Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cal: The Aftermath

Well, that didn't go as planned. Here are my thoughts:


Mark Dell-
Well, so much for having to worry about having a threat at wide receiver. Dell had 9 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown, making him the fourth Spartan wide receiver all time to have a 200+ yard receiving game. He would've been MSU's player of the game, if it wasn't for...

Otis Wiley
- There were two losses here tonight - the one suffered by MSU and the one suffered by Nate Longshore. His starting career had the final nail put in its coffin by Wiley, who picked Longshore off twice, and returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown. Wiley seems to have returned to the form that made him second-team All-Big Ten in 2006.

Greg Jones
- Still leading the team in tackles, and also led the team in tackles for losses last night. In other words, still a manimal.


Special Teams -
Ugh. This unit looked positively John L. Smithian. On the first couple punts, Shackleford snapped the ball to Bates too low, causing those punts to be poor, or in some cases, not punts at all, as Cal returned one of those for a touchdown. Swenson missed a 40 yard field goal wide wide left, and a timeout had to be called in the fourth quarter becuase 10 men were out on the field for the field goal attempt initially. Overall, special teams looked discombobulated and frantic - extremely uncharacteristic of a Dantonio coached team.

The OL - Ringer should never be held to three yards a carry. Granted, I think the coaching staff could've helped out more by running outside a bit more (the most successful run of the night was the 10 yard touchdown run to the left), but the line opened few holes during the night, and all too often was allowing Hoyer to be pressured.

The Ugly

Brian Hoyer -
I still don't know what to make of him, as again, he did just enough to make the game close, but not win it. He seems to have focused in on one target again, replacing Devin Thomas with Mark Dell. The hangover from the Champps Sports Bowl seems to have continued, as he was 20-48 with an interception. That interception was of the killer variety, as it was thrown from Cal's 15 and took at least three points off the board. The flip side of that though is that those 20 completions went for 321 yards, so at least the big play potential is still there. The loss isn't completely his fault, the OL couldn't get the run game going all day. I've rambled a bit here, so I'll end on this: between the Hoyer that played at Penn State and the one that played today, will the real Brian Hoyer please stand up?

The team as a whole - All of last year, I didn't see a team as disjointed and confused as the one out there last night looked. Special teams was a mess. False start and offsides penalties were kept to a minimum, but there were more than a few face masks and pass intereferences. Let's hope that the Cal game is the exception that proves the rule.

Overall, this game still could've been won by MSU if the special teams executed properly. Take away the punt return for a touchdown and add in the field goal that Swenson missed, and Michigan State wins 34-31. All told though, Cal deserved to win this game - even though they had their share of mistakes too (the punt going through the punter Anger's fingers, the roughing the punter call that kept a touchdown drive alive for MSU), they were the most composed team on the field. The 3-4 played more like a 5-2, and the inside linebackers stuffed most anything that came their way.

All right, enough dwelling on the past. I'm ready for Eastern Michigan and the first home game of the season. It's six more days until the first home game, and I have gone from unofficially pumped, to officially pumped. Who's with me?

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Finally. To greater enjoy the first game of the year, take in these three highlight videos from PortlandSpartan of Spartan Tailgate. Portland gets +100 COCKTAILS for his inspired choice of music, especially using "Futures" by Jimmy Eat World.

If I feel like it, my thoughts on the Cal game might pop up on here in real time, but probably not.
Have a fantastic weekend.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Genesis of a season

Jesus: has a tendency to call a draw on 3rd down.

In the end, Michigan State was wiped out by Memphis. Many wide stares were exchanged, and the people felt lost. The patrons drank their beers, tonics and whiskeys, and went out into the night. Thus ended the first month.

In the second month, a glimmer of hope radiated from the heavens for one Saturday afternoon, as football was played in the church. The leaders of the offenses were clad in red, and although the pews were not quite full, the people were glad for what they received. Thus ended the second month.

In the third month, the people began to look elsewhere for hope. The Tigers were lost, the Pistons were accomplished but haughty, and the Red Wings talented, but shaky. The people watched anyway, and saw the Tigers and Pistons descend, but the Red Wings arise. Also at this time, the people discovered that there is a limit to the amount of Boneless Buffalo Wild Wings you can eat, and that volumes of those should be kept to less than a hogshead. Thus ended the third month.

