Monday, June 23, 2008

Minnesota Preview Part 2


How bad was Minnesota's defense last year? Atrocious, and only exacerbated by the loss of 2006 2nd team All-Big Ten Willie VanDeSteeg's injuries. Giving up 38 points a game, nearly six yards a carry, while being -6 in turnover differential and amassing seven sacks in the Big Ten schedule is no way to go through life, Goldy.

The defensive line should be improved though, assuming VanDeSteeg stays healthy. He had 10 sacks in '06, but as previously mentioned, suffered through injuries last year. The linebacking corps will improve as well, mainly because I'm loathe to imagine what a drop-off could look like. MLB Deon Hightower led the team in tackles for losses last year (9.5), but four-star recruit Sam Maresh could be breathing down his neck for that spot.
The Minnesota pass defense was equally as horrendous last year, allowing 289 yards through the air per game in '07; however, it wasn't that much of a fall off from '06, when they allowed 268 YPG. The two returning starters in the secondary are sophomores with 14 starts between them, while the other two starters are junior college transfers. If the secondary improves, it won't be by much.

Special Teams

Last year, Jason Giannini eventually ceded to Joel Monroe. Monroe made the best of what he was given, going 28-28 on point afters, and 7-9 on field goals, including a 54 yarder, the longest field goal made by any Big Ten kicker last year. Enjoy the Metrodome for one last year Joel, because in 2009, your job, along with the ball, is going to get a little harder in the chilly Minnesota fall. The punter's name escapes me right now, but I remember he was in the top half of the Big Ten. I'll update this as soon as I remember, but he was solid, and that's one of the few parts of their game that Minnesota won't have to worry about.


Minnesota lost more than a fair share of close games last season, and should look to improve. They could go 4-0 in their nonconference, but with a trip to MAC title contender Bowling Green and much improved Sun Belt frontrunner Florida Atlantic, 3-1 or, God forbid, 2-2 is more likely. However, they should win at least one of those Big Ten games that eluded them last season, and 4-8 seems like a sound prediction, with good chances for a bowl trip in 2009.

Monday Update

Detroit Renaissance safety Dana Dixon committed to MSU over the weekend. He's Rivals' 69th best safety in the nation and a 3-star recruit. He also has the same star rating by Scout, except he's the #140 WR. To each their own. Dixon is Michigan State's eighth recruit this year, and expect one more safety/cornerback in this class.

Spartan Athletes of the year: Jeff Lerg and Sara Brown.
We're all familiar with the exploits of super goalie Lerg, but Brown's an impressive golfer in her own right: She holds MSU's scoring record, and had a scoring average of 74.08 this season, which I can only hit on non-windmill mini-golf courses.

Coming up this week:

The end of the Minnesota preview (honest!),

A preview of the other Big Ten team MSU won't face this year,

and since the Olympic Track & Field trials start this week, a look at a few former and current Spartans to keep your eye on.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stuck Between Stations - Minnesota Preview Part 1

This is part 1 of the forementioned Minnesta preview. Part 2 should be up tonight. Hopefully.

Do you recognize this man, Golden Gopher fans? This is a picture of The Hold Steady lead singer, Craig Finn, proud Minnesotan in his own right. What does this have in common with last season, you ask? He sings a lot about drugged up, boozed out characters in his songs, and if you root for Minnesota, you were probably drinking hand sanitizer from August til November. Without further ado, here's the preview:

2007 In Review - Lord, I'm Discouraged

In a word? Ouch. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" is a song off of The Hold Steady's new album, Stay Positive, which depicts a girl who meets new friends (Brewster), starts taking popular drugs (the spread offense), and in the end, the narrator of the song states, "I mostly just pray she won't die." How did you suffer such a fall from grace? Let's review (If you're a Minnesota fan, please stick with this preview. I promise, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.).

