Last season: 5-7 (4-4 Big Ten/tied for 5th).
Key losses: Tailback DeAndra Cobb, defensive end Clifford Dukes, safety Jason Harmon, cornerback Roderick Maples, tight end Jason Randall, placekicker Dave Rayner, receiver Agim Shabaj,linebacker Ronald Stanley, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson and guard William Whitticker.
Experience counts: The Spartans return eight starters on offense, five regulars on defense and a standout punter from an inconsistent 5-7 season.
New faces in familar places: MSU lost three assistant coaches to rival Big Ten programs (Reggie Mitchell, Illinois, Steve Stripling, Michigan, Paul Haynes, Ohio State) so new assistants Ben Sirmans (running backs) Lucious Selmon (defensive line) and Chuck Driesbach (secondary) take over for the defectors.
"It's tough to get acquainted with a new coach's style," said defensive tackle Damato Peko. "But Coach Selmon was an All-American at Oklahoma and a coach there and with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He knows what he's doing. And we love playing for him now."
Who's number 2?: Brian Hoyer and freshman Domenic Natale appear to be in a dogfight for the backup position behind oft-injured starter Drew Stanton with the departure of Plant City, FL quarterback Stephen Reaves to transfer. "If everyone does what he can, I feel we can compete with anybody," said Stanton. "But who's our No. 2 quarterback now? ... That's a good question."
JUCO party: The Spartans signed seven Junior college players including Kerry Reed, a wide receiver from Coffeyville CC, who is turning heads early in fall practice.
Reed originally signed with Texas A&M but was let go when the Aggies oversigned. He literally fell into the Spartans just prior to the start of fall camp when his JUCO position coach found MSU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin's business card in his desk.
Alaho for good?: MSU now has 13 regular season contests scheduled for the 2006 season after adding the University of Alabama-Birmingham, leading to speculation that they will drop their scheduled visit to Hawaii. MSU got jobbed by the officials there last year and likely want out of the grueling road trip in the worst way.
Running to success: Michigan State ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 10 in the NCAA in rushing (238.5) last year. Three of the top four rushers are back: Jason Teague, (688 yards), Drew Stanton (687) and Jehuu Caulcrick (619).
Schedule: Sept. 3, Kent State; Sept. 10, Hawaii; Sept. 17, at Notre Dame; Sept. 24, at Illinois; Oct. 1, Michigan; Oct. 8, bye; Oct. 15, at Ohio State; Oct. 22, Northwestern; Oct. 29, Indiana; Nov. 5, at Purdue; Nov. 12, at Minnesota; and Nov. 19, Penn State.