In the fourth month, the Wings won the Stanley Cup, and the people rejoiced. The Tigers still had not answered the people's prayers. There were many feats of individual achievement, especially by the prophets named Nadal and Woods. Even though the bars were full, the people's hearts were still empty. Thus ended the fourth month.

In the fifth month, the people languished. The Tigers had shown glimmers of hope, but continued to fall into the abyss. The sky was alit with red, light and, blue, but the people's hearts were still dark. Nevertheless, they did not despair, especially with many new conversions of the young people, holding oblong brown orgs, to play for the faith. Thus ended the fifth month.

In the sixth month, the people saw signs of activity. From near the church, whistles and shouts and Motown was blared. The town bustled. Surely, this was what they had been waiting for! Many long months, the people had waited, were patient, and finally, their prayers were about to be answered, even though the Tigers still sucked. The church was about to be filled again. Thus ended the sixth month.

In the seventh month, the people rested. It was the beginning.

Let there be light.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big 10 Pick 'em

Thanks to Gopher Nation/The Daily Gopher for putting the Pick 'Em contest together.

Here are my picks for all of the Big Ten Games this week:

Indiana over Western Kentucky
OSU over Youngstown St.
Penn St. over Coastal Carolina
Wisconsin over Akron
Iowa over Maine
Minnesota over NIU

File all these games in the "Pimping out the MAC/1-AA" category. If there's an upset in any one of these game, it's most likely going to be NIU over Minnesota, mainly due to NIU having the greatest degree of competency (that is to say: little) among all the sacrificial lambs.

Northwestern over Syracuse

Well, at least this game is against a BCS opponent. Northwestern has a chance to redeem themselves from their hilarious loss to Duke last year with an opponent of about the Blue Devils' character. Expect C.J. Bacher to throw the ball from Evanston to Chesterton.

Michigan over Utah

Now we're getting to the interesting games. For the record, I hate myself for making this pick. However, it seems like everyone is picking Utah to win this game, and in a game with the spread as close as it is (UM - 3.5 at last check), that unanimity in thought is a sign to pick the other way. I think the offense will resemble the Exxon Valdez, but the tailbacks will break 1 or 2 big plays, and the defense will get 3 takeways. That'll be enough...but barely.

MSU over Cal

See here for the preview. There's rumors that Jimmerson and Curry might be out for this game, but the 1st stringers will pull through.

Missouri over Illinois

I'm still not sold on Juice Williams. He barely had more TD tosses than interceptions last year (13/12 ratio). Mendenhall's in the NFL, and the tailback replacing him (Dufrene) has good stats, but is inexperienced (6.2 YPC, but less than 50 rushes in his career). Add to that the loss of J Leman on the defensive side, and I think Missouri wins this in decisive fashion, by a double-digit margin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Michigan State Season Preview

Note: If you're looking for the Cal Preview, it's just below this post, or you can click here.

Another Note: This piece I wrote for EDSBS's Guest Lecturer series (sample here). Suffice to say, it's going to be a lot different then most of the normal previews you read. Just like a 70's party, throw your keys in the bowl, and go with it.

One: What color is your season? In other words, please explain the metaphorical state of your program through the metaphor of color:

Orange. Green or White is too obvious, but orange is about right; the color has drastically different meanings for the offense and defense. For the offense, orange designates explosiveness – for all the talk of Mark Dantonio going back to a more pro-set, ball control offense, MSU was first in the Big Ten in conference in both yards gained and points scored last year. For the defense, orange foretells of structural damage in the defense. The Spartans gave up the third most points in conference last year, loses most of their defensive line, and C.J. Bacher is still haunting my nightmares to this day.

Two: What historical nation and period do you resemble most right now?

