Michigan State talking about winning the Big Ten

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B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell will have an opportunity to be go-to targets _ getting a second chance to play after being involved in a brawl with a fraternity last year _ and converted quarterback Keith Nichol is trying to get on the field as a receiver.

Larry Caper and Edwin Baker, who combined to run for nearly 900 yards as freshmen last year, will share handoffs behind an offensive line with two returning starters from last year’s 6-7 team.

“We were very close _ maybe only a few plays _ from having a special season and maybe being 10-2,” Cousins said. “When we get in close situations this year, we need to come out on top.”

Michigan State doesn’t have its all-time scoring leader _ Brett Swenson _ around anymore to make game-winning kicks and hopes Dan Conroy, Kevin Muma or Mike Sadler emerge as a clear-cut starter during training camp.

As important as anything the Spartans do on the field, their conduct off it will viewed with a critical eye.

Eleven current or former players pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in connection with the fraternity fight last November, and Rucker says he accepts that the poor choices he and teammates marred the program.

“When you make mistakes, you’ve got to be ready to pay the consequences,” said Rucker, who was sentenced to 12 months of probation and 150 hours of community service. “I know it’s going to be a rough road with that, but I’m looking forward to us cleaning up our image.”

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