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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

And we're off...Big Ten predictions before Live Blog tomorrow

Finally, the 1st week of the games that count in the Big Ten. Sorry I couldn't put up a significant MSU preview like I usually do, life got in the way this week. Here we go:

Michigan State vs. Indiana

Man, IU looked bad in that Ball State loss. It's one thing to be the fourth best team in your state, it's another thing all together if that state is Indiana. However, one can never discount a team that has Kellen Davis and Greg Middleton. I fully expect Kellen Davis to have a few big plays in this game, even though MSU's secondary has improved significantly since the Cal game. However, IU's secondary has been brutalized more than MSU's has. The Hoosiers will be without three starters of their secondary. Ringer won't have as many carries as he's had in the previous weeks, simply because Brian Hoyer will feast on the secondary. If there was ever a time for Mark Dell to have a second 200 yard game this season, this is it. Indiana has playmakers on both sides of the ball, but signifcant deficiencies on both offense and defense will doom them.

Michigan State 38, Indiana 17

Northwestern vs. Iowa

Northwestern and Minnesota split for the title of "Most unimpressive 4-0 team in the Big Ten". Northwestern looks like the opposite of the Wildcat team from 2007, because the defense has mainly won games for them this year. C.J. Bacher hasn't looked like the same quarterback he was last year, is this the game he breaks out? Meanwhile, Iowa is coming off a tough loss to Pitt, and seems to have settled on Ricky Stanzi as starting quarterback. If Bacher doesn't come up with a few touchdowns, Northwestern's going to lose this game. I have a feeling he'll try....but Iowa's defensive line will carry the win for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa 24, Northwestern 17

Wisconsin vs. Michigan

Wisconsin holds the Big Ten's best win so far, @ Fresno State. It's been typical Wisconsin football so far - barrel into the defensive line with stout running back and score, or run until single coverage opens up downfield, throw football, score. Michigan's defense will look better this week, mainly because they won't have to defend horrible field position half the time. The Wolverines' offense will also be competent this week. However, competent won't cut it against the Badger defense.

Wisconsin 27, Michigan 16

Minnesota vs. Ohio State

Minnesota will probably claim the title of the Big Ten's most improved team this year, due to their 400% increase in wins to this point. This week, the Golden Gophers will face an opponent with a pulse as they face the Buckeyes. For as much as Minny's win total has improved, the defense has still allowed a lot of yards. Expect game two of the Terrelle Pryor era to be better than game one.

Ohio State 41, Minnesota 20

Purdue vs. Notre Dame

Jimmy Clausen looked like a competent quarterback last week against MSU, especially in the 3rd quarter, when he was completing 5-and-10 yard slants and running Notre Dame right down the field. He'll throw a pick or two (or three) in this game, though, and I expect Purdue to capitalize. Those interceptions will most likely be the difference in the game. As for Purdue, the Boilermaker fans might start to wonder (if they haven't already) if the best player on offense this year isn't Curtis Painter, but Kory Sheets.

Purdue 27, Notre Dame 24

Illinois vs. Penn State

Can Juice Williams and Areelie... Areellld... Benn pull the Illini to victory? It's definitely possible, but Penn State has definitely shown to be the most impressive Big Ten team to this point. Also, that game against Louisiana Lafayette has cast a lot of doubt on UI (seriously, who scores more points on Missouri than a 1-AA team?). This will be the Spread HD's first true test, and it should pass muster. It won't be as impressive as their previous games, but Penn State will decisively win.

Penn State 27, Illinois 13

Coming tomorrow: a live blog of the Indiana game.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big Ten Round Table, Week 4

Thanks to Boiled Sports for putting on this week's version of the Round Table.

1. We're all car guys here at BS. So your task is to assign your own program a vehicle. Is Purdue an all-terrain vehicle like a Jeep or a Hummer? Something befitting a brawny Boilermaker? Is Ohio State a slow, conversion van being passed by Corvettes with USC markings? Is IU a John Deere tractor with a hillbilly riding on it? Get creative and let us know both what your school is if it’s a car as well as assigning a vehicle to as many of the other Big Ten schools as you like. (I’d require you to do them all but I know attention spans are short and counting to 11 is hard.)