Scotland, Circa early 14th century. Scotland, whose armies were once led by a successful at first but ultimately raving madman in William Wallace (THE SCOTS ARE PILLAGING THEIR TAILS OFF, AND JOHN COMYN IS SCREWING IT UP!). William was also into taunting, such as mooning/flag planting. Wallace eventually resigned as guardian, and Scotland was in turmoil until Robert the Bruce (Dantonio) came in to right the ship. After Robert rose to King of Scotland, he had a string of defeats, which leads up to the current state of the program. The rest from here on out is prognostication for MSU/Scottish history. Robert eventually triumphed several times against England (Michigan), who was transferring over the throne from successful Edward I (Carr) to flamboyant Edward II (DickRod), much different than his father. Eventually, Scotland won their independence from England, and Edward II was executed upon a red-hot poker.

Three: You have important players. Discuss a few of them hastily.

Javon Ringer: The one player on MSU you might have heard of if you’re outside the Midwest. I won’t bore with you with the 1447 yards, 6 TDs (the Liberian Lumberjack, Jehuu Caulcrick was scoring most of those last year), and his 5.9 YPC, so I’ll say this: he has a black belt in karate. Sam McGuffie hurdles tacklers, Javon kicks their heads off.

Brian Hoyer: Interesting fact – most likely went red-green colorblind between the Penn State and Boston College bowl game last season, as he had 7 interceptions during the regular season (2nd rated passer in the Big Ten during that period), and threw four to in the bowl game. We’ll see this year how much of his success was due to Devin Thomas.

Greg Jones: Recruited away from Minnesota after Glen Mason was canned, he started the second half of the season as a true freshman, was MSU’s leading tackler, and earned Freshman All-American honors. He’ll most likely start at MLB this season, and hopefully marks a return to the Julian Peterson Percy Snow days of LBs at State.

Four: Name two games we might actually want to watch featuring your team.

August 30th – MSU @ Cal: It’s on prime time, so you’ve got no excuse. It’ll be the first time Hoyer plays without Devin Thomas at his disposal, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can recreate the big play with wideouts that were thrown to sparingly last season. Ringer against Cal’s experienced LB corps should be a battle, and if State wins, the next halfway difficult away crowd will be…

October 25th – MSU @ Michigan: With an emphasis on the word “halfway” in the previous sentence. MSU has dropped the last six games in this series (some of those in spectacular fashion). If it’s a close game, I’m just glad Henne won’t be able to find Braylon Edwards or Manningham for a 4th quarter comeback. If Michigan’s one-dimensional in the offense at this time, expect to see the victory couch fires in East Lansing from space.

Four-A: Save us all some time and mention the game we’re better off NOT watching.

September 6th: MSU v. EMU – I would’ve said Florida Atlantic, but you should watch that game just to guess FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger’s BAC on the sidelines. Even during the John L. Smith era, the Eastern Michigan game was always a guaranteed five-touchdown win.

Five: Every hero forgets something in their toolbelt. What does your team lack?

Depth on the lines, and at QB. The offensive line returns three starters, they will be decent unless injuries force second-stringers to start, of which means a few freshmen and converted defensive lineman would have to start. The defensive line has an entirely different problem; three starters graduated, and although talent exists (Trevor Anderson was honorable mention Big East in ’06, Antonio Jeremiah was a highly regarded recruit, Tyler Hoover looked good in spring ball), it’s inexperienced. In what might become an apocalypse, if Brian Hoyer goes out, there's only one quarterback on scholarship (a redshirt freshman) to replace him, and if he goes out, the natives will start to bring couches to the fire.

Six: Describe your team with a Jimmy Buffett song. No, we’re serious–do it.

Come Monday. Dad had Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hits, and that’s about as far as my experiences with Buffett go. I’d rather be telling you what teams in the Big Ten resemble Arcade Fire members (Win Butler = OSU, Règine Chassagne = Michigan). However, I took a liking to Come Monday, mainly because my hometown is where Hush Puppies shoes are made. This song represents a team who will make a trip to San Francisco (Berkley) during Labor Day weekend and a team that wasn’t meant for glitter rock and roll (the spread offense).

Headin' up to San Francisco
for the Labor Day weekend show,
I've got my hush-puppies on,
I guess I never was meant for
glitter rock and roll.
And honey I didn't know
that I'd be missin' you so.

