Friday, December 26, 2008

The 3x3 Preview: Oakland

Welcome to the way that I'll be doing most of my basketball previews from now, the 3x3 preview. In this segment, I'll state three strengths of the opposing team, three of their weaknesses, and three things State needs to do to win. That said, let's get to the preview.

  • Kenpom Rank: 149
  • W-L Record: 8-6
  • Conference Record (Summit League): 1-1
  • Best Wins: @Oregon, @Wisconsin-Green Bay
  • Noteworthy Losses: @Syracuse (by 20), @ Iowa (by 9), Michigan @ the Palace (by 13)
  • The Grizzlies are above average offensive rebounders. Anyone watching the Texas game knows that one of the main barriers to Michigan State blowing the game wide open was that they allowed Texas to get position inside and collect their missed shots at a high clip. I'm not saying that Oakland will show the same propensity to grab their misfires, but it is something to be aware of, as they rebound 36.4% of their missed shots, good enough to put them in the top quarter of Division I. This has helped them score more than a point per possession (Offensive efficiency of 107.2, which puts them in the upper tier of Division I teams).
  • They can block shots, if given the chance. Oakland blocks 11.2% of opponents' shots, and that is good enough to put them 79th in Division I in that category. However, as we'll soon see, that's about the only aspect of their defensive game that is above average.
  • They almost beat MSU last year. At the Breslin. The Grizzlies played Michigan State close last year when they lost 75-71 in East Lansing. These bears won't be intimidated by the Green and White.
  • The Grizzlies are a terrible, TURRIBLE defensive team. They give up 1.055 points per possession, which puts them on top...of the worst 25% teams in the NCAA. Their big Achilles' Heel is interior defense, where they allow 50.9% of twos to be made. Michigan State takes a great many more twos than threes (only 24% of MSU's shots are threes, that is extremely low), so look for this point to be heavily exploited.
  • Goran Suton is back. No one should be better able to exploit the shoddy interior defense of Oakland than the Bosnian Bomber, who missed only one shot in the victory against Texas. Expect surprisingly graceful drives to the basket and 12-14 footers to drop from the big man.
  • Did I mention the Grizzlies give up a lot of offensive rebounds. For as good as Oakland is in collecting rebounds, they're just as bad in giving them up, as they allow their opponents to rebound their misses about 39% of the time. I wouldn't worry about it if I were the Grizzlies, it's not like Izzo stresses offensive rebounds or anything like that.
  • Do not allow second chances. Oakland's been good at collecting offensive rebounds, and they have a couple of 6-10/6-11 players who can put those rebounds back in if need be. Take away those chances and see if Oakland can make the shots.
  • Go inside, and keep going inside. Despite that height on the interior, Oakland still has weak two point defense. Suton, Morgan and Roe need to go inside and keep going inside.
  • Make free throws. Going inside is going to translate to many trips to the foul line. Here's where Delvon can't have a repeat of the Texas game, when he made none of his foul shots in six attempts.

Suton and Morgan get inside repeatedly, but Oakland gets enough offensive rebounds to make it a game in the first half. In the second half, Michigan State starts to own the boards and pulls away.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas at Ground Zero

Thanks to all those who have read this blog this year, and have kept this little operation going. I was going to have a recap of Spartan Sports, but Fighting with a Vim did a good job of it at this post, and I am nothing if not an opportunist.

Also, it's going to be a great Christmas at Ground Zero.

My gift to you will be a bit belated: before the turn of the new year, expect previews of the Oakland game and Capital One Bowl, as well as a recap of the Oakland game. Big Ten previews will start with the Northwestern game, as I will be in Chicago at an Ohio State bar of all places to ring it in.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and nothing but the best to you and yours this season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Longhorn'd - The Texas Preview

The Dossier on Texas:

  • Win-Loss Record: 9-1
  • Best Wins: UCLA, Villanova (Neutral Court), Oregon
  • The Loss: Notre Dame (@ Maui)
  • #5 in both AP/Coaches' Polls
  • #22 in Kenpom ranking
  • Defend, especially on the interior. Texas is the #12 team in the nation in defensive efficiency; their opponents score 0.833 points per possession (anything under 1 is pretty good, get that number below 0.85 and we're talking national title contender). They're also one of the best blocking teams in the nation. Texas blocks 17.6% of all opponents' shots.
  • Shoot the dang three. Well, this item bodes well. Texas' leading scorer, A.J. Abrams, has been shooting 47% from behind the arc. He's also averaging about 36 minutes a games so expect to see him a lot. Texas also has two other players shooting above 38% on their threes (Damion James and Connor Atchley, the latter of which looks like he was kidnapped from the Bo Ryan Cloning Facility of Tall White Guys that Can Shoot), which will spell trouble for the Spartans if their three point defense stays mediocre.
  • Hold onto the ball. Texas only turns over the ball about 13 times a game, a little better than average. Don't expect to rip the ball away from Abrams, he only turns it over about once per game.
  • Anything involving the free throw line. The Longhorns shoot 61.2% from the foul line, 307th in Division I. They have four players in their main rotation that shoot under 60%, so if the game is close in the end, there should always be a favorable person to foul.
  • Their offensive percentage inside the arc is strikingly average. UT shoots 48% on their twos, and that percentage puts them at 171st in the nation.
  • But yet they still take many more twos than threes. Only 25% of Texas' shots are threes, despite how well they shoot the ball from 20 feet, nine inches.
  • Chris Allen becomes unconscious behind the arc. Texas has a very strong interior defense, so accurate perimeter shooting will be pivotal for extending the interior defense and creating cracks for passing lanes inside. Allen can help immensely if he makes Texas guard him anywhere inside 25 feet.
  • By being unafraid to foul anywhere inside the arc. This point is tailor-made for Raymar to excel. Make Texas earn a victory by hitting their foul shots.
  • HOLD ONTO THE CONSARNED BALL! Self-explanatory, no stats needed.

I believe that this game is going to be nip and tuck all the way through. However, I think MSU is going to create their own undoing with a few too many turnovers and a few too many Abrams threes.

Texas 73, MSU 65.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Aftermath - The Citadel

Another day, another win, but this one was semi-close all the way through. MSU stormed out to an 18 point lead, but that lead was cut to eight by halftime. The second half was back and forth with MSU holding leads oscillating between 6 and 14 points until the game mercifully ended. What do we know?
  • The Citadel completed 40% (10-25) of their three pointers. This sounds bad, but if you saw a game, you witnessed the Bulldogs hitting a few threes from five feet behind the arc. If I saw this stat without watching the game I'd say that stat would be a cause for alarm, but watching the game, I would call it a cause for minor concern.
  • That Raymar continues to do two things - dominate teams with lesser talent and get in foul trouble. His 26 points and 10 boards were good, but once again, he had four fouls by about midway through the second half.
  • It didn't look like MSU shot many three pointers, but upon review, they were 2 for 9, with Chris Allen having a 1-6 off night. Perhaps the reason for this was that they were very successful inside the arc; they shot 52.9% of their twos.
  • Free throw shooting continues to be a point of mediocrity. 65% will not get it done during the Big Ten season. The main offenders once again are those who you would mainly suspect, as Gray and Roe combined to go 6 for 12.
  • The good news: Michigan State out rebounded the Citadel by 7. The bad news: The Bulldogs grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Yikes.
  • I didn't notice the turnovers too much, but my eyebrows raised when I saw the number "5" in Travis's row for turnovers.
Here's where I insert the typical "an ugly win is still a win" sentiment, which is almost always followed by "they'll have to play a lot better to win against better teams" sentiment. Those thoughts are typical because they're true, and going down to Houston to play Texas will need an improvement in play. However, I'll wait until tomorrow to preview the Longhorns. As for now, be glad that this game can now safely be ignored and start getting pumped for Saturday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Brief Preview of The Citadel

What is The Citadel, you ask? The Citadel, aka the Military College of South Carolina, was founded in Charleston in 1844. Less than two decades later, Fort Sumter in Charleston was attacked, and the Civil War (or the War of Yankee Arrogance, depending on where in this country you were taught) began. I'm not saying the two are related, but I am heavily, heavily urging you to reach that conclusion on your own. Now, about 150 years later, MSU looks to score one for the Yanks. Here's the rundown of The Citadel's team.
  • The Citadel's record is 5-5 this season, with wins against schools you didn't even know were schools, such as Grace Bible, Cincinnati Christian, and Charleston Southern.
  • In other news, Charleston is apparently big enough to have a directional school.
  • And the losses? They lost to Iowa by 22 and Virginia Commonwealth by 23.
  • On, they're the 320th ranked team out of a total 344 teams (take that, North Carolina Central!), and their defense is ranked 332nd - worse than Alcorn State, who you last saw being depantsed in the Breslin Center.
  • The one thing they've done well so far - hit the offensive boards. They're the 44th ranked team in offensive rebounding percentage (measures how often a team grabs an offensive rebound off a miss). 40% of their shots are from behind the three point line (uh oh), but they make less than 30% of those shots (relief). predicts an 85-52 MSU win, with a zero percent chance of The Citadel winning. This game will mainly be a tune-up for the big game in Houston on Saturday against Texas. Suton has been practicing since Monday, and hopefully he gets a few minutes of playing time. That said, I expect this game to be a bit slower than the Alcorn State game, but still should be an easy win because the Spartans are playing a low-major team, and are playing at home.