I was giving thought to what Michigan State would be. Obvioulsly something big and plodding, and then it finally hit me:

That's right. Michigan State is a big ol' cement truck. The cement truck's main function is to get the cement to its destination by ground, just like how MSU's offensive M.O. is to have Ringer barrel head first into the defensive line until they finally give. But you say, shouldn't MSU be a bulldozer? No, because a bulldozer is one-dimensional: see target structure, knock down target structure. At least that's what the game Blast Corps taught me.

Blast Corps: teaching you how to save the town from nuclear annihilation, one destructive act at a time.

Anyway, back to the cement truck metaphor. Once the ground game is established/cement truck reaches its destination, the secondary function takes over. The cement, which has been spinning idly in the truck, pours out, and in MSU's case, Brian Hoyer throws a deep ball. Even though Hoyer may complete that ball only a third of the time, the defense now has to stay honest, clearing the way for the running attack to continue, or the cement truck to get to its destination.

2. In Week 1 in the NFL, the New England Patriots learned how precious things can be when Tom Brady had his knee blown out by a former Boilermaker. Let’s say your team wins out from here to the end and is in a BCS bowl game with a chance to do the school and conference proud – what ONE player on your squad would you most likely cry about having his knee blown out in the first quarter? That is, who is truly indispensable?

It's Ringer, and I think everybody knows why by now. Instead of dwelling on that point, I'll tell you who I think is second most indispensable. I'd say strong safety Otis Wiley has returned to his 2006 form, but he's better than that. He leads the Big Ten with four interceptions, and has been all over the field so far this year. His interceptions against Cal helped keep MSU in the game, and he had a critical pick against Notre Dame which set up the first MSU touchdown. He's the most dynamic playmaker on the MSU defense, and if he goes down, there's nobody really suitable at safety to replace him currently.

3) Purdue plays Notre Dame this week and, well, we detest Notre Dame like probably no other program. Let’s say I have the power to force you (maybe you lost a bet to me) to wear another Big Ten school’s colors to an away game for that team. That is, you’re wearing OSU colors to a game being played at Michigan, or something like that. And I’m talking, dorky, head-to-toe… goofy-ass sweatshirts and flat-brimmed, ridiculous-looking hats. If you have to choose, which program would you be able to stomach wearing? (Remember, you’re going to an away game, so people won’t like you and accept you and you’ll be taking this abuse for a school you’re not even affiliated with.) And by the same token, what program could you absolutely not EVER stomach wearing, under any circumstances?

If I'm going to make a complete ass of myself and wear another team's colors, I'm at least going to do it wearing a team that I respect, and that'd be Illinois. I've respected them ever since they used to be the only team MSU could beat on a consistent basis; that ship has sailed though. I still have respect for them when they rooted on MSU at the 2005 Final Four. Plus, out of all the fans I've met out of the Big Ten, I definitely believe that the Illini most closely approximate MSU - I don't have any info to back that up, it's just a vibe I got. As for colors I would never wear, let's just let this picture do all the talking:

Take it easy there - you've got to spread your disappointment over a whole Big Ten schedule. You don't want to blow your wad on Wisconsin.

4) I like big butts and I can not lie. Share your embarrassing guilty pleasure music selection that you know other people might laugh at. Bonus points if you can send a YouTube video of an awful music video with it. Many/most of us grew up and/or went to college in the ‘80s and ‘90s so I know you’ve all got some Nelson After The Rain on the iPod.

I've spent the last decade in either high school or college, so I've got a couple. The one that's stayed with me is "Escape" by Enrique Iglesias. The music video isn't embarrassing enough, so I had to dig deep into the YouTubes and find the song set to a Titanic montage.

You know it's good because OceanHeartsx gave it 5 starts.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Life Getting in the Way...

Assignments, Homework, Laundry, blah blah blah. I'll have a post up about the ND game later today. As for now, let's see how the Notre Dame blogs are taking the loss:

Blue-Gray Sky has a well-reasoned rundown.

Her Loyal Sons attempts to calm the Notre Dame fanbase.

