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Early schedule snapshot: Michigan State

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a look at what's on tap for head coach Mark Dantonio and the Spartans this fall.

NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Montana State

Sept. 12 Central Michigan

Sept. 19 at Notre Dame

Nov. 7 Western Michigan

My take: At first glance, Michigan State appears to have softened up its non-league slate after visiting Cal and hosting defending Sun Belt champ Florida Atlantic last year. But this rundown could present some challenges, as Notre Dame will be improved and both Central Michigan and Western Michigan beat Big Ten opponents last year. Michigan State moved the Western Michigan game to East Lansing from Ford Field in Detroit, providing a seventh home game in rough economic times. Facing the Broncos at Spartan Stadium will help, and Michigan State has won a whopping six consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium. But with new starters at both quarterback and running back, the Spartans could slip up somewhere along the way.

BIG TEN SCHEDULE

Sept. 26 at Wisconsin

Oct. 3 Michigan

Oct. 10 at Illinois

Oct. 17 Northwestern

Oct. 24 Iowa

Oct. 31 at Minnesota

Nov. 14 at Purdue

Nov. 21 Penn State

Byes: Ohio State, Indiana

My take: The Spartans' league slate sets up favorably for another run to a January bowl game. All four road games are winnable, and the league opener at Wisconsin will be critical as both teams adjust to new quarterbacks. If Michigan State gets through the first three Big Ten games at 3-0 or 2-1, a major bowl push certainly is within reach. The Spartans face league title contenders Iowa and Penn State at home and don't play Ohio State, which embarrassed them last year in East Lansing. Playing archrival Michigan fairly early on likely will benefit the Spartans, as the Wolverines might not fully be settled at the quarterback position.