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Rise of traditional powers could threaten Michigan State

Michigan State did more than just weather Tropical Storm Urban, it enjoyed one of the most productive stretches in school history and even snatched away a conference title from Ohio State after he arrived.

But dealing with just Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes while Michigan was reeling and hobbling to the finish line with Brady Hoke is one thing. Dealing with a potential dynasty across the border and preparing for Hurricane Harbaugh within the state at the same time is another matter entirely, and trying to fight off both simultaneously is the biggest reason the Spartans might be in danger of slipping in the Future Power Rankings.

That can be difficult to imagine given the sturdy ship coach Mark Dantonio has built over the past few seasons and how much momentum the Spartans have coming off a Big Ten title in 2013, a Rose Bowl victory to cap that season, and a Cotton Bowl crown in 2014. But maintaining a spot at the top of the East Division, let alone the Big Ten as a whole, is going to be far more challenging if both of MSU's chief rivals -- and two of college football's most prestigious programs -- are operating at peak potential.

Certainly the Wolverines haven't proven anything yet under Jim Harbaugh, who obviously still hasn't coached a game for his alma mater. But his track record, the early success he's enjoyed as a recruiter, and the resources at his disposal all suggest Michigan will bounce back in a significant way after moving on from Hoke -- and that figures to have a direct impact on the Spartans. With Meyer wasting little time revitalizing and reloading the Buckeyes -- and the potential for Harbaugh to do the same -- the battle to land elite talent is going to be heated regionally, and Michigan State is going to have its work cut out to keep pace.

Granted, Dantonio has always done more with less on his roster, and his eye for diamonds in the rough is one way to neutralize the advantages Ohio State and Michigan may have in recruiting. But that approach leaves little margin for error, and the Spartans will have other hurdles to clear over the next three years to maintain their spot in the pecking order.

Most notably, the coaching staff lost an incredibly valuable asset when defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi left to become Pittsburgh's head coach last December. Maybe the Spartans won't miss a beat moving forward, but that is far from guaranteed.

Michigan State has done a remarkable job passing the torch between quarterbacks recently, but it will have to keep that streak alive when Connor Cook departs as a likely first-round pick. The Spartans will have to replace at least six senior starters on defense after next season, and there will also be notable losses on the offensive line charged with protecting Cook's eventual replacement.

The Spartans surely aren't going to just vanish as a contender in the Big Ten or go down without a fight. Dantonio has proven himself to be one of the top coaches in the country, and there's no reason to think he won't be able to find an answer for what Ohio State and Michigan do in the coming seasons.

But the window to compete on a national stage could close quickly if the second storm coming Michigan State's way is anywhere near as powerful as the one it has withstood the past few years.