Seven: We’re master wagerers. Give us a bet to place for up to ten dollars about your team.

MSU wins at least eight games this season. Between Cal, EMU, FAU, and Notre Dame in the nonconference; I think they’ll lose one of those. The away games are Indiana, NU, Michigan and Penn State. They’ll win the Indiana and Northwestern games, drop the Penn State game, and Michigan’s a toss-up. The home games are Iowa, OSU, Purdue and Wisconsin. I believe they’ll beat Iowa and Purdue, lose to OSU, with the Wisconsin game a toss-up. That means MSU needs to win both of their toss-ups, or one of their toss-ups and the bowl game, which I would put $10 on. If you really wanted to play it safe, I’d go eight, but that’s why it’s called gambling. However, I just lost $80 on blackjack at the casino, thus I'm in no mood to gamble. Play it safe and go with eight wins.

Cal Preview


MSU is 2-1 all time against the Golden Bears, with the last game in 2002. This was the game that sounded the death march for the Bobby Williams era, as Kyle Boller shredded the secondary, and Cal won 46-22. All of a sudden, the Jeff Tedford era was off and running. Four years later, the greatest moment in Golden Bears football history happened:

To this date, no other football program in history has had a postgame celebration topped off by one of its players ghost riding da whip on an injury cart. Kudos to you Marshawn Lynch.

Cal Rushing vs. MSU Rush Defense

There's a lot of optimism in the rushing game this year, mainly due to Jahvid Best. Best was the Bears' kick returner, and also rushed for over 7 yards a carry last year. Pretty impressive, but keep in mind that number's based on only 27 rushes, which is a pretty small sample to draw conclusions from. Nevertheless, expect him to be a good to great running back for Cal this season, and MSU will get him fresh. Cal's O-line is more good than they are bad, even if their starting LT is out. Blocking will not be their Achilles' heel.

Can MSU stop the rush? It's going to be a bit dodgy with all the new starters on the defensive line. I'd feel more confident if Greg Jones was starting in the middle; however, he's starting outside due to Adam Decker's emergence as the #3 LB in the unit. I expect MSU to get their fair share of stops, but overall, I'm going to have to say...
Advantage: Cal (slight to moderate)

Cal Passing vs. MSU Pass defense
California has finally decided on a starting QB; he is Kevin Riley. In his press conference, Tedford said Riley can "make plays with his legs" (provided there's more than 30 seconds left in the game), so presumptively that's why he got the nod over last year's starter, Nate Longshore. However, Longshore will play at a predetermined time by Tedford in this game, so there'll be a little of both. Also, Cal's starting left tackle, he who can supposedly handle 245 lb. defensive ends at 80%, is most likely out. About the receivers, Tedford said that there would be "a bit of a learning curve", the kind of quote that does not promote confidence in the first game.

As for MSU, the secondary will still be missing Roderick Jenrette most likely, but Kendall Davis-Clark should be a more than adequate replacement. Otis Wiley will hopefully play like he did the second half of last year, and Chris L. Rucker and Ross Weaver are both experienced corners. Let's hope this doesn't turn into the abortion the Northwestern game was last year.

Edge: MSU (Moderate)

MSU Rushing vs. Cal Rush Defense

For MSU, it's Javon Ringer, Javon Ringer, and Javon Ringer. The highlight of this game will be which running back can produce the most - Best or Ringer. A.J. Jimmerson and Andre Anderson will get a few carries as well, along with whoever's playing FB (Hawken or McPherson) when a 3rd and short comes around.

As for Cal, they've switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, most likely to highlight their LB corps, which might just be the best set of linebackers in the Pac-10. However, the defensive line has looked iffy, and if MSU lines up in a power I, that might force Cal to go deeper on the line.

Advantage: MSU (slight to moderate)

MSU Passing vs. Cal Pass Defense

Brian Hoyer has had a long, long time to think about this game. He had a performance that could only be described as horrendous in the Champps Sports Bowl, in which, I believe, he went red-green colorblind, which is the best explanation for why he threw so many picks to the Boston College secondary. The only returning receivers with any tangible experience are Mark Dell and Deon Curry. B.J. Cunningham, Fred Smith and Keshawn Martin are all talented but have the same amount of college game experience, which would be zero. It'll take a couple games for Hoyer to get used to them.

