championship at season's end:
COOK'S POTENTIAL: After being named the starting quarterback early in the season, Cook looked more comfortable as the year went on. He finished with 22 touchdown passes and six interceptions, and with that extra experience under his belt, he could help Michigan State's offense reach another level in 2014.
Continue reading this story on the...