Prediction: MSU 92, The Citadel 64.

I'm back, with a response to an MSU editorial

Well, finals kicked my butt, but I'm back, mainly in response to a post on Spartan Nation about MSU's lack of commitment to agribusiness in Michigan. My responses to selected portions of the post can be seen posted below; my main criticism is that the article smacks of oversimplification of the vast economic problems facing Michigan right now, and puts the onus on MSU to save Michigan. The excerpts from Spartan Nation's post is offset, I trust you'll be able to discern my responses.

Sports-related content to come tonight, now that heat exchanger design is no longer my main concern.

Ugh. As an MSU student right now, I believe that this article oversimplifies many of the problems facing Michigan today.

I am not interested in rich oil barons sending their sons and daughters to MSU Dubai. I am interested in seeing Detroit turn around with a commitment to bioeconomy through education. I am not against the Dubai campus, it will open opportunity for agrieducation to a brand new corridor. I am asking if the emphasis is being placed in the right places?

These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

How many people from inner city Detroit would like a job that pays 25-30K? With all of the warehousing space and the access to shipping lanes, Detroit could be an economic power in food processing. Problem is that MSU doesn’t even have a program in food processing. This is particularly disgusting considering the diversified fruit and vegetable markets that continue to boom in our back yards.

Detroit's problems go way past MSU not creating jobs there. In 2006, Detroit had an abysmal graduation rate of 21.7% for its high-school students. The problem isn't that MSU doesn't offer food processing, it's that the majority of kids from Michigan's largest city will fail to graduate high school, which presents more problems than one university can handle.

So while society is brainwashed into believing that higher standardized test scores and GPA’s result in a higher quality graduate, does it benefit the state of Michigan? Are MSU graduates today better prepared to deal with the problems of tomorrow more than they were ten or even twenty years ago? Are MSU grads any smarter or more capable than they were ten or twenty years ago? I don’t think so.

So what should MSU's criteria for admission be? Having each prospective student sign a statement vowing to stay in Michigan after they graduate? Should a 2.5 student who pledges to stay in Michigan beg given preference over a 4.0 out-of-state student? Like it or not, test scores and GPA are the best indicator we presently have as a society to predict a student's future success. Are MSU grads smarter than they previously were? I'd like to think so, due in part to the academic competition that has bubbled to the surface.

I have heard numerous people talk badly about Ohio State because they “let everyone in.” Anyone think that OSU is less prestigious than MSU? How are OSU’s sports teams year in and year out? The truth is that OSU abides by the very principles that gave the university life. Unlike MSU, Ohio State sees that access is the most important thing.

This is partly true. While Ohio State as a whole is open to any graduate from an Ohio high school, admission is only guaranteed to its satellite campuses (Lima, Mansfield, Marion, and Newark). Admission to the Columbus campus is competitive and works exactly like any other Big Ten University. In fact, you praise Ohio State for admitting everyone, but the Columbus Campus' average SAT and ACT scores for the freshman class are higher than MSU's! The only reason Ohio State admits everyone is that some of those admitted students go to a regional OSU campus. Should MSU construct regional campuses like OSU's? I'm not sure where the money would come from for that.

The luxury suites in Spartan Stadium are fit for kings and queens. They are truly a marvel, a masterpiece built to showcase the very university that we have all grown to love so deeply. They are also used as a tool to raise money for the school, which is largely a positive thing. They are also used to purchase the very politics that sell the potential sons and daughters of Michigan State to the highest bidder.

Are there any examples of this? I'm not quite sure what you mean.

Landgrant university access and education are something that I fundamentally believe is both important and necessary. So while many will wait to see what happens with this automaker bailout in the hopes that our state’s economic complexion changes, I will carry the torch that John Hannah believed was the fundamental right of Michigan residents.

Access to higher education is tantamount for a society to succeed; however, that university need not be a Land Grant one, as many, many Michigan residents have gotten a quality education from Central, Western, Michigan Tech, GVSU and numerous other universities. If one doesn't get in at first, he or she can go to another college and transfer. Also, going to college is not a right, it is a privilege. Ask anyone who got banned for a year from public universities for CedarFest crimes if post-secondary education's a right.

This holiday season, while you watch MSU run up and down the court and play on New Year’s Day, ask yourself this question. What does the slogan… from landgrant to world grant actually mean? Is it a campus in Dubai that MSU needs or more undergraduates educated in a future economy that promises to become Michigan’s most crucial overnight?

The aspect of this article that irked me the most was that there was no mention of the great economic good MSU has brought to Michigan. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which will pump $1 billion into Michigan's economy, was not mentioned. The construction of MSU's new medical school in Grand Rapids, which will train more doctors vested in Michigan, went unmentioned. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a $100 million joint venture between UW and MSU went unmentioned. MSU is training graduates for the top 30 growing fields, such as elementary education, accounting, registered nurses, doctors, computer scientists, and many many more.

My point is that while the agriscience industry is expanding, Michigan is still going to need many other professions to keep jobs in the state. The agricultural economy is still crucial to Michigan's success, but the undergraduates will have to make the decisions themselves to go into agriculture. It is not MSU's fault that Michigan's economy is failing, and to imply that MSU is failing Michigan by not investing more money in one sector of the economy oversimplifies Michigan's problems right now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Concise PSU-MSU Preview

Three things MSU must do to win:
  • Someway, somehow, get turnovers while holding onto the ball. In the games against the better teams that they've won (Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin), the Spartans had a positive turnover margin. This'll have to happen again, and I give it about a 50-50 shot of happening.
  • Ringer must run successfully, especially to the outside. It seems to be every time Ringer tries to bounce it outside, he'll end up getting a couple yards, which is much better than running it straight into PSU's extremely capable front seven. Only Shonn Greene has been able to be successful running the ball this year against the Nittany Lions. However, Iowa has a better OL than MSU, and I'm just not sure the linemen can move fast enough to provide the necessary blocks. The chances that Ringer goes over 100 yards and averages over 4.0 YPC - 15%.
  • The defense cannot allow more than 2 plays of more than 20 yards. Penn State's offense may seem to be completing fewer big plays lately, and hopefully, that's the way that'll stay. However, with playmakers like Derrick Williams and Evan Royster on offense, one never knows when they'll bust a big play. Chances of this happening: 35%.
Multiplying 0.5*0.15*0.35 = A 2.63% chance of MSU winning this game. This seems about right. Hey, at least there's a chance, but it goes without saying that I'd feel much more comfortable if Anthony Morelli was behind center for Penn State. MSU will try their best, but fall short. A New Year's Day bowl is nothing to scoff at, and my only complaint is that the Outback Bowl starts at 10 AM Central Time.

Final Score: PSU 27, MSU 13.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Aftermath - IPFW

On a game which MSU was expected to win, they did...but getting to the win was a bumpy, bumpy ride, which the 70-59 score might not indicate. MSU's points per possession (OP^3) was good (70 points for 63 possessions = 1.11 points per possession, anything above one is good), and their defense was...meh, as 0.95 points per possesion (DP^3, the inverse of OP^3 - here, anything below one is good, but I was expecting more against IPFW) were allowed. As I was listening to the game online, I kept asking myself, how could the game be this close? I went through the usual suspects:
  • Turnovers? Surprisingly, turnovers aren't the main culprit. MSU turned the ball over a lot in the first half, but finished the game with 10 total turnovers, three less than IPFW's 13.
  • Free Throw Shooting? Slightly out of the norm, with Spartan players going 19-28 from the line (67.9%). If MSU shoots their typical 75-80%, they win by 13 instead of 11. Still, the shaky performance is not solely the fault of below average foul shots. Point to take completely out of context on message boards: Delvon Roe was 1-4 on free throws.
  • Rebounding? Back to normal after getting outrebounded against Idaho. MSU recovered 38 rebounds to IPFW's 28, with 16 of those 38 coming on the offensive glass.
  • Bad three point shooting night? Now we're starting to get somewhere. MSU shot 27% on their threes. Compared to their 37% 3-point percentage from last year, that percentage fell off a bit. Let's consider those misfires the secondary cause.
  • Bad shooting defense? I didn't see the game, but according to the stats, this would appear to be the main cause of struggles tonight. IPFW shot 46% overall and 39% from three. Those values are much greater than the 40% and 31% respectively allowed last year. Hopefully this was just a hot shooting night for a couple players from IPFW; the stats show this to be the case as Ben Botts and David Carson were a combined 7-11 from three, all other IPFW players were 0-7. I hope the three-point defense isn't a trend, as Idaho shot 46% (6-13) from behind the arc.
What was good about this game? Raymar completely took over the game in the second half, making most of the key baskets to put IPFW away. Lucas was solid as well, chipping in 17 points, and three assists against one turnover. Delvon Roe scored his first points as a Spartan, putting in nine points on 4-7 shooting, and contributing a couple of blocks.