The Cal secondary was average to above average last year, and some of that should carry over. They'll need to be good, because they most likely won't get any push with the defensive line.

Advantage: Push

Special Teams

All of MSU's returners are new. It'll be intersting to see how Jimmerson and Davis-Clark return kickoffs, and how Wiley returns punts. Compare those three to Jahvid Best, and I think it's obvious to see who gets the Best out of that matchup (Sorry, I knew I wasn't going to make it through without one Best related pun). Cal's starting kicker last year, Justin Kay, was benched to make way for true freshman David Seawright. Well Justin, that's what will happen if you only go 2 of 5 of your 30-40 yarders. Brett Swenson is still solid from inside the 40 for MSU. At last, we get to the true pyrotechnics of this preview: punting. Cal has two redshirt freshmen on the depth chart, while MSU has do-it-all punter Aaron Bates - emergency 3rd string QB, and also was in the bottom 10 in net punting in 1-A. Ouch.

Edge: Cal (Moderate)


How does one determine who's going to have the better game plan? I've always hated these parts of predictions, were the writer see two evenly matched coaches, looks at tea leaves and portents who will have the better game plan. I'll say this much: Dantonio and Tedford are two good I-A coaches. Let's call this part a push, and keep going.

Edge: Push


This'll be a good, close game. Both teams are relatively green at wide receiver, have explosive running backs, and experience at QB. It's going to come down to defense, namely the defensive line. I gotta believe that come the 3rd and 4th quarter, MSU will tire out the 3-4 of Cal by running Ringer et al. up the middle. It'll be close, but MSU comes out of Berkley the winner.

Final Score: MSU 28, Cal 21.

Coming up Tomorrow: My Guest Lecturer piece on MSU for EDSBS that didn't quite make the chopping block.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Depth Chart is Out

The depth chart is out for the Cal game, and can be seen here (PDF). Some areas of note:

  • The Offensive Line panned out as the coaches expected, with Cironi, Bacon, Nitchman, Martin and Miller starting from left to right along the line. Gantt, also as expected, is the starting TE.
  • Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are the starting wideouts, with Blair White and Deon Curry backing them up respectively. Also of note, Freshmen Keshawn Martin and Fred Smith are respectively 3rd and 4th string.
  • Backup running back: A.J. Jimmerson.
  • Dwayne Holmes, Brandon Long, Colin Neely and Trevor Anderson are all listed as starters at Defensive End. This is mainly due to Long and Anderson not quite being 100%.
  • Adam Decker gets the start at Middle Linebacker, The Manimal moves outside.
  • Kendall Davis-Clark moves to Free Safety to cover for Roderick Jenrette, which pushes Otis Wiley to Strong Safety. Chris L. Rucker and Ross Weaver are the starting Cornerbacks.
  • Trying to replace the extremely capable hands of Devin Thomas at Kick Returner are Kendall Davis-Clark and A.J. Jimmerson. Replacing Terry "Fair Catch" Love at Punt Returner is Otis Wiley.

Cal preview coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Welcome Freshmen, and other FB news

Freshmen move into the dorms @ MSU today, more on that later.

First off, there was a scrimmage on Sunday, which, by the coaching staff's arcane scoring system, the defense won by six points, 67-61. Here's what was up:


  • It looks like the TE problem may potentially be solved. Charlie Gantt had 4 catches for 68 yards and 2 TDs.

  • Greg Jones - still a manimal. Six tackles, three of them for losses. Don't let the man in the picture fool you, Jones is part eagle, part cat, which, now that I write that, is pretty much what a griffin is. So I guess Greg "The Griffin" Jones is apropos here.

  • The defense improved upon its showing in the previous scrimmage, with fewer long passes given up, and the front seven apparently created havoc at every turn. Of course, the tricky thing about scrimmages, is that if the defense looks good, the offense looks...


