With the Spartans ascending as high as the top-10 in 2005, Smith's squad blew opportunities to upset cross-town rival Michigan and Big Ten favorite Ohio State due to poor play on the special teams units. The team spiraled out of control following the infamous Ohio State debacle when Smith uttered the now famous line "the kids are playing their tails off and the coaches are screwing it up."
With Athletic Director Ron Mason entering the final year of his contract, MSU's influential board of trustees may be thinking that if Smith doesn't get the Spartans into a high profile bowl game that it's time to clean the slate and start fresh.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF: Incoming free safety Nehemiah Warrick, a transfer from Coffeyville, KA CC will jump right into the starting lineup and captain the revamped secondary. A hitter deluxe, Warrick has inspired a new confidence in a group that had theirs shattered a season ago. BIGGEST STORYLINE: Can Smith get this team over the .500 mark and into a bowl game? If not, MSU could choose to clean house and start fresh with a hot, young, up and coming head man. One thing that could make the alumni think twice is Smith's early good start in recruiting landing Flint star George Smith and Lowell quarterback Keith Nichol. SUPERSTAR IN THE MAKING: Can Drew Stanton stay healthy enough to keep putting up the stellar numbers he put up in 2005? If so, Stanton could be among the finalists for the Heisman and the first quarterback chosen in next year's NFL draft, he's that good.
IMPACT FRESHMAN: Kicker Brett Swenson of Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas has an opportunity to step in and be the starting place kicker. MSU lost the pivotal Michigan game when junior John Goss couldn't convert inside 25 yards. Swenson was 7-of-11 with 57 touchbacks on a team that was rebuilding its special teams. MSU expects Swenson to be the answer to its field goal problems. If not, spring football surprise Todd Boleski could grab the job.
PICK: Look for MSU to finally climb out of the Big Ten basement and into the bowl picture with an 8-4 record and save John L. Smith's hide. That ought to be good enough for the Spartans to begin building on the foundation that Smith has spent the last four years laying.