In conclusion, this game could've been disasterous, but it wasn't. For that, I am thankful, but let's hope that this game isn't a sign of things to come.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Ten Basketball Preview: The Dregs

Big Ten Basketball has already started in earnest yesterday, with Michigan defeating an over matched Husky team from Michigan Tech. Since I will not start paying heavy attention until MSU's season premiere against Idaho on Sunday, I figured I would start my preview now. Here are the dregs of the Big Ten, for which making the College Basketball Invitational at the end of the season (finally, an answer to the question: which Division 1 team is 98th best?) would be an accomplishment.

One more note - If you want thought-out, statistical analysis of College Basketball, I cannot recommend Spartans Weblog highly enough. That said, he was not going to do an in-depth Big Ten preview, so hopefully I can fill that void with a little bit of thoughtful analysis and a lot of guessing. Without further ado:

11. Northwestern

I toyed with putting Indiana with this spot, but then Northwestern lost their first exhibition game to Robert Morris, an NAIA school, and that was the last brick that sealed Willie Wildcat in his tomb, crying for his cask of Amontillado.

Player to know: Kevin Coble - Probably most well known for taking part of last season off to take care of his mother stricken with cancer, the 6-8 forward would have most likely been All Big-Ten Preseason if he had played in more games last season. That said, if Northwestern has any chance this season, he'll have to average 30 ppg, 15 rebounds per game, and make the special 10 point basket from Rock 'n Jock 20 feet above the hardwood.

This season will be a success if...They have a winning record this season.

This season will be a failure if... It's Northwestern. How much worse could it get.

10. Iowa

Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. Two years ago you were upset by a 14 seed in the NCAAs, and in the past year, they turned the ball over every one in four times they had possession (thanks College Basketball Prospectus!). They'd have hope if their two top scorers didn't leave this past season (Justin Johnson to graduation, Tony Freeman to transfer), and the young Hawkeyes look to spend another year in the dregs. They shouldn't be down long though, not with Todd Lickliter (the previous mastermind at Butler) as their head coach.

Player to know: Jake Kelly - He's an anomaly in the shell of a 6-6 wing, as in his three-point FG percentage (43.5%) last year was better than his overall FG percentage (40.8%). If Iowa has any shot at a competitive season, he'll have to maintain his clip from beyond 20 feet, nine inches, and improve his shot within the perimeter.

This season will be a success if... The Hawkeyes get a few upsets in Carver Arena (not like the 42-36 abomination MSU suffered. Watch that game, and you can literally see the rims replaced by peach baskets.), and set themselves in position to win a first-round Big Ten tournament game.
This season will be a failure if... Iowa doesn't progress, and the lengthened three-pointer affects shooting more than thought. If that occurs, look for fans to pine for the days of Steve Alford.

9. Indiana

Indiana's postseason could be defined in two words: scorched earth. Goodbye Kelvin Sampson, goodbye everyone who played meaningful minutes. Senior wing Kyle Taber was the sole survivor, and now under Tom Crean, the Hoosiers hope to reach to the stars and grab ten wins by the tail. The new talent isn't anything to write home about; none of Tom Crean's seven recruits for this year were ranked over three stars by Rivals. Still, I'm intrigued. Crean's a good coach, and with no expectations, this team might pull a couple surprises. Then again, it might duke it out with Northwestern for 10th place like two hobos fighting over a bindle.

Player to know: Kyle Taber - As in if you're an Indiana fan, he'll be the only player you know from last year (and no, I didn't forget about Brett Finkelmeier or Jeremiah Rivers. If they're playing serious minutes though, look for the fans at Assembly Hall to pull a Knight and throw their seats onto the court). The forward won't have to be the second coming of D.J. White, but he will have to, at the very least, be a steady source of rebounds.

This season will be a success if... The Hoosiers pull off four to six wins in conference, and get the ball rolling for next year.

This season will be a failure if... Indiana wins two games or less in conference, and the grumbles start about seven more years on Crean's contract.

Parts two and three to come this weekend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Big Ten Roundtable - Antepenultimate edition

It's been a while since there's been one of these. Here we go...

1) With two weeks left in the season, it's safe to say that most schools have reached the point where the year has been a success or a disappointment. How has your school fared this year in your opinion? Or, is the jury still out?

Needless to say, this season has been a rip-roaring success for MSU, with the high points being the game-winning kick to beat Wisconsin and the first win in Ann Arbor since 1990. The only black mark on Michigan State's record is that they've lost to the two best teams they've faced (debatable depending on whether you believe Iowa is better than Cal), but on the other hand, the Spartans have beaten every team they should have beaten, and when is the last time that happened? Now they get to play Penn State in a de facto Big Ten Championship game. I'm not too excited for the Spartans to go to Happy Valley, and I'm going to give this point its own paragraph to hammer it home.

The last time MSU beat Penn State in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno was an assistant coach (1965).

A young Joe Paterno teaches the intricacies of the flying wedge.

Now that's perspective. Despite what is an almost sure loss, a 9-3 record is better than what anyone predicted (I hinted at it, but didn't have the balls to predict nine wins).

2) Is your school heading to a bowl? If so, which one? And if not,

Hell yes MSU's going to a bowl. The most likely destination is the Capital One Bowl, against a team that will most likely be Georgia. However, MSU has a small chance at the Rose Bowl if:
  • Ohio State loses one of the next two games (@Illinois, Michigan, both unlikely losses for the Buckeyes) AND
  • Michigan State beats Penn State in Beaver Stadium (more unlikely).
Thus, Michigan State is guaranteed a New Year's day bowl. Whether it's the Rose, Capital One or Outback (if OSU and PSU both don't receive BCS bids) remains to be seen.

3) The Big Ten has recently had a hard time getting respect among the national media as a top conference. Has the Big Ten taken a step forward or a step backward in this debate this season?

Well, to have taken a step forward, the Big Ten would've needed its best nonconference win to be better than Penn State crushing Oregon State. Take that fact and combine with the four losses the Big Ten has suffered at the hands at MAC teams (granted, three of those losses were suffered by Indiana and Michigan, BUT STILL), and that totals a step backward for the Big Ten. However, I state that opinion with the caveat that a great bowl record can put the Big Ten on solid ground again.

If all else fails, repeat after me: "We're still better than the Big East and ACC."

4) Would the Big Ten benefit from adding another school to create two divisions like the SEC, Big 12, ACC and MAC? And if so, which school should be added? Or, should we drop one school?

The Big Ten should absolutely not drop a school, all of the others (with Penn State being the exception) have had at the very least a half-century in the conference, and one shouldn't mess with that kind of tradition. That said, the Big Ten should add a university. Pitt and Missouri seem to be the choices du jour, but I have a modest proposal: make Miami of Ohio the 12th team.

First, the RedHawks are a great fit academically; they're a first tier public university. That leaves only the athletic aspect, which many might consider to be shaky, and for good reason. They're 2-7 in football this season. However, they made the NCAA tournament in 2007, and once they entered the Big Ten, I expect their recruiting to be elevated to the point where they could be on par with a Northwestern - a middle of the pack team with great academics. There's no reason not to believe that they could start a good team with Ohio State's leftovers in state. Finally, I believe that they're the team that would jump most readily into the Big Ten, whereas the others that have been mentioned are either in conferences now or are being paid obscene amounts of money by NBC for going 6-6.

For those reasons, I don't think it's absurd to have the RedHawks be the twelfth member of the Big Ten. I see the Divisions going East and West, with Penn State, Ohio State, Miami of Ohio, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue in the East; and Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin in the West. The only downside is that this year in football, the conference would have been greatly imbalanced, with the top three teams being in the East. However, it's been working for the Big 12 so far, so I'm obliged to let the proposed divisions stay as they are.

5) Do you agree with President-elect Obama that college football
should have an 8 school post-season playoff?

No, if only for the reason that a possible North Carolina-Pitt matchup for the national title is abhorrent. Being a Michigan State fan, I really could care less about the playoff debate for it has hardly ever affected my team.

6a) Who is your favorite network television play-by-play announcer/ color commentator/sideline reporter?

Brent Musberger, and the reason is three-fold:

  1. If he's broadcasting your team's game, you know your team is doing well. If it's not your team, the unintentional comedy factor should be enough.
  2. Sentimentality - to me, something about hearing his voice reminds me of autumns past, sitting in the living room of my parents, and watching football on Saturdays. Good Times.
  3. I will always, always give preference to any sportscaster who was in Rocky II.

Get yours TODAY! Miller Lite can sold separately.

6b) If you listed Erin Andrews, please provide a photo/video to back up your pick.