Glen Mason was canned in '06, and Tim Brewster, whose previous greatest accomplishment was getting Vince Young to Texas, stepped in. Minnesota went from a power running attack that was guaranteed to produce a great running and an above average one, to a spread offense. I'll talk about how the offense and defense functioned later, but for now, let's give this one sentence overview: If you're a pessimist, Minnesota was an OT away from going 0-12; if you're an optimist, you see that Minnesota lost six of those games by seven or less points (granted, one of those was to 1-AA [PLAYOFF SUBDIVISION TEAM! GET IT RIGHT OR PAY THE PRICE! - Ed.] Ahem. Playoff Subdivision North Dakota State.)

OFFENSE - Stay Positive!

"Stay Positive", off of The Hold Steady album of the same name, has a chorus that goes, "We gotta stay positive." The Minnesota offense surely didn't play like a 1-11 team last year; they were 7th in Big 10 games in yards gained, third in passing yards, and third in sacks allowed (mainly due to Adam Weber's mobility). However, the flipside to that coin is that they were eighth in Big Ten games in turnovers. The two points most damning: tenth in points scored, and rock bottom in yards per rush.

One would assume Adam Weber would be the starter. In praise of him, he was essentially as good as Juice Williams last year. Weber had a slightly better passer rating (120.8 to 119.2), and had much better production in total offense (292.7 yards to Juice's 192.2). Weber's flashing red weak spot in his forehead? Turnovers. He threw 24 TDs to 19 INTs, but those are still a lot of interceptions (just ask C.J. Bacher). Weber was 9th in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, and two new QBs in the program, highly touted junior college recruit David Pittman and four-star high school recruit MarQueis Gray should push him during training camp, but for a ludicrous prediction in June, Weber will still hold the spot.

Running Back wise? Meh. Duane Bennett is projected to be the starter, but he's no Laurence Maroney, let alone Amir Pinnix. This problem only gets compounded by the fact that the offensive line couldn't produce much on the ground last year, and with the hog mollies still kind of green (no seniors slated to start, but three starters return), there should be enough improvement to get them out of the cellar YPC-wise, if the play calls support it.

As for Wide Receiver, out of the two main threats last year, Ernie Wheelwright left, but Eric Decker (67 receptions, 9 TDs, 13.6 YPC) returns. The rest of the wideouts had between 10-23 catches last year, which means a second option will have to step up, but as many teams can attest, as long as one deep threat exists, the passing attack should be healthy. The tight end should be set as well, Jack Simmons was decent until he got injured last year.

Defense, Special teams and 2008 predictions to come in part 2...

So I lied.

But it doesn't mean I wasn't working. I was writing a piece to be posted on another site soon, so the Minnesota preview WILL be up tonight. In the meantime, I feel like I've been neglecting basketball, here's a video of highlights from MSU's 2005 Final Four run.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's not Procrastination, It's Quality Control

The Minnesota preview will be up sometime tonight, I need to be next to Phil Steele (as with all decisions in life) to really do it justice. Anyway, here's a few Big Ten links to keep you occupied:

Terrelle Pryor - The Six Million Dollar Man, according to Our Honor Defend. If that's all OSU had to pay to get him, they got a bargain. Don't get uptight Buckeyes - I will happily contribute $10 to OSU's slush fund if and when you beat Michigan this year.

Michigan State's Building a New Baseball Stadium. After a donation of $4 million, construction will begin immediately, which means I'll probably make it out to a game or two this April. MSU's greatest attendance for a game this year was 11,000 for an exhibition with the Lansing Lugnuts in Lansing, and if you think that has everything to do with beer sales, then you would be spot on.

DickRod Hosts U-M Women's Football Academy. Note to Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan - when DickRod says the QB competition is wide open, he means it's wide open.

Lastly, Black Heart Gold Pants has stunning video of the floods in Iowa this past week. Having a grandma that used to live in Iowa, it seems surreal to see all these places underwater, and donate whatever you can. However, you might want to save some money to buy football tickets Hawkeye Fans, or else there might be more tragedy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Programming Note

Nothing new today. I've got a wedding to go to tomorrow (is it mine? I'll figure it out when I get there), but expect a post on Monday with a preview of Minnesota. To get in the Minny spirit, here's a Hold Steady video for you:

Have a good weekend, y'all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Big Ten FB preseason math!

