COMMENTARY| The spring practices, scrimmages - they're all great, but they're just a tease for Michigan State Spartans football fans.
Keeping up on all the workouts, press conferences and developments occupies fans' time - the downtime - prior to the real show: That highly-anticipated opening Saturday, or Friday, in Michigan State's case. The Spartans open 2012 by hosting the Boise State Broncos at 8 p.m., August 31 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
And fans can't wait.
Andrew Maxwell, the heir to the Spartans' quarterback throne, has battled injury during the offseason but is expected to be "100 percent" healthy come early June. He'll have plenty of time to get back up to speed -- compensating for the time he's missed -- and ready himself for the 2012 season.
The Spartans are on the other side of a 33-30 Outback Bowl win over the Georgia Bulldogs, completing back-to-back 11-win seasons.
There are high expectations for this year's team, to say the least.
Ready. Set. Maxwell. The time is now for the heralded junior who faces the challenge of taking over for Kirk Cousins, Michigan State's greatest quarterback in program history. Maxwell is eager to take the field.
"I don't think you could script a better opening game," Maxwell told Spartan Mag. "It just centers our focus as a team through the off-season, and through spring ball and through camp, knowing that we are going to have to be sharp and ready to go, game one. I think it's exciting."
Opening the season against the Broncos is almost a dream match-up in terms of further legitimizing Michigan State's docket; not that it's anything but challenging, but bringing in a team like Boise State will set the tone for high-caliber play for the rest of the year. Some fans liked watching the Spartans pummel the likes of Montana State, or whichever team happened to be up for sacrifice opening day, but Michigan State will have its hands full with Boise State.
No Kellen Moore. No Doug Martin. No problem? Nope. Not by a long shot. These Broncos, despite being without Moore, an NCAA record-holder for most wins (50-3), have a pedigree unmatched by most programs. It's a pedigree of winning certainly beyond what the Spartans have enjoyed the past decade. Perhaps disposing of the Broncos early on will give coach Mark Dantonio's team and staff the confidence it needs before facing Notre Dame two weeks later.
Dantonio told Spartan Mag that he respects what the Smurf Turfers have done over the past 10 years - their 124 wins are the most of any team in the modern era during the same time span. No Ohio State, Texas or Michigan team can lay claim to that. Incredible? Yes. Intimidating? Not for Dantonio. He's welcoming all challengers at this point.
But just because Boise State is a stronger season-opening opponent than in years past, doesn't mean Dantonio has changed his philosophy when it comes to spring workouts. Steady. Calm. Dantonio knows how to keep the pace.
"…We will continue to do what we do here in terms of trying to improve our play as individuals and as a football team," Dantonio said. "While Boise is in the back of our mind and we will prepare for them, whether we have prepared for them a little bit already or whether we do more in the summer getting into fall camp, but right now our focus is on getting better as a football team and really getting better fundamentally, whether it's blocking, catching, tackling, trying to do as many live things as we can and try to improve ourselves."
Adam Biggers has followed NCAA football for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.