Nope, but just for giggles and as a continuation of the previous question, here's a video of her, Musberger and Steve Lavin ice fishing. Don't blame me if you can't save it to your hard drive as part of your "collection".

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Aftermath - General Thoughts about Week 11

  • MSU 21, Purdue 7, and the Spartans are playing for a share of the Big 10 title this year. Purdue had several chances to get back in the game (two Rex Grossman-like picks thrown by Hoyer, fumbles by Leggett and Ringer), but the defense was swarming today, and Purdue only scored a pity touchdown at the end to prevent the shutout.
  • I think that first interception affected Hoyer, and one could see him attempting to learn from the mistake, as he took off for 3-4 yard runs when no one was open. Sadly, he did not do this in the second half when he overthrew Cunningham (?) for the second pick.
  • Explanation for Michigan's suckitude the past 10 weeks: they've been saving up all the good plays to win the Little Brown Jug, which I'm sure Michigan fans will now hold higher than all those Rose Bowl victories. As for Minnesota, no explanation exists for their failure, the interception that Northwestern returned for a victory last week might have been the event that sends them into a tailspin where they finish 7-5. Still though, much improved after last year.
  • The only comment I have about the OSU-NU game is that the result was completely, utterly expected.
  • The other WTF of the day: Western Michigan beating Illinois at Ford Field. That does worry me slightly for next year. MSU has the same deal with Western @ Ford Field, but hopefully MSU can fill up the stands.
  • I was only slightly surprised that Iowa beat Penn State yesterday. If you've watched Iowa all year, you know that the only team that could stop Iowa was Iowa, and they only shot themselves in the foot once or twice compared to the five or six times in their losses. Congratulations to Iowa, even though...
  • The PSU loss has made it harder for MSU to get to the Rose Bowl. Now the Spartans need an OSU loss either @ Illinois or against Michigan, and MSU needs to beat PSU in Happy Valley, which last happened on the fifth of never. At any rate, MSU's most likely bowl destination is the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, and I'm elated about that.
Also, basketball? Starting? Like, next week? Hopefully a preview will be up next week, but no promises.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote, Consarnit!

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

1. To urge you to vote today, because it is mandated by law that all blogs must have some post regarding this topic on election day.

2. To prove I am not dead.

Big Ten picks later this week.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


That's all I have to say. It feels so good to finally get a win in Ann Arbor. Javon Ringer, let no one say that you can't come through in the clutch ever again. Hoyer, if someone wants to bench you again, I will kick said person in the nuts.

That's all for now. More tomorrow, but I'm going to drink in downtown EL in a penguin suit.

Penguin suiting up,

G0EL Pete

Friday, October 24, 2008

Big Ten Picks, Week Nine

Michigan State 27, Michigan 13
See here for a complete explanation. In other news, Varsity Blue believes MSU has a turnover problem, citing the OSU game as evidence. Yet he completely forgets that MSU had a +10 turnover differential before that game, and that turnovers greatly aided the Iowa and Northwestern victories. Two words for ya buddy: statistical and outlier.

Northwestern 34, Indiana 13
Northwestern continues its march for a bowl game below the Mason-Dixon line. Its fan goes wild.

Illinois 24, Wisconsin 10
After this game, Bo Ryan makes his play to be the first football/basketball coach of this era. Expect to see a bunch of fundamentallly-sound white guys go up and down the field at a plodding pace. In other words, nothing will change.

Minnesota 41, Purdue 20
Purdue fans continue to count the days until Tiller makes his exit.

Ohio State 31, Penn State 27
Penn State remembers that they haven't played anyone with a pulse on the road this season. The Spread HD's flaws are spotlighted, and JayPa is sent to his bedroom without dinner.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On the MSU-UM Rivalry: an Admission, a Realization, and a Continuation.

I'll admit it - I grew up a Wolverine fan.

My dad's buddies all went to MSU. My father, feeling the need to play the role of spoiler in their get-togethers, started to cheer for UM. Like his love for all of Detroit's pro teams (and that's not a reference to Ed Martin, unless you want it to be. Which I do.), that love spread to me, and I saw soon cheering for Desmond Howard, Tim Biakabatuka, the Fab Five, and the like. I became less of a college football fan in high school, when every weekend brought a new cross country invitational to attend, and thus my love for the college game waned. However, my fandom of Michigan did not, and when my ACT score came in the mail the summer before my senior year, I knew the application process would be all but a formality. I filled out the application and sent it in, along with Michigan State's, because I wanted to cover all the bases in case the Ann Arbor one fell through (make all the safety school cracks here you want Wolverines, it may be your only chance).

My visit to Ann Arbor that November of my senior year was what I expected. The sky was gloomy, I viewed all the buildings, went inside a few, had lunch at Zingerman's with my Dad, and then headed home. A few weeks later, I received my acceptance letter for Michigan, and for some reason...I didn't turn it in immediately. I'm still not sure why to this day. I'm not implying this story is going to take a supernatural turn, I attribute my tardiness more to the laziness that creeps into a high school senior's life exponentially during the year.

In February, I received an invitation from MSU to attend the Alumni Distinguished Scholarship competition. I accepted, mainly for the fact that I wanted a day off from school (once again, laziness creeping up on me). My parents drove me down to East Lansing and dropped me off at the Kellogg center to check in while they gallivanted around the Capital area for a day and a night. The first course of action was a bus tour of campus, and I was immediately struck by its beauty. The dorms of North Circle had a gothic charm like nothing I'd ever seen, and there were trees everywhere. During the evening, all the invitees were free to talk amongst themselves, and I found the people were just as amazing as the campus - funny, laid-back, and all-around awesome. I woke up in the morning, took the strangest test I'd ever taken in my life (if you've ever taken a test that includes Calculus, Greek and Roman Architecture, Literature Intrepretation and Biology on a single test, let me know), and headed for home. The main thought running through my head was this: "I had a great time at MSU, it's just too bad I won't be going there."

Fast forward a month and a half later. I had done so well in the competition that I had a full tuition scholarship offer to MSU. I thought about the experiences I had with all the people, the beauty of the campus, and the opportunities there...and I decided to attend MSU. I realized that, yes, U of M had the greater academic reputation, but I felt I would be happiest at MSU, and since my future plans at that point in time were to enter medical school, I felt that where I attended school for my undergraduate studies had little credence compared to my academic results. I also wanted to go to a school where I could see my classmates as people who would help me in my studies, rather than attend a school with mostly overachievers, hellbent on going to the best graduate school or landing the best job at the expense of their classmates. That was my impression about some Michigan students at the time, and I know that's not true for all students there, I didn't want to be in that type of environment for four years.

I instantly became a Spartan fan. I became well-versed in comebacks (both made by and on the Spartans) in football. I was delirious at State's Elite Eight run in 2003, overjoyed at the 2005 Final Four Run, and despondent in early defeats in '04 and 06. The Wolverine fans were always there, laughing in our faces at our football defeats, ignoring their basketball team like a caged inbred child in the basement, chiding Tom Izzo for not winning a Big Ten title while going to a Final Four, and, above all, personifying arrogance at every turn, with most of them countering every loss this year with a reference to the teams of the past, or cautioning us about how good they'll be in the future, thanks to their coach.

Which brings us to this Saturday. The gap between Michigan State and Michigan's football teams in a season has never been so heavily tilted for the Green and White. Michigan is becoming intimate with all facets of the term "rebuilding year", while Michigan State is trying to shake off the reputation of collapses that has plagued them in the past. All the while, Michigan fans have pointed to the past six games of this rivalry, a distraction meant to take their minds off the skidmark of a record they have right now. During this lashing I, as an MSU fan, have been quiet, mainly because this rivalry has been one sided for the past six years. They're pointing to history as the reason why they'll win this game, mainly because all the other reasons (you know, the one that involve play on the field) lack merit. While they're pointing to all the past seasons as cases in point of collapse, I'm pointing to the Purdue and Penn State games of last year and cultivating that seed of hope.

As for the game itself: It seems like some blogs are pointing to the Cal and OSU games as cases where Ringer was stopped, and wins resulted. The reason why Ringer was stopped was because the game plan had to change, as MSU was trailing big in both of those games at one point. What's the possibility UM scores enough points to force that strategy? I'm guessing small. MSU wins the turnover battle, runs the same old gameplan, and wins in Ann Arbor.

Michigan State 27, Michigan 13.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Big Ten Round Table, Week Nine

This week's Big Ten Round Table is brought to Nittany White Out.

1. We're approaching week 9 now, are you pleasantly surprised or
already waiting for basketball season?

Can't I be both? I am very excited that the Spartans are 6-2, but that loss against OSU is the type of loss that usually sends MSU into its much proclaimed season-ending slide. That said, I don't think it'll happen this year, I believe that the next three games are all winnable (@ Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, tell me you don't see at least two wins in there) before the death march to Happy Valley to end the season. As for basketball, I cannot wait until the November 16th Idaho game to start the season. Even though Neitzel isn't around anymore, Kalin Lucas is a more than capable point, and a front court of Suton, Morgan, Gray and Roe is one I'm anticipating to see on the court. In short, I like the football season so far, but c'mon, I'm an MSU blogger, I'll always be waiting around for Basketball to start.