If it's the middle of June, it's time for one thing - Big Ten prognostications! Here's how I think the Big Ten will sort itself out, with a few simple equations:

1. Ohio State: 1st last year + 20 returning starters = craziness to pick anyone else to occupy this spot. However, I can see them dropping a game in conference.

2. Wisconsin: Ohio State+Penn State @ Home = .500, as in they should win 1 of those 2 games. Even with a new QB, they have to go to UM when the Wolverines will be working out kinks, they'll face an Iowa team that struggled to score last year, and an MSU team which will give...God only knows. PJ Hill (#3 returning YPC), Matt Shaugnessy (DE, 2nd team All-BT '07), and an always stalwart OL will make the transition to a new QB as smooth as possible.

3. Penn State: Offense - Morelli+ (Devlin+Clark) = Competence. The defense took a huge hit when Sean Lee went out, but still returns most of its starters to get the #3 spot. Why they're #3 instead of #2 - road trips to Wisconsin and OSU at night, possibly the two worst home environments Penn State can possibly visit, especially breaking in new QBs.

4. MSU: 2008 D-Line = 2007 D-Line. The Defensive line got hit hardest by graduation, especially with the departures of Jonal St. Dic and Ervin Baldwin. Luckily, they're getting Trevor Anderson (HM All-Big East '06), and Tyler Hoover showed high production in the spring game. Hoyer should still be decent, Ringer will still be gnarly, and 4th is what the Spartans will be this year.

5. Illinois: 2008 Juice Williams - Rashard Mendenhall = 2006 Juice Williams. This is not a good thing. Especially when you have to replace J Leman as well. However, there's too much talent on this team not to fall down too far.

6. Purdue: Purdue's Offense = 1/Purdue's Defense. Curtis Painter will probably be the All-Time Big Ten passing leader when this year is said and done, but to get any farther up in the standings, the defense will have to crack down a bit harder. Thus, the mediocre defense is the reciprocal of their explosive offense, and the Boilermakers will go as far as their defense takes them.

7. Michigan: 4 wins < (New Spread Offense - Mobile QB + Above Average Defense) < 11 wins - Honestly, who knows what'll happen here. Best case: Steven Threet has a 3:1 TD:INT ratio, UM's running backs (MCGUFFIE!) hold onto the ball behind their gelled OL, and they finish 10-2 (1 OOC loss, and the loss to OSU - you'll beat them eventually, just not this year.) Worst case - the OL doesn't come together, the RB combined average 3 YPC, Threet has an even TD:INT ratio, and 6-6 is their record, even with their best defensive efforts. Somehow, 7-5 seems about right (remember where this blog came from!)

8. Northwestern: sin(Bacher)*cos(Sutton)/tan(Defense) = You NW grads should be able to understand that equation. I feel Bacher's still going to make mistakes (19 Ints last year), and the Defense won't show a great improvement. However, I feel like I'll regret this ranking the most, and NW could finish as high as 4th this season (covering my ass!)

9. Iowa '07 * Police = 2/3 Iowa '07 = Iowa '08. Iowa tried to remake themselves into the late '80s Miami Hurricanes by losing the City Boyz Inc. , a couple of other players due to sexual assault charges, and, honestly, losing Jake Christensen to jaywalking wouldn't surprise me at this point. Having turmoil at RB (no returning scholarship players at that position), Iowa might be headed for a slightly down year. Why I could be massively wrong: The OL and DL should still be good, and when a team's good in the trenches, good things can happen.

10. Indiana: Offense - James Hardy + Rusty Kellen Davis = whuh-oh. Indiana rode the Believe Train all the way down to Arizona for the Insight bowl last year. However, with the defection of James Hardy to the NFL, and the suspension of star QB Kellen Davis, Indiana might be back to the old days of Indiana football. The Big Ten's returning sack leader, Greg Middleton, will do all in his power to make sure that doesn't happen, but look for a slump this year.

