Freshman linebacker Max Bullough continues the family tradition by showing senior Jon Misch he means business. (Dale G. Young//The Detroit News) )
East Lansing -- If strength of schedule has anything to do with a successful season, then Michigan State must take advantage of one of the easier ones in the Big Ten.
According to college football analyst Phil Steele, the Spartans have the 58th-most difficult schedule of 120 Division I-A teams.
For the better part of the past 10 seasons, Michigan State has been known for getting off to a quick start, only to falter late.
This season's schedule sets up for a typical quick start.
Michigan State doesn't leave the state until Oct. 23 against Northwestern, the eighth game. Two of the first seven games are not in East Lansing -- vs. Florida Atlantic at Ford Field and rival Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In the nonconference portion of the schedule, Michigan State's opponents were a combined 19-38 in 2009. Notre Dame had the best record at 6-6, and Northern Colorado is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA).
Most importantly, Michigan State avoided playing conference favorite Ohio State. The Spartans haven't beaten the Buckeyes since 1999, and have won only twice in the last 14 matchups.
The latter part of the schedule could be the toughest. It features the only three road games out of the state -- Northwestern, Iowa and Penn State. The teams finished a combined 30-9 in 2009.
The possible silver lining late is that two of the final three games are at home against Minnesota and Purdue, teams that finished below .500 in 2009.
Meeting expectations from the staff can be hard enough for a highly recruited freshman. But for linebacker Max Bullough , that's nothing compared to what he feels around the dinner table.
"I knew that my family would be around," Bullough said. "It brings a lot of pressure because it brings a lot of expectations ... But I'm glad I have them because it makes me a better player."
Max is a third-generation Spartan. Grandfather Hank played at Michigan State from 1952-54, winning a national title in 1952. He played two years in the NFL before going on to a successful coaching career that included time at Michigan State (national championship 1965 and '66 seasons), and the NFL (Colts, Super Bowl champion 1971 season; Bills).
His father, Shane , was a linebacker at Michigan State from 1983-86, and his brother Chuck was a Spartans linebacker from 1988-91. Max also has another uncle, Bobby Morse , who was a Spartans running back from 1983-86.
By the numbers
0 -- Victories at Penn State since the Nittany Lions began playing in the Big Ten in 1993
4 -- Games against teams that had a winning record in 2009
11 -- Seasons since Michigan State lost its home opener (Colorado State 23-16, 1998)
"Maybe only in a video game."
-- Keith Mumphrey , Spartans freshman wide receiver, on if he had played against players as big and fast as he has his first week at Michigan State
If the Spartans reach a bowl, it will be the first time since 1990 they will have played in four straight. Their previous four-bowl stretch:
|Jan. 1, 1988||Rose||USC||W 20-17|
|Jan. 1, 1989||Gator||Georgia||L 34-27|
|Dec. 25, 1989||Aloha||Hawaii||W 33-13|
|Dec. 31, 1990||Sun||USC||W 17-16|
|Sep. 4||Western Michigan||noon|
|Sep. 11||Florida Atlantic*||noon|
|Sep. 18||Notre Dame||8 p.m.|
|Sep. 25||Northern Colorado||TBA|
|Oct. 9||at Michigan||TBA|
|Oct. 23||at Northwestern||noon|
|Oct. 30||at Iowa||TBA|
|Nov. 27||at Penn State||TBA|
* Ford Field, Detroit