2. Describe one specific play from this season you would alter for a
different outcome if you had the chance to.

The play just happened last week, in the 1st quarter of the OSU game. Keshawn Martin had just caught a screen from Hoyer, passed the first down marker, and promptly got hit by an OSU player. Martin fumbles, another Buckeye picks up the ball and returns it deep into MSU territory. This is when I started to get a feeling that luck wasn't on the Spartans' side, and if I could change it, I'd have Martin bust through for a TD, tying the score at seven, and staving off OSU momentum for at least a little longer.

3. How could it (#2) possibly impact the way your season is going?

Seeing as how I'm talking about MSU, if this were the past, it's completely in the realm of possibilty that the Spartans could lose all their games from here on out, going 6-6. However, if one saw the Purdue and Penn State games from last year, previous results exist that state that MSU won't throw the season in the crapper just because a few bad breaks hit. The play could start a tailspin, I'm betting that it won't.

4. Big Ten player you just can't stand, why?

I'm going to go to basketball for this one, and I'll say it's Purdue guard/forward/catchall Robbie Hummel. This feeling is more out of respect than anything else; he has little effect the whole game, and when the late second half rolls around, he starts making threes, getting every defensive rebound, and getting to the foul line. If Marquise Gray ate him (assuming there's enough meat on his bones to constitute a full meal), I'd be a happy man.

5. Boo'ing your own team (we've seen quite a lot of this across the Big Ten this season), your feelings on this.

The only time this could possibly be considered kosher is if the team is visibly dogging it on the field. Don't give me that tired "We're booing the coaches" line, do you possibly think anyone can possibly know that (Unless, of course, said coach decides to take the ball first in OT. Then you may flame away.)? These are college kids we're talking about here, they've got class obligations on top of football. They're not professionals, so cut them some slack if they screw up. Even if they turn over the ball five times in what was called the biggest game in a decade. I'll cry over here now.

BONUS ROUND!!!!!11!!!!!!!

1. Number of beers or alcoholic drinks consumed by week 8 (or a good estimate).

This probably will still be a bad estimate. But let's see...5 tailgates + 1 wedding attended as groomsman + currently in MSU with tough major...I'm guessing it's over 100, and 125 would be a better guess. It sounds like a lot, but that averages to about two drinks a day (Ed. note - that number is for the entire College Football season up until today. If we're talking about drinks consumed during week 8, I'd say it's about 20 - 5 during the week before the OSU game, 15 the day of. It sounds like a lot, but keep in mind I got to campus around 9 to tailgate, and went out after.).

2. Most annoying commercial seen this season.

Second place is anything referencing "Frank TV", but first is far and away this one. Warning - will make you want to break your monitor over your knee.

You do the math, I'll do your castration, buddy.

3. Your prediction for the next coaching change in the Big Ten (Joe Tiller exempt)

The easy answer here is JoePa, but I'm betting he goes at least one more year, and I'm also betting someone will get fired midseason in 2009. If I had to guess right now, I'll go out on a limb and say that Bret Bielema gets the pink slip first, if only because Iowa's improving, and the expectations for the Badgers have popped this season, and I don't really see them making a drastic improvement next year.


Well, if you're trying to shake off the "Little Brother" moniker, you definitely don't want to ape Big Brother in the Football vs. Hockey = Sharks vs. Jets department, which is exactly what happened around Center Street in East Lansing early Sunday morning. Reports have it that about 15-20 athletes were involved, mostly in Football and Hockey (surprise, surprise). Not a lot of info is known yet; personally, my favorite untruth coming out of this story so far is that (quotation marks for emphasis on frivolous nature of untruth) "Jeff Lerg took down an MSU linebacker". Now, I know that Lerg's tough, but seeing a 5'6" goalie take down a 6'2", 220 lb beast...that's something I'd like to see sometime.

Apparently, this all started over a girl (surprise, surprise, surprise). One side loses, that side brings back a posse, melee ensues. Names have not been named yet, but they'll be out soon enough. Hopefully, the fight didn't involve Trevor Anderson throwing someone off a roof, but that has yet to be seen. Suspensions will be handed out soon, no doubt, but it has yet to be seen whether it'll affect the Michigan game.

All right, glad that's out of the way. Big Ten Round Table coming up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My feelings on the OSU game

Yup, that about sums it up. I thought MSU would lose, I just never believed it would be this bad, marking the first time in the Dantonio era has lost a game by more than a touchdown. It's not hyperbole to state that the only phase of the trip the Buckeyes were unsuccessful in was their ability of their fans to pick up ladies at The Landshark Saturday night. The Spartans couldn't force turnovers as they have in the past this season, they turned the ball over unusually, and gave Terrelle Pryor yet another defining moment on his ascent to the throne as King of Columbus. As if that wasn't enough, MSU now has a burgeoning QB controversy on its hands, as Kirk Cousins did quite well (18-25, 161 yards, 1 TD). The only saving grace about this game was that it was a "guillotine" kind of loss - the end comes quickly, so that you have no time to think, process the defeat or feel pain, your head just lies detached from its body, blinking until you can't blink no more.

Whatever, it's on to Michigan for HATE WEEK. If you think that MSU won't get up for a team that has beat them the last six times, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Lastly, on a more cheerful note, Midnight Madness was Friday, and if this image doesn't make your heart smile with glee, I feel sorry for your black, joyless soul.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Big Ten Picks, Week Eight

In brief, mainly because I just got back from Chicago...

Ohio State 13, Michigan State 7
I answered some questions about this game for The Only Game that Matters. In brief, I believe in game between two very similar teams, give the edge to the side with the best unit. In this game, it's OSU's defense. I do hope I'm wrong on this one.

Northwestern 27, Purdue 14
Good news for you Boilermaker fans - Purdue will score a couple of touchdowns this week! The bad news - C.J. Bacher keeps the ball in the hands of the purple and scores more.

Iowa 20, Wisconsin 13
Don't let the record fool you, Iowa is a very good team that suffered a few brain farts that caused the three losses. As for the Wisconsin fans, if you haven't started drinking yourself death by now, Saturday around 3ish might be a good time to start.

Illinois 42, Indiana 28
Illinois gets its frustrations out the only way how - by scoring bunches of points while allowing them. Indiana, meanwhile, continues to stay in the two-pony race for worst team in the Big Ten.

Penn State 42, Michigan 7's going to go down like this:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Was Your Best Day as a Spartan? With much thanks to Spartans Weblog

Stolen shamelessly from Spartans Weblog's post about the same topic. If you've got a favorite memory about the Spartans (if you're reading this blog, you most likely do), go over there and post it in the comments section, and feel free to post it here as well. However, if you post it at Spartans Weblog, you'll be in the running to win a copy of College Basketball Prospectus for this season. And free things are always awesome, unless they cause cold sores.

There’s no doubt about my best day as a Spartan; it was the day of the Elite Eight MSU-Kentucky game. I remember yelling at the refs, telling them that Pat Sparks’ foot was on the line as he shot the three at the end of the regulation. I remember cheering as Abezuike (spelling?) was late on his shot at the end of OT. I remember holding my breath as Alan Anderson shot his free throws towards the end of the second OT to seal the Final Four.

Most of all, my favorite moment is running down Oakhill into downtown EL. I was in a mass of people screaming “FINAL FOUR! FINAL FOUR!” at the top of my lungs at the corner of Charles and Albert. There must of been at least hundreds of students on Albert, screaming GO GREEN! GO WHITE! chants at the top of their lungs from one side of the street to the other. I walked down to Cedar Village, there were just as many people there cheering. Exchange students were calling back home, trying to explain what was going on. Most of all though, the crowd as a whole did not misbehave. Tear gas didn’t need to be shot into the masses. Sure, the loss against North Carolina six days after hurt, but nothing could take away from the sheer exuberance in East Lansing that day. That, more so than my first day on campus, and even more so than my graduation, was my favorite day as a Spartan, because for one day, we weren’t 44,000 students with over 100 majors. We were all Spartans, one, high-fiving and patting each other on the back as we celebrated a victory few thought we could achieve.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Week 7 Big Ten Picks

If you're looking for an in depth preview, the Enlightened Spartan has a good one on his site here. As for me, here are my Big Ten picks in brief.

Michigan State 26, Northwestern 17

If you're like me and will be at the game in Evanston this weekend, drink everytime you hear a Wildcat fan say this: "We're going to stop Ringer and let Hoyer beat us." First off, I think Ringer's going to have a game like he did in Bloomington - decent YPC with about 30-35 carries and a run over 30 yards somewhere in there. As for Hoyer, if you're going to go single cover the wide receivers, expect three of his passes in the game to go for more than 20 yards. His throws deep are underrated. Northwestern's been good at capitalizing on teams' mistakes this season. Michigan State doesn't make enough for the Wildcats to win.