  • Not so good. As I previously said, the offensive line got wrecked by the defensive line, and it showed as no QB completed more than 50% of his passes during the scrimmage.
  • Also, the running game needs some work too, as the RBs average less than 3 yards a carry during the scrimmage. The silver lining to this cloud is that I think MSU was this bad last year in YPC during the scrimmages, and that turned out all right.

So there it is. I think the team's ready to give Cal a good game, and it helps that their starting LT is out. More on that next week, because it's Wednesday of Welcome Week, and that means...

Freshmen move into the dorms today. Having worked on campus all summer, it's always a shock to have campus populated just above a ghost town and below Fire Island during the winter. Of course, there's probably a few of you who still need to get to Sophomore status (like Walter. If you caught that reference, Don't Just Sit There and give yourself +100 COCKTAILS), but at least you know what's up. Freshmen, to have a good week, remember these three tips:

1. Getting into parties is pretty easy. If you're a girl, all you have to do is walk up and soak in the desperation from hordes of dudes who spent their summers drunk, smoking whatever was handed to them at Rothbury, and hooked up with the same hometown girl until August came around. They will be desperate. Milk them for all it's worth. If you're a guy, it's a little harder. You'll have to pay to get a cup, but it won't be more than $5 (Don't let anyone charge you more than $5 for a keg of lukewarm Busch Light. Don't get me wrong, you're a freshman, but you're better than that.). Or, if you really want to live the high life, find the nearest fraternity, and say these four words: "When. Does. Rush. Start.". Pin your dorm room address to your person, and prepare to drown in a tidal wave of Jager. That said:

2. Don't be the guy who thinks they can outdrink everyone at said party. You'll end up losing, because no matter how much you drank in high school, there's a guy who drank just as much plus the seven years it took him to get to his Senior year. So yeah, just relax on that.

3. If you get really hammered, walk back in a group. You'll look less like a drunk, and the East Lansing police get dollar signs when they see that. Once you make it back to campus in said group, if it's after 2 (which, if you're doing it right, it should be), find where you're at, call Night Owl @ (517) 432-8888, and they'll drive you back to your dorm, assuming you still have your dorm address pinned on you. If not, you're spending tonight trying to curl up in a booth at Denny's, which you're not bettter than.

Alright, I've dropped enough knowledge today. More later.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Big Ten Pickin' time

The good folks over @ SpartyMSU and The Enlightened Spartan are picking all the Spartan games this season, and they were kind enough to let me join in. Here are my picks, and I've got MSU going 8-4/5-3 this season:

Best possibility for an expected loss I didn't predict: Wisconsin. Depth could be an issue by that point in the season, and Wisconsin seems to grow 300 lb. white dudes on trees. If we lose, expect the lines to be an issue.

Best possibility to get upset: Northwestern. This game is going to be tricky like it was last year. Luckily, the crowd should be split 50/50 @ Ryan Field, and it'll be tough for C.J. Bacher to have another game against us like he did last season. Still, if Jenrette's not back by that time, our secondary's going to have to step up big time.

@ Cal - Win
EMU - Win
FAU - Win
Notre Dame - Loss
@Indiana - Win
Iowa - Win
@NW - Win
OSU - Loss
@ UM - Win
Wisky - Win
Purdue - Loss
PSU - Loss

I'll put my thinking behind each pick before each preview, which will go up the Wednesday before each game.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Sorry, I've been in between leases, so I haven't had many chances to post lately. Without further ado, here we go.

The real big note today was that three freshman football players are facing charges of failure to yield to police. As says the Lansing State Journal in this article:

Safety Charles Burrell, defensive end Cameron Jude and walk-on receiver Mitchell White were cited June 30 for fleeing from campus police when approached and ordered to stop near Snyder Hall, said Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III.

Whoops. To make matters worse, Burrell missed his pretrial hearing, and an arrest warrant has now been issued. So to recap, our players aren't thugs, but made a stupid, stupid mistake, kind of like purchasing anything with "extended warranty" on the box or betting on the Lions to make the Super Bowl. I don't think they'll miss any playing time, and even if they did, it shouldn't have a real effect on the roster, because White is a walk-on, and Jude and Burrell aren't in the two-deep.