Three Guys in a Basement tries to cope with the fact that Notre Dame had no rushing attack.

My thoughts a bit later. For now, enjoy this picture of Hispanic Sparty:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Notre Dame Preview, in which the Author Attempts Not to Make a Fat Joke

Alright, can we all agree on something? The "Charile Weis is Fat" thing is just like Buck Nasty's suit: bombed out and depleted. Besides, he's only the second biggest thing present whenever he enters a room, next to his ego (rimshot). Without further ado, here is the preview for the MSU-ND game (3:30, ABC).


They've gone 2-0 so far this year, with a thoroughly unimpressive victory against San Diego State and a win that was gift-wrapped to them by Michigan. It goes without saying that they've looked thoroughly uninspired at times, but they don't have a loss on their record yet, and in the end, that's all one can ask for.


The Fighting Irish rush offense has been less than great this season, averaging 3.1 YPC against San Diego State, and improved last week against Michigan, when they averaged 3.3 YPC. The two main running backs for Notre Dame are Armando Allen and Robert Hughes. Hughes has been the main back of late; he's rushed for 133 yards on 36 carries (3.7 YPC) for two touchdowns. Armando Allen had some playing time against San Diego State, but only had two carries for four yards against Michigan. As for the MSU run defense, they've been middle of the road so far, ranking 69th in 1-A, allowing an average of 137 yards per game. Keep in mind, however, that most of that yardage was gained due to California eviscerating the defensive line. The Spartans may be average run stoppers so far, but average will be enough to gain an edge against Notre Dame's still improving line.

Advantage: MSU (Slight to Moderate)


Jimmy Clausen is probably the third best quarterback Michigan State has faced thus far. That statement's not necessarily a knock on Clausen, it's a statement to the quality of Kevin Riley and Rusty Smith (albeit he was playing in conditions that had this blogger start gathering the materials for an ark). Nevertheless, Clausen does look improved from last year, as he's completed just under 60% of his passes for five touchdowns. Unfortunately, he's been intercepted four times as well, and it's never good when your QB is being intercepted once on every 13.75 pass attempts. Clausen appears to have a burgeoning deep threat in Golden Tate; he's caught 10 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns this year, with a long of 60 yards. Michigan State's pass defense ranks 34th in 1-A, but to do due diligence, that number is probably buoyed by the abysmal conditions for passing last week. The corners made a couple of good plays last week, and it'll be interesting if the MSU front seven can sack Clausen for the first time this year. I think Notre Dame will have to pass a lot due to a lack of a consistent running game, and I believe the Irish will have some success.

Advantage: Notre Dame (slight to moderate)


Javon Ringer played himself onto the Heimsan watch list last week with his 282 yard, 2 touchdown performance against FAU. His YPC hasn't been as high this year as in previous ones, but he still has a 4.8 YPC, with 498 rushing yards and an NCAA high nine touchdowns. MSU is still trying to decide on a backup; as of now the role is split three ways between junior A.J. Jimmerson and redshirt freshmen Andre Anderson and Ashton Leggett. Hopefully one will seize the role before Ringer is run into the ground. As for Notre Dame's run defense, they rank 52nd in 1-A with an average of 115 yards allowed. However, they gave up over 100 yards to Sam McGuffie last week. This'll be the most lopsided advantage of the game, and it's going to go in MSU's favor.

Advantage: MSU (quite large)


Since the Cal game, Brian Hoyer has taken a back seat to the run game, throwing only 12 passes against EMU and 15 passes against FAU (he probably would've had more pass attempts if it weren't for the monsoon). He did what he needed to against Notre Dame last year, on one hand he completed less than 50% of his passes in that game, but on the other hand, he threw four touchdowns. He'll probably attempt around 25 passes this game, and most likely complete 15 of them, mainly to Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham (assuming he's 100%). Also be on the lookout for Deon Curry, he finally broke the two deep on the depth chart this week, which also brings us to the drinking game for this battle: every time you hear the announcer say that Deon Curry's the son of Pistons head coach Michael Curry (it's the new "Matt Trannon plays football/basketball" or "Drew Neitzel is ambidextrous"), take a drink. You'll be in the ER by halftime. As for the Notre Dame pass defense, they rank 41st in the nation currently, but let's look at who've they played: San Diego State and Michigan. Will they maintain their standing? Probably not, but I'm also not expecting the Spartans to throw enough to cause a huge plummet in that ranking.