Iowa 20, Indiana 10

This Hawkeye team is much better than its 3-3 record indicates. Their problem? A propensity for shooting themselves in the foot, as they turned the ball over four times within the MSU 30 yard line last week, be it on downs, fumbles, or interceptions. My guess is that if a bad defensive team such as Minnesota can hold the Hoosiers to seven points (and yes, I realize what that says about MSU if they let IU gain 29 points), Iowa should be able to hold them to enough points for the offense to put up the usual 17-24 points. That'll be enough.

Michigan 27, Toledo 7

My guess is that Michigan holds onto the ball more than usual, and only turns it over three times. The Wolverine defense won't be playing Juice Williams this week, so Michigan should win comfortably.

Illinois 38, Minnesota 17

All thoughts of Minnesota's defense having improved will be confirmed this week, as they hold Illinois to under 40 points.

Ohio State 27, Purdue 20

Call me crazy, but I think this game may be close. For all the good he's shown so far, Terrelle Pryor is still a freshman, and that means he's going to have some mediocre performances this season. After a comeback victory in Madison, I'm guessing this game will be one of those times. Also, I can't believe Purdue only put up six points against Penn State in West Lafayette. Their offense is better than six points, and this game will show that opinion. However, the Boilermakers will still lose...but it'll be tight.

Penn State 17, Wisconsin 13

The first crack in the Spread HD appeared last week, as the Nittany Lions put up a "good enough to win" 20 points on the Boilermakers. Now they travel to Wisconsin to face an above average Badger defense. They'll be held to about 14-17 points. However, I believe that with Evridge at the helm, the ceiling for the offense is 13 points at home. That total will fall just short of a victory.

That's it for this week. I'll be down on the O'Malley's West bus trip to be in person for the Northwestern game. Take it easy, and have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What is Big Ten Round Table?

This week's Round Table, hosted by The Only Game that Matters. This week's Round Table is being done Jeopardy-style (you'll see how it's done in a bit), and as for TOGtM...I would not be surprised at all if they were telling Trebek to put the lotion on his skin in a well in their basement. Anyway, on with the show.

1) Jay Paterno and the Spread HD

Who is Jim Carrey? Much like Carrey's career, Jay and the HD were once thought to be a joke, but through a few legitimate performances (vs. Oregon State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), are now taken seriously. Of course, chances to fall remain (evidence in favor: lackluster performance against Purdue, The Number 23).

2) Joe Tiller's Mustache

Where is Mr. Belvedere? The Wilford Brimley comparison is worn out. If you add some color to Tiller's mustache, it looks verrry similar to one carried around by a famous butler.

The evidence is damning: Joe Tiller, guilty of Grand Theft 'Stache, and kidnapping Purdue's offense from last year.

3) The Color Purple

What is, for the first time ever, the color that will fill up more than half the seats at Ryan Field next week? (Cue outraged "NO ONE EVER RESPECTS NORTHWESTERN!" from Lake the Posts in 3...2...1...just kidding. Seriously, if you need a primer on Northwestern football, go to Lake the Posts now. It's all good stuff.)

4) Brains

What is the missing ingredient from the Hawkeyes? They outgunned MSU at the line of scrimmage on both ends last week, but turnovers and a couple of unfortunate 4th down calls flushed a win down the drain. Also, Big Ten Blogger by-laws state that whenever brains are mentioned, a picture of JoePa must be shown:

5) Hawkeye State

Where is the place that manufactures Hawkeye vodka? Hawkeye vodka is the #1 vodka on my "liquors to taste" list, mainly to take in its poor quality. Will it be worse than Crystal Palace? Will I go blind? I don't know, but I'll have fun getting there.

6) Rudy

Who has gotten more mileage out of one sack than anyone in history? Many stories of walk-ons are worthy of mention. Take for instance, a Spartan who walked onto the football team, played his way into a scholarship, and graduated with a 4.0 average in Kinesology with his Masters (not University of Michigan Kinesology, this degree's legitimate). This man's name? Cole Malatinsky. Scholarship, hard work, and kicking that's a story.

Do not look into his eyes. You will get pregnant.

7) Knee Ligaments

What are things that if you're going to tear, tear awesomely? In other words, don't break them like this kid did:

8) Terrelle Pryor

What is the reason I'm happy MSU doesn't play Ohio State for the next two years after this year? If he can lead the Buckeyes to a win by orchestrating a drive in the 4th quarter - IN WISCONSIN, NO LESS -it's scary to think how good he'll be in a year.

9) Mark May

Who is the biggest benefactor of the "Ugly Friend" effect? You know the theory - all sets of girls have one ugly friend that makes the others look better by comparison. Who is Mark May's ugly friend? You guessed it...

10) Rich Rodriguez

Who will be the #1 selling effigy in Ann Arbor after a 5-7 season for the Wolverines? If they go to a bowl this season, they will overachieve. The best news about that is the fans will save on gas by going to Detroit for their bowl game.

Big Ten picks tomorrow? I'm leaving early for Chicago tomorrow, for this Saturday I'll be on the O'Malley's West bus trip for the Northwestern game. Hopefully, some of you'll be out there.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Iowa - The Aftermath

Sitting in the north end zone section late in the 4th quarter, watching the Hawkeyes come closer to scoring a touchdown to take the lead, one thought kept echoing through my head:

"Dear God, it's going to happen again."

"It", being of course, a punch in the gut where MSU lets a lead slip away in the last moments, usually in the most heartbreaking way possible (C.J. Bacher throwing eleventy million touchdown passes, Chad Henne remembering he has deep threats on the field, etc.). When 4th and 1 came around at the MSU 21, I thought that the Hawkeyes would kick a field goal, have it split the uprights, and have the game go into overtime.

I was wrong.

The offense stayed on the field, and after Iowa used its final timeout, I thought that it was going to be a play action toss. Stanzi would find a wide open 3rd string tight end for a touchdown, giving the Hawkeyes the lead immediately, and that the Spartans would go four and out soon thereafter.

I was wrong.

The play was a handoff to Shonn Greene, who had torn through the MSU front seven all game. However, instead of going up the middle for the one yard needed, he ran off-tackle. As I saw Adam Decker hit Greene in the backfield, I was nearly certain that Greene would shed the tackle, gain ten yards and obtain the first down.

I was wrong.

Decker forced Greene to the ground. Iowa turned the ball over on downs, and after a couple of Ringer runs and a harrowing quarterback sneak where Hoyer fumbled the ball, Michigan State won the game. As I was leaving Spartan Stadium, I reflected back on how I felt ten minutes earlier, when I was sure MSU would surrender the victory.

I was really wrong. And it never felt better.

More notes on the game:
  • I don't think Iowa made a bad call by choosing to run on 4th down for their final play, and the Iowa fans I talked to in the bar after the game agreed with that sentiment. One can certainly criticize the execution of the run (Off-Tackle? Seriously? After Shonn Greene gashed MSU up the gut all day), but the core decision was sound.
  • Brian Hoyer looks like he needs to get out of his head a bit. He had a very good first half, followed by a mediocre second half in which he nearly let the Hawkeyes back in the game late.
  • Javon Ringer looked human. That's OK, a lot of running backs will against Iowa's defensive line. As for the offensive line, just because the running game generates a lot of yards and the quarterback gets sacked very few times makes a great offensive line. I think MSU has a good defensive line, but I don't think they're tops in the Big Ten good.
  • Dropped passes - yikes. Cunningham and Dell eached dropped one in the end zone. On the plus side, Charlie Gantt has progressed by leaps and bounds this season, and continued this pattern in yesterday's game.
  • The defensive line played great against the pass, pressuring Stanzi many times. Special credit goes to Trevor Anderson, who had 2.5 sacks in the game.
  • The cornerbacks could still use a bit of work. A few times I saw a CB slip, allowing a Hawkeye receiver to catch the ball unimpeded.
  • A lot of Spartans got banged up yesterday: Dell, Wiley, C.L. Rucker, and Gantt off the top of my head. Hopefully they'll be healthy for Northwestern.

As for the rest of the Big Ten, some brief impressions:

  • Penn State had their first sub-par performance I felt, as I was sure the offense would've put up at least 40. The defense did its job, and even though the Nittany Lions do have an above average offense, I still can't believe the Purdue offense has been this ineffective this year.
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers - 5-1. On top of that statement, they won the Indiana game with their defense. Let those words sink in a bit. I think they have to get to 7-5 to be bowl-eligible this year in the Big Ten, and with them getting Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa at home, it's not outside the realm of possibility. As for Indiana, I think they'll be lucky if they win another game all year. Well Hoosier fan, there's always basketball seas...How many scholarship players will they have? If I were you, I'd cryogenically freeze myself until this school year is over.
  • Let's see: a team from Michigan followed up an emotional upset victory by playing flat, making mistakes, and getting dominated (albeit by a superior team)? Well, that's typical MSU- wait, it was the Wolverines? Huh. Anyway, I also believe that Juice Williams isn't the best passer in the conference, but he is the best quarterback, if that makes any sense.
  • Terrelle Pryor is wasting no time in cementing his mythic status. The number of quarterbacks that can lead a game-winning drive in one of the three toughest places to play in the Big Ten (Wisky, PSU, OSU) is small, the number of freshmen QBs who can do it is fewer yet. As for Wisconsin - the wins will start coming. And let's face it Wisconsin fan, you reserve those tickets for the Outback Bowl in July every year. I'd fully advise you to hang onto those.

