How 2014 Looks: Pretty darn good. Though the Spartans lose three key cogs from that incredibly stingy 2013 defense--linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard--Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi have built a really solid base of talent up in East Lansing; just as important, they've established an effective system that works perfectly with the talent they've assembled. So, yeah, you can assume that the defense, even despite the losses, will still be pretty good. The offense, meanwhile, figures to improve. Quarterback Connor Cook blossomed into a top-notch passer late in 2013 and should be even more effective next year.
Schedule Breakdown: In Week 1, there's a "game," as it were, against Jacksonville State. And then ... well, then the season actually begins. The Week 2 trip to Autzen Stadium to take on Oregon figures to offer us all a pretty good gauge on just how legit this edition of the Spartans will be. After that, it's the Big Ten slate, with highlights including the Oct. 25 home date against Michigan, the Nov. 8 home date against Ohio State and a season-ending trip to take on James Franklin and Penn State in Happy Valley.
The Season Will be a Success If ...: The Spartans win the Big Ten West and get back to the Big Ten title game. Ohio State looks to be the better team overall, and given what we know of Meyer, we can only assume that he'll spend the entire offseason obsessing over his team's failing last year against the Spartans. It will be his goal to correct that, and I'm guessing he will do so. But this Spartans team should at the very least win its division, and then go on to a decent bowl.
The Season Will be a Failure If ...: The Spartans win any fewer than 10 games. The Oregon game is a tough ask, and the Buckeyes will be difficult to beat, even though they get them at Spartans Stadium. Beyond that, though, there isn't a team that the Spartans can't or shouldn't beat left on the schedule. Dantonio needs another 10-win season to prove he still runs the best program in the state of Michigan. I think he'll deliver.
The Verdict ...: Another dream season isn't out of the question, but it seems a bit unlikely. Ohio State will be looking for revenge and will be poised to earn it; Michigan State, meanwhile, loses just enough key players from the 2013 team to be vulnerable in tough spots. A win in the Oregon game could set this team up for greatness, but more than likely this bunch is looking at a 10-win season and another Big Ten title game appearance. They won't win the league again. But, really, there's no shame in that. Prediction: 10-2