Edge: MSU (moderate)


All I'll say about this matchup is this: last year, one of these coaches turned a sub-.500 team into a mid-level bowl team. The other coach turned a BCS-bowl level team into a .250 team. Which one would you rather have?

Edge: MSU (moderate)


Expect to see a lot of this on Saturday:

Ringer will most likely get more than 30 carries again, which will most likely mean he'll go over 150 yards for the game. I don't believe Notre Dame will be able to consistently stop him in their base defense, and if they start to put eight men in the box, I fully expect Hoyer to find Dell or Cunningham down the field for a couple of big plays. Clausen will find Tate for a couple bombs to counter, but he'll still make a couple mistakes, and their running game isn't strong enough to merit eight-in-the-box consideration. Unlike Notre Dame's last game, MSU won't turn over the ball six times, and that'll be enough for a decisive win.

FINAL SCORE: Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 14

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Big Ten Round Table - Week 3

Much thanks to Lake The Posts, the best dang Northwestern blog on the intrawebs, for hosting this week's Round Table.

1)The national media is using the Big Ten Conference as a punching bag in 2008 ranking us somewhere between the Big East and the MAC. Based on Ohio State's no-show, Purdue's "APPLE!!!" and Michigan's debacle, it is redemption week in Big Ten Country. However, several teams have very respectable, yet no-name teams (ie. Troy, Central Michigan, Ball State). Tell us how the Big Ten will respond this week in the final week before conference play.

If last week was the week for the Big Ten to step up and show that it was elite (spoiler alert: it didn't), this week is the week for the Big Ten to prove that it doesn't belong in the dregs. Minnesota will most likely get some measure of vengeance on Florida Atlantic, Penn State and Ohio State should destroy Temple and Ohio respectively. Purdue and CMU meet in a Motor City Bowl rematch. The three biggest games, in no order, will be: Iowa at Pittsburgh (Will Dave Wannstedt get fired in the second half? Can Iowa keep up the momentum against a second straight BCS opponent?), Notre Dame at Michigan State (Can Notre Dame win a game against a BCS team that won't turn the ball over eight times? Will Charlie Weis' leg explode and take out the first three rows?) and Ball State at Indiana (Will Indiana win decisively this time? Why have I not heard big things out of Kellen Davis yet?) The Big Ten is favored in all these games except the Iowa game, in which the Hawkeyes are one point underdogs. Expect the Big Ten to go 7-1 this week with the loss coming in Bloomington or Pittsburgh.

2)The conference standings look like someone took the 2007 results and flipped it upside down. Which of the undefeated teams are contenders and which are pretenders (another way of saying which teams have put lipstick on a pig)? Recalibrate your preseason rankings and tell us who the conference favorites are now.

There are currently six undefeated teams in the Big Ten. Two of these teams are definitely contenders: Penn State (Maybe JayPa wasn't spending all his time blogging for Obama after all) and Wisconsin (have the single most impressive victory of the Big Ten teams at this point, beating Fresno State and the officials). Two of these teams are definitely pretenders: Minnesota (The games against Northern Illinois and Montana State were way too close to call them a contender), and Indiana (The Ball State will tell a lot. I'm guessing it won't be good.) The other two teams, Iowa and Northwestern, could go either way. Iowa has looked impressive getting to 3-0, except for their passing game. If they can't run the ball, can they really trust Christensen or Stanzi to put points on the board? Northwestern might be able to make a run, but that four point win against Duke doesn't sit well with me, even if it was on the road.

3)Javon Ringer has emerged as the early season best-bet Heisman hopeful from the Big Ten. Real deal or non-conference smoke screen? Does anyone from the Big Ten have a prayer for the Heisman, or is it too late?