I'll be back to a more regular posting schedule this week, last week was a gauntlet of tests, interviews and career fairs.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Busy Busy Busy...Brief Big 10 picks

Sorry y'all, Career fair and other tests and quizzes got in the way of posting this week. Indiana preview will hopefully be up tomorrow. As for now, here are my Big Ten picks for this week:

Michigan State over Iowa
Minnesota over Indiana
Illinois over Michigan
Penn State over Purdue
Ohio State over Wisconsin

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Indiana - The Aftermath, and the rest of the Big Ten

It was messy, it was nerve-rattling, it was scary, but in the was a win, and that's all one can ask.

ALL YOUR SPITOONS BELONG TO US. (Photo by Rashaun Rucker, Detroit Free Press)

My thoughts:
  • Indiana did a good job for the most part restraining Ringer, but once again, he broke his biggest runs in the 4th quarter. I'm going to quit asking how the increased work load is going to affect him down the line this year, as it hasn't seemed to affect him yet. I'm more worried about the OL whiffing on blocks and allowing linebackers to tackle him unfettered.
  • On that note, though, would it kill the staff to get Andre Anderson more time at tailback? I know he's small, so blocking for passes may be an issue, but he's looked good every time I've seen him.
  • Hoyer did what he had to today: Make a few big plays, not turn the ball over (although he came real close a couple times), and run the offense efficiently to the tune of 40 points (not counting the safety). I don't understand why others are complaining. I sincerely believe there are some portions of the MSU fan base that won't be happy unless Hoyer completes all his passes in a game, run for three touchdowns in said game, and rides a unicorn into the sunset.
  • Brett Swenson: money. There's nothing else to say, he nailed all the field goals today, three of them from 45 yards and out. The best performance I've seen by a Spartan kicker in a long time.
  • Aaron Bates: not as money as Swenson, but still money. He was athletic enough to cover the blocked punt to stop the Hoosiers from getting five more points, and his punt to the IU 1 set up the MSU safety. He shanked a 29-yarder in the game as well, but for the most part, he was effective.
  • The defense...meh. On one hand, the big plays. Oh, the big plays. There were a couple times when Marcus Thigpen ran unobstructed into the end zone, a failure on both the linebackers and the safeties' part. On the other hand, they came up with turnovers when they needed them, with interceptions by Ross Weaver and Danny Fortener setting up scores, and Rucker's forced fumble sealed the game. I'll be nervous if this continues, but I'll give them a mulligan this week.
  • Otis Wiley...hey, we all have bad days, and Otis had one yesterday. His whiff on Thigpen gave up a touchdown, and he muffed two punts. He atoned in part for these mistakes by recovering a fumble late in the 4th, but overall, not the best of days for him.
  • The defensive line could get a little more pressure, but I'm pleased with their performance. Trevor Anderson had a sack, and it's hard to get hits and sacks when the opposing QB keeps running out of a three-step drop.
Michigan State, despite the flaws, goes to 4-1 in the Big Ten, and gets a 3-2 Iowa team for homecoming. Despite the starting time for the game (Noon), I'm excited for campus to grow by thrice its size this coming Saturday.

As for the rest of the Big Ten:
  • Welcome to the real world, Golden Gophers. You made that game look closer than it really was, but in this game, you were the dead frog, and Ohio State was the high school biology student. Consider yourself dissected. In other news, It's become clear that Tressel's going to have Pryor throw just enough to win, which is about 12-15 times a game. In the Big Ten this year, that should be enough to beat everybody but Penn State.
  • Note to Iowa - any time you turn over the ball five times, you do not deserve to win. Northwestern wins unimpressively again, but they're 5-0, and that's the only stat that matters. Wildcat fans also have to be happy that they've got C.J. Bacher back after he went missing for the first four games. The question I have is this: Is it better to have a bye week and prepare for the MSU game, letting the hype build, or would they be better serve by playing immediately again and keeping their hot streak? We'll see.
  • Wisconsin - see the note to Iowa, with this addendum - any time you let Steven Threet break a run for over 50 yards you definitely don't deserve to win. The way the Badgers choked that game away gave me flashbacks to the 2004 UM-MSU game. The game also served as a template to how Michigan will win most of their Big Ten games this year: let the defense recover a turnover in good field position to facilitate scoring, and don't let the offense cough up the ball. That said, if the Wolverines allow a team to score more than 24 points on them, they'll be in big trouble.
  • Purdue - shameful performance allowing Armando Allen to run for more than 100 yards the week after MSU held Notre Dame to 16 yards on the ground. I knew the Boilermaker defense would be mediocre, but having the offense score 14 points? This loss definitely dropped Purdue to the bottom tier of the Big Ten.
  • It took Derrick Williams a few years to do it, but he finally proved why he was the #1 recruit in the nation. Penn State gave up a decent amount of yards to Illinois, but against that offense, it'll happen. The main point is that the Spread HD (remember when that name used to be mocked a month and a half ago? Good times.) worked to the tune of 31 points. Add in a kickoff return for a TD, and 38 points will be enough to beat most teams. More and more, it's looking like the October 25th game pitting the Nittany Lions against the Buckeyes at The Horseshoe will be the de facto conference title game.
That's it. This week I'll get around to a Big Ten Round Table post and an Iowa preview, but that'll be about it, life is once again wedging its way in time-consuming positions. Have a happy homecoming week, y'all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

MSU-Indiana Live Blog

Welcome to the MSU-Indiana live blog. The game starts at noon on ESPN, feel free to leave comments.

3:41 - Post-game thoughts will be up tomorrow, after the game digests. As for now, I'm going to cook, study some Physiology, and rest up for a busy week next week. See y'all later, and thanks for hanging out today.

3:40 - Hoyer takes a knee, and it's game over.


3:39 - Indiana uses its last timeout, and Ringer makes it a 3rd and 1. Ringer gets the first, and Hoyer's gonna take a knee.

3:37 - Call stands. Barring something catastrophic from MSU, this game's done.

3;35 - Lewis completes a pass to Belcher, who fumbles it upon the hit from Rucker. Wiley partially atones for a bad day by picking up the fumble, MSU ball. If this call isn't overturned, the game's essentially over.

3:32 - Lewis drops back to pass, then takes off and barely gets the 1st. The next play is a WR screen that gets nothing. The clock continues to run.

3:31 - IU's gotta go for it on 4th down after Kellen Lewis tried to fumble the ball for a 1st down. Not surprisingly, the Hoosiers take a timeout to think about it.

3:26 - Ringer finally gets stuffed on third down, and Swenson trots onto the field for a short field goal. Do you really think he's going to miss? Nope. MSU 42, IU 29.

3:23 - Great run by Ringer for 33, and he hits another run for 5. I think the Spartans have finally worn IU down.

3:20 - MSU runs it on 1st and 2nd down again. This time though, Ringer gets the 1st down. Run that clock, baby.

3:16 - The Hoosiers commit another stupid personal foul, and move back 15 yards. A failed reverse and a false start make it 3rd and 22. Lewis has to essentially throw it away, and IU's punter takes center stage. The punt goes into the end zone, and MSU will get it at the 20.

3:12 - I think MSU needs to rethink this "hand off to Ringer twice, then have Hoyer throw an incomplete pass" offense. Bates has a subpar punt that just barely makes it into IU territory.

3:09 - Trevor Anderson, despite being held, still makes it to Kellen Lewis for the sack, MSU's 1st of the day. Wiley muffs his 2nd punt of the day, but luckily recovers. Otis just hasn't looked like his previous self in this game.

3:03 GAH! Hoyer just barely overthrows a wide open Cunningham for what would've been a TD. For the third down, he rolls out and throws to an out-of-bounds Dell. Swenson comes on for the field goal...and he's good again from 45 yards out. Great game for Swenson so far, he's hit on all three of his field goals, and they've all been from at least 45 yards out. MSU 39, IU 29.

3:00 - Davis overthrows his receiver, who gets a hand on it, and Fortener intercepts the ball, his second of the day. MSU ball at the IU 39.

2:56 - The third quarter ends. If it weren't for a few boneheaded penalties, IU would be leading this game. That said, they're behind, and I will not rest easy until this game is over, the Hoosiers' offense has been too explosive today.


2:54 - Two runs by ringer down the middle and an incomplete pass by Hoyer means it's punting time. Bates punts it to IU, and it's fair caught at the IU 27.