11. Minnesota = WORST TEAM EVAR IN '07 + Promising recruits = 2009. Minnesota was either a hair's breath away from winning 4-5 games last year or pulling a gopher (pun intended) in the win column. New Dual-Threat QB MarQueis Gray might get a chance to start immediately, and should fit well in Tim Brewster's system. They'll win more games than last year, but it's still going to take a year or two for Goldy to climb out of the cellar.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's Out - Phil Steele hits bookstores today

It's June 10th, and you know what that means - Phil Steele's College Football Preview hits bookstores today! I've had it since Saturday, and here are a few thoughts on the Spartans on Phil's All Big-Ten teams.

- Javon Ringer - 1st team All-BT, 3rd team AA: This seems reasonable. Ringer is tied with Beanie Wells for the best returning YPC (5.9) in the Big Ten, and looks to up his TD total from last year (6) with the loss of Jehuu Caulcrick. Look for him to be in the double-digits for TDs this year.

- Roland Martin, 2nd team All-BT - The Offensive Guard hasn't quite lived up to his huge expectations (Steele's #2 OL recruit in the '04 class), but make no mistake - he's a big dude (6-5, 325), and with the depth MSU has on the OL, if he goes down, there's going to be big trouble for the running game, even with Ringer.

- Greg Jones, 2nd team All-BT - In his freshman year, the OLB was named a Freshman All-American, starting halfway through the season, and is MSU's leading returner in sacks (4.5). Look for him to at least equal this standing, even if he moves to MLB with the graduation of Kaleb Thornhill.

- Eric Gordon, 3rd team All-BT - Like Jones, an OLB, and also like Jones, has three years of eligibility remaining. He seemed to get stronger as the season went on last year, and hopefully he can carry that momentum into camp and the season.

- Otis Wiley, 4th team All-BT - This ranking has slipped; he was 2nd team All-BT by the coaches and media in '06, and wasn't even honorable mention in '07. I attribute this to a lack of production, mainly because he wasn't having to chase down ball-carriers in the secondary as much in '07. He makes the switch from FS to SS full-time this season, and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Recruiting Update - MSU Commit #7

Michigan State picked up a verbal commitment last night from Patrick White out of Pickerington High School in Ohio. Currently, White is a 3-star player and the 98th best WR by Scout; he's currently unranked by Rivals. However, he has offers from 15 schools, such as Oregon, Kansas, and Cincinnati. Seems like another solid pick-up, and could project out as a CB, although by the time he steps foot on campus, he'll be 3rd on the depth chart of WRs named "White", behind Blair and Myles. At least MSU'll save money on the back of the jerseys.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Welcome all!

Walking to the Union amongst all the downed trees today, I couldn't think of a more appropriate time to this start this blog. A note about the name - I in no way encourage, advocate or condone rioting at MSU. I hate the reputation they bring as much as anyone, and if you're thinking about rioting at MSU sometime in the future, let me know so I can forward your name to the authorities. I came up with the name when I started to post on EDSBS a few months ago, and it's something I thought had a nice ring to it. By the name, I'm not envisioning MSU as a smoking crater in the ground, but rather as a place where, 6-7 Saturdays each fall, turns into a bonanza of football, delicious food, and of course, feats of spectacular alcohol consumption.

I've been a huge MSU sports fan ever since I've started attending Michigan State (dad tried to raise me as a UM fan, it stuck around until high school when I first visited EL). Since then, I've seen MSU's triumphs (2005 Final Four, 2007 NCAA hockey champions, etc.) and its share of less-than-triumphs (the whole John L. era save the first season, riots, etc.) Essentially, there are two things to help you cope with the latter - Popov blue label, and a sense of humor.

Thus, with nothing else really going on right now in my life, I've made a decision to start a blog about MSU athletics. Feel free to comment, praise, and harangue me, for the internet's third chief export, behind pornography and people getting hit in the groin, is anonymous slander.

Anyway, there'll be some real MSU stuff up in the next day or so.