I would love to be bullish on Ringer here, and give you umpteen reasons on why he will win the Heisman; however, I can't, for three reasons. One, if he keeps averaging 30 carries a game plus kickoff returns, his durability will become an issue again. Second and probably most likely, I don't believe the offensive line can block consistently against the upper tier Big Ten games (see the Cal game for an example of this in action). Third, the Heisman usually goes to a player on a top tier team. MSU will have to finish strong, and their last three games are against Wisconsin, Purdue, and Penn State on the road. If MSU has another 7-5 season, it'll be because Ringer underperformed. From the research I've done, I've found the Heisman trophy tends to be awarded to players who perform. As for anyone else, if Beanie Wells doesn't bounce back immediately, I don't think anyone has a chance. Curtis Painter blew his chance for the most part vs. Oregon, and P.J. Hill isn't scoring the amount of touchdowns one would expect for a Heisman candidate.

4)After three weeks it is time to give your team a new slogan. What is it and why is it what it is?

Michigan State - Smash Mouth Football, but Only When it Works.

For as much ado as their was last year about a return to a ground-based attack (and rightfully so: 580 runs compared to 393 passes last year), those plans seemed to go out the window when Cal started to stifle Ringer. The Spartans passed 48 times that game, compared to 30 rushes. That game marked the first time under Dantonio that MSU passed more then they ran. The EMU and FAU games marked a return to the previous offensive game plan of "run Ringer up their throats until he breaks down or scores", but it makes me wonder what will happen if MSU gets the run consistently stopped again - will they stay committed to the run, or will Hoyer play Five Dollars with his receivers?

5)By now, you've likely adopted a favorite non Big Ten team to watch. Flex your football worldliness by convincing your fellow Big Ten kool-aid drinkers to watch your "other" team.

Texas Tech. You know about Mike Leach's dream of wearing a cutlass, raising the skull and bones, and hitting the high seas. You know about the offense on cocaine. As if that wasn't enough, take a gander at this tidbit from a New York Times article on Leach:

When he learned that a pirate ship was a functional democracy; that pirates disciplined themselves; that, loathed by others, they nevertheless found ways to work together, the pirate ship became a metaphor for his football team. Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, "Under the Black Flag," by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out).

See? You can watch Texas Tech football without fear of having your sexuality threatened. Let's face it, Mike Leach knows we're all one mention of homosexuality away from dissolving a marriage and moving to Fire Island. CAN'T YOU SEE MIKE LEACH IS TRYING TO PROTECT OUR WAY OF LIFE AMERICA!

Monday, September 15, 2008

FAU - The Aftermath

That was fun. Let's take a look at what stood out:
  • Javon Ringer had a career day, which typically happens if you carry the ball 43 times. He picked up 283 yards, which means he averaged (283/43....) about 6.6 yards a carry. Welcome back, Javon.
  • Any criticism of the passing game this week is postponed until next week due to heavy rain.
  • Ditto any praise for the secondary, due to the aforementioned reason. Wiley is clearly the best part still, and Ross Weaver and Chris L. Rucker did have a few good pass breakups, especially Weaver, whose break-up of a Rusty Smith pass most likely prevented a touchdown in the second quarter.
  • From what I've heard, B.J. Cunningham will be alright after having his leg twisted underneath him in the 1st half. Yay no injuries.
  • I know it was wet, but did the ball need to go through Hoyer's hands that many times? Yikes.
  • With the exception of the one fumbled snap, Aaron Bates did an admirable job, averaging 40 yards per punt in the game.
  • Brett Swenson was all you could ask for from a kicker - 2-2 on XPs, 1-1 on a field goal from 22 yards out.
  • Finally, unless you were in the East Lansing/Central to West Michigan area on Saturday, it's hard to convey just how much it rained. Unlike the MSU/ND game in 2006, this was a steady, hard rain that lasted all game, and made any sustained air attack impossible.
That's all I've got about this game. I wasn't able to watch it live because of a wedding, which is thankfully the only one I'll have to go to this season. Up next, Notre Dame, coming off a 35-17 victory over Michigan, in which if you can ever say a team "scavenged" their way to a victory, that game would be a prime example of that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Cursory Preview of Florida Atlantic

This image is the thing you need to remember most about Florida Atlantic this Saturday:

The finger - stands for the number of national titles Schnellenberger has won, and represents that FAU is important enough to be worthy of merchandising. Somehow.