2:50 - A touchdown by IU is called back by a hold in the end zone, which for MSU. Talk about a turnaround in momentum. The hold's pretty blatant too, as Justin Kershaw was pretty much tackled by the IU lineman. That's a nine point swing, which makes the score: MSU 36, IU 29.

2:48 - Nope. 2nd and down on the 1 inch line. QB sneak makes it a 3rd and 9.

2:46 - It sure looked to me like MSU had a safety there. Let's see if the officials think the same on this review.

2:45 - The drive stalls at midfield, and Bates has a beautiful punt that goes out at IU's 1.

2:40 - Blair White attones for the 1st down he dropped by catching a beautiful pass by Hoyer. 1st down, MSU.

2:35 - Indiana lines up to go for it on 4th and 12 at midfield...and MSU calls a timeout. Was IU trying to feint? Nope, they're going for they're not. Lewis gets off a nice pooch kick, and the ball's at MSU's 12. Good call by IU, The way this game's going, they'll get the ball back soon enough.

2:31 - Another ball thrown right down the middle of the field for a big Indiana game and a first down. This game is starting to look like the MSU-Northwestern game last year - a whole lot of offense by MSU followed up by the defense giving up huge plays for touchdowns.

2:28 - A promising drive is cut short by a false start penalty for MSU. The punt goes into the end zone, and Indiana will have the ball at their 20. Will the Hoosiers be able to keep momentum up without shooting themselves in the foot again?

2:20 - Reason why IU scored: Wiley went for the big hit instead of wrapping up Thigpen, and missed. C'mon Otis, you're better than that.

2:19 - IU uses said timeout to handoff to Thigpen up the middle for a yard. Lewis throws to Thigpen, the safety whiffs on a tackle, and Thigpen's into the end zone again. XP is good. MSU 34, IU 29.

2:17 - Kellen Lewis is back in for IU...and apparently isn't ready to go yet. Timeout, Hoosiers.

2:15 - KJ from Spartans Weblog: "MSU needs to throw more on first down in the second half." Done and done. Also from KJ: "Can anyone here play defense? This might be really ugly if Lewis were still in the game." MSU's definitely shot themeselves in the foot with pass intereference penalties and that breakdown on the Thigpen TD. That said though, I don't expect IU's current QB to keep completing those 5-10 yard passes. Boleski kicks another touchback.

2:12 - The pass is complete, 1st down MSU at the 1! Ringer goes in ...and the penalty's not a hold! TD MSU! XP is good, and the Spartans couldn't have asked for a better start to the second half. MSU 34, IU 22.

2:10 - Ringer starts off the 2nd half hot with a 14 yard run. Hoyer makes a great play to Cunningham for a 1st and goal at the 1...or does he? The pass is called incomplete, and is under review.

2:09 - Indiana starts off the 2nd half by going three and out, thanks to a good pass breakup by Weaver. Wiley returns the punt to the 50.

1:44 - The squib kick is recovered at the MSU 35. A handoff to Ringer will end the half. Hoyer, besides those balls that were nearly intercepted, has looked great so far. The defense is getting picked apart, but besides that last run by Thigpen, has looked solid on the ground. I hope that MSU can continue to wear down the Hoosier DL so Ringer can break a few in the second half.


1:40 - Just as the defense looked like they were about to create some momentum, Marcus Thigpen runs down the middle of the field untouched for a 78-yard TD. Indiana calls a timeout to go for two...and it's intercepted by Fortener. Indiana's QB makes a two point saving tackle. MSU 27, IU 22.

1:34 - TOUCHDOWN! Hoyer finds a wide open Charlie Gantt around midfield, and Gantt runs through the secondary for an 82 yard score. Pretty amazing feat for a tight end. XP is good. MSU 27, IU 16.

1:32 - Two short runs and an incomplete means IU has a three and out. The punt's away, which is muffed by Wiley, and he has to cover the ball at the MSU 16.

1:27 - The punt's blocked. Luckily, Bates has the athleticism to cover the punt to turn a TD into a safety. MSU 20, IU 16.

1:26 - White misstimes his jump, and drops a sure 1st down. MSU to punt.

1:17 - Yet another pass interference penalty leads to a 1st and Goal, in which Marcus Thigpen runs up the middle untouched for the TD. MSU 20, IU 14.

1:13 - IU wants a timeout to think about a 3rd and 1. Meanwhile, Kellen Lewis is headed to the locker room. I give a 75% chance he won't be back for this game.

1:05 - Hoyer finds a WIDE OPEN (caps for emphasis) Mark Dell in the corner of the end zone. Touchdown MSU, XP is good. MSU 20, IU 7.

1:03 - The screens have been working well for the Spartans today. Ringer for 14 and a first down, and after that, Cunningham for 8 and another 1st down.

1:00 - After getting stuffed on 1st down, the Javon Ringer we know and love makes at least three defenders miss, and gains 23. 1st down, MSU. Add on a pass intereference call on the defense, and MSU's at midfield.

12:58 - Indiana on 3rd and 11 inexplicably calls a draw when the pass game's been working all day. 4th and 8...and they punt on the 36, netting a massive 16 yards of field position. Memo to IU: you have Austin Starr, he can easily make a 53 yard FG. MSU ball.

12:49 - On 1st down, an IU receiver drops a soft throw. A short run up the middle on second down closes out the quarter. Indiana is offically on tilt.


12:46 - Hoyer sneaks it in on 2nd down, Touchdown MSU! Swenson's XP is good. Why are you booing, IU? Three stupid, stupid penalties by your team set this all in motion. MSU 13, IU 7.

12:44 - Interception! The pass is initally broken up, floats in the air, and Ross Weaver returns it to the 10. Add in a late hit out of bounds by IU's QB, no less, and MSU's at the 5. 1st and Goal, MSU.

12:43 - As soon as IU had a good thing going, they kill themselves with two huge penalties. Note to Bill Lynch - don't make a bad thing worse. 2nd and 34, IU.

12:39 - That. was. close. The IU CB drops a sure interception, and Swenson hits from 48. IU 7, MSU 6.

12:35 - MSU gets a false start. Luckily, Ringer rushes for 16 to erase said penalty. As soon as I typed the previous sentence, Hoyer throws a screen to Cunningham for a big gain. Note to Hoyer: just let your receivers do all the work right now. They're talented, they'll get you the passing yards, and it's all you need to do to win this game.

12:29 - Lewis rolls out and finds a wide open Fisher, who runs in untouched. MSU has to defend the short pass better, otherwise they're going to be eaten up by it all game. IU 7, MSU 3.

12:25 - My buddy Paul: "That Beverly Hills Chihuahua commercial better make it into your liveblog." OK, it looks like the best Disney movie since The Lion King V, Rafiki's Revenge. Meanwhile, Indiana is dinking their way down the field with 5-10 yard passes, much like Clausen did in the 3rd quarter of last week's ND game.

12:20 - And, of course, as soon as I say that, he overthrows Martin and nearly gets a pass picked off. Swenson from 45...and it's right down the middle. MSU 3, IU 0.

12:18 - Hoyer's looked good so far with the short passes. Keshawn Martin could be a special WR.

12:16 - 3rd and 2...and Hoyer throws a nice pass to Garrett Celek in the flat for 17. First Down, MSU.

12:12 - Indiana's three plays - tackle by Greg Jones, tackle of Thigpen by Oren Wilson, pass breakup by Danny Fortener. Lovely stuff, that MSU defense. Punt goes into the endzone.

12:09 - Hoyer throws a pass right on Dell's hands...and the ball bounces right off. Michigan State to punt, which is fair caught on the IU 30.

12:07 - Two plays in, and there's a clock stoppage. What do you expect from the state that held out from Daylight Savings Time for so long.

12:03 - Here we go! Indiana's kicking to the Spartans. The kick's off...and Ringer gets to the 25.

12:02 - There's the Old Brass Spitoon, sponsored by Skoal and Kodiak.

12:00 - I would've loved to see the jump in logic 'Bama did to have their mascot be an elephant from Crimson Tide. I'm sure there's a reason somewhere, but I'm not going to spend the time looking for it, because the game's about to start.

11:50 - Chris Fowler - "This is a classic MSU letdown game." Fair enough, but Indiana's secondary is decimated. The only letdown here will be if Hoyer doesn't throw a touchdown. And, of course, Corso just puts MSU on upset alert, and says IU will upset MSU. Poor Lee, he must still think he's coaching in Bloomington.

11:45 - 16 minutes to kickoff. I'm afraid for what the Georgia fans are going to do to Corso if he puts the...uh...hmmmm. How do you represent 'Bama again? Anyway, I think he's going to pick Georgia, mainly because he...AND THEY JUST SHOWED THAT DANG OLIVE GARDEN COMMERCIAL WITH THE "YOU DO THE MATH, I'LL DO THE ALFREDO!" LINE. Breathe...breathe...all right. If I have to see that commercial all day, my laptop's going through the TV.

11:07 - Currently watching GameDay. Poster seen: Knowshon Moreno hurdling Earth, which seems a bit under his talents.