That picture is of college coaching great Howard Schnellenberger. He won a title with Miami in 1983. In 1993, his Louisville Cardinals waxed MSU in the Liberty Bowl. The man is a good coach, and looks like he'd give you a butterscotch candy if you sat still through church. Here are 10 things that have stuck out in my mind for Saturday's game (Noon start, ESPN2).
  1. Expect the Owls to have a pass bias. In their two games so far, FAU has passed a total of 74 times, compared to 48 rushes. That means a little more than 60% of their plays are passes. This is done because...
  2. They know their run game is lamer than FDR's legs. FAU QB/D-List porn star Rusty Smith admits as much, admitting that he didn't think FAU would have much luck on the ground. Even though they had success against UAB (7.8 yards per carry), against Texas the YPC was 1.6. Expect MSU to hold FAU to somewhere near Texas' number.
  3. I cannot, by law, call what FAU has their DL, LBs and secondary do on the field "defense". They gave up 52 points and 503 yards to Texas, and followed that failure up by allowing 34 points and 482 yards to UAB, of all teams. This typically means that FAU has to go the CMU route to win games by putting up 40 points on their opponents, which is typical for them in the Sun Belt.
  4. Rusty Smith is a bonafide quarterback. Here are his stats from 2007: 58.6% completion percentage, 3,688 passing yards, and 32 TD to 9 INTs. I don't care who you play, that's impressive. Good competition doesn't seem to faze him either, he was 15 for 31 with 253 yards and a TD versus Texas.
  5. Schnellenberger likes to hoot. He had this to say about Texas: "Texas always has a very polished team that has great talent, but they aren't tough; they aren't a physically tough team." Texas then proceeded to wuss their way to 52 points while holding FAU to 10. Schnellenberger later admitted that the comment was "something I sure as hell didn’t want to get to Texas." In his defense, he did make sure all the Western Union Telegraph deliverymen were booted from the room before making said comment.
  6. The players have beaks, as well. In the words of Jeff Blanchard, FAU kick returner: "We will score a lot against them, trust me." Well Jeff, the way MSU's secondary has looked this season, you may have a point. However, the way your defense has looked, I'm expecting Ringer to teleport like Nightcrawler right to your secondary.
  7. Injuries won't be a huge factor. One of FAU's starting defensive linemen and their center are out for this game, and that's about it. With the way MSU's pass rush and run blocking has been lately, they could use a little help.
  8. Their mascot is named Owsley. Here he is, in all his glory:
  9. MSU will cover the spread. The spread right now has MSU giving 17 points. The secondary hasn't looked great, but they'll make enough stops for Ringer and Hoyer to pierce the end zone with impunity.
  10. Final Score: MSU 49, FAU 24.
Later today or early tomorrow, I'll have the Big 10 picks for this week.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Big Ten Round Table - Week 2

Thanks to Maize 'n Brew for hosting this week's edition of the Big Ten Round Table.

1. We’re two weeks in and everyone in the Big Ten, minus the two Michigan schools (and Illinois - Thnx lostincali - Ed.), are 2-0. This week marks the end of your early "tune-up" or serious OOC play. Are you satisfied with the way your team has played against the cupcakes on your schedule, or happy with the way they’ve competed against serious competition?

I'd like to use the words "guarded optimism" to describe my feelings toward Michigan State right now. The Cal loss was a punch in the gut, but is looking better thanks to Cal's 66-3 win over Washington State, A win in which, to provide perspective on Cal's running game, they amassed 114 passing yards. MSU did the job expected of them versus EMU, and solved the penalty/Brian Hoyer inconsistency problem for one week. The question is, can this last the whole season (My heart says yes, recent evidence says no.)? The secondary is still giving up too many big plays, and turnovers are still a bugaboo. I'm content, but with enough sticking points to keep from getting overexcited.

2. You knew this was coming. This week’s OMG Game of teh Century!!!!1!!1!! until next week’s OMG Game of teh Century!!!!1!!1!! is Ohio State versus Southern Cal. Who are you pulling for and why? Further, if you’re pulling for one particular team tell me why they’ll win, or won’t. If you’re like me and will be attempting to cure a sunburn from over exposure to the sun during the Michigan Notre Dame game by drinking large quantities of whiskey instead of watching the game, state your excuse.

I am pulling for Ohio State to win this game because of Big 10 loyalties; however, I don't think they'll win. I base this feeling more off of USC's evisceration of Virginia in week 1 more than OSU's drunken stumble taken during week 2. I feel that OSU's performance in that game was an anomaly, but I also feel that game points to OSU's one dealbreaker - that they will not be able to score enough points to win. Todd Boeckman is a Brian Hoyer Doppelganger - he's got the ability and can score the points, but if it comes time to stand toe-to-toe with Mark Sanchez and go TD for TD, I don't know if he can do it. Even if Beanie Wells was 100% healthy, I'd still pick USC for the victory. All considered, USC wins this game by 14-17 points.

3. Besides the above mentioned Game of the Century, there are actually some decent match ups this week in the Big Ten. Purdue v. Oregon; Wisconsin v. Fresno State; Michigan v. Notre Dame; Michigan State v. Florida Atlantic; or Iowa v. Iowa State. I said decent. I didn't say they were all good. Pick the best game from that group, pick the worst game from that group, and Minnesota and Illinois bloggers must post an apology for scheduling Montana State and Louisiana Lafayette respectively.

Let's do this by a process of elimination - Fresno State is overhyped, thus I don't believe the Wisconsin-FSU game will be that great. Purdue-Oregon I believe will be a blowout one way or the other (I'm guessing Oregon over Purdue in a laugher right now), and MSU-FAU wouldn't surprise me if both teams scored more than 100 points. However, MSU will have 2/3 of those, and win fairly easily. That leaves Notre Dame-Michigan in Suck Bowl II, a rematch of Suck Bowl I last year, where UM salvaged their season by beating what looked to be like a confused Quiddich team wearing Notre Dame jerseys. Anyone not a fan of Michigan or Notre Dame will be watching this game with a sense of morbid curiosity more than anything else to see which team just does suck more. I'm backing Michigan in this game, their defense will be the only competent unit on the field that day. As for worst game, I'm going to go Wisconsin-Fresno State, mainly because I think the Badgers are going to burst the Bulldogs' bubble in a big way.

4. Out of Conference scheduling is always something that draws the ire of journalists and bloggers alike. You all know how weak your OOC really is. Admit it. You’re sad. So fix it. Pick two teams out of conference you really wish your school would schedule. Nursing colleges and the Center for Veterinary Sciences are verboten. Pick two major conference middle to heavy weights or two heavy weight non-BCS conference programs to add to the schedule. (Please note you get to keep your two patsies per season).

Author's note: It's much more sad to lose to a heavyweight than it is to beat a creampuff. Beating a MAC or 1-AA team is like hooking up with a fat girl - you won't feel good about yourself afterward, and you might be falsely confident, but nevertheless, it still counts as hooking up or a win. Anyway, MSU has Cal and Notre Dame as their two big heavyweights this year, which would work if ND didn't have to wear diapers all the time. Anyway, if I had to schedule two other teams, here's who I'd schedule:

Ole Miss -
If you think I'm doing this just so I have an excuse to tailgate at The Grove, you're 95% right. I mean, who doesn't want to see this:

When your fan base is this smokin', it almost makes the perennial losing OK.

MSU girls will always be #1 in my heart, but if I had to have another fan base's gender, give me Ole Miss' ladies, all the way. As for the football aspect, it'd be interesting to see what would happen between two teams who have been historically known in the past decade for getting talent and then crapping it away between incompetent coaching. Yes, that does hurt me to say that about the Orgeron.

Clemson - In the dictionary, under schizofrenic, Clemson is about the third listing. I want to play them for the same reason as Ole Miss - to truly discover which team, between the Rebels, Tigers and Spartans, is the most bipolar. Also, Howard's Rock is one of the Seven Wonders of the CFB World, and it'd be cool to see that up close.

5. All college football fans love to tailgate. Even you, you mothers' basement dwelling bloggers, you. Name your beverage of choice on game days. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, your readers need to know these things about you, to judge you. Confirm all their suspicions.

I like to think of tailgating as a sort of Mario Kart - you have to keep your finger on the A button (gas), you have to have your Mushrooms for turbo, and you have to defend yourself some wiping out (streak of banana peels behind your cart). For my gas, I like to drink Coors Light, it's good enough where I feel like I don't have to choke it down (see: Light, Natural/Busch), and it's cheap enough that I don't feel like a total priss while drinking it (save the microbrews for dinner). As for Mushrooms, I go with Jager Bombs as my turbo boost of choice - they've got Red Bull in them by definition, and you can get almost anyone to do them with you, so you don't look like a complete alcoholic. As for a streak of banana peels, I go with a 32 oz Gatorade an hour before the game. In Mario Kart you won't get to the line first without defending yourself from a couple of red shells, and in life, you won't stay awake for the game if you're not properly hydrated.

6. Rivalry games dot the schedule this week. If your team is playing in a rivalry game, say something nasty about your opponent then predict a lopsided score to infuriate the opposing fanbase. If you're not playing a rival, then start a rivalry by saying something nasty about your opponent and then predict a lopsided score to infuriate the opposing fanbase. Or just give me a non-offensive prediction and a reason to watch.

This is MSU's first year out of three playing FAU, so this may as well start now. FAU's QB, Rusty Smith, has a name that sounds like a D-rate porn actor. Howard Schnellenberger, is still waiting for one of his players to spell his name correctly. All the while, he's desperately trying to get work as a Matlock impersonator, mainly because it pays him more than the university. As for the game, MSU will win this game by a few touchdowns or more (preview coming later), and the 10 FAU fans get to run back home to snuggle with their adorable Sun Belt title of last year.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Aftermath - EMU

Out of San Fran and into the win column. Here are my thoughts:

  • Ringer looked more like Caulcrick on Saturday than he did himself - five TDs. It could have been seven if it weren't for two fumbles inside the 5. I think that's just an anomaly, and not a sign of things to come. I hope.
  • Joel Foreman looks to be solidifying his case to be the starting left guard. All of the evidence I've seen looks that way, including watching Bacon whiff on a block that led to a sack of Hoyer in the second quarter.
  • Kirk Cousins looks like a good backup QB. Most of the time he handed off, but he was 3-4 including a key 3rd and 3 pass to the TE Gantt for 13 yards.
  • You've probably seen the catch B.J. Cunningham made by now. If not, see it, and prepare for your jaw to drop.
  • I know this is a term that some would never think would apply, but I believe Hoyer is Juice Williams-esque in that if he throws about 20 times, the team is in good shape (see - this game, PSU last year). If he starts to double that...uh oh.
  • MSU has a punt returner! Wiley flashed some moves out there, let's see if he can do it against a tougher opponent in FAU this week.
  • The Cal penalty problems look to be a hiccup, three penalties for 25 yards this week.
  • Two of the three leading tacklers this week were in the front 7; Justin Kershaw and Eric Gordon combined to have 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, and a sack. It's always good when the secondary isn't making most of the tackles.
That's about all the recap this game deserves. Florida Atlantic will be a tougher game, but MSU's still a two touchdown favorite. Look for a Big Ten Roundtable and an FAU preview by Wednesday, Thursday at the latest.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Quick Post before Tailgate

It's 5:30 in the morning, and I'm ready to go. Quickly, here's my top two things you need to survive a noon game at MSU/tailgate that starts at 7:00 AM:

2. Red Bull

1. Liquor (preferably vodka or Jager, but beggars can't be choosers)

I'm out to the tennis courts. Hopefully, many of you will be out there.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Cursory Preview - EMU

When you saw this week's opponent, chances are one of these three images popped into your head:

If you immediately thought of the first image, you should be looking for a Zoobooks-themed blog. If the second image popped into your head, come back in a couple weeks, I'm getting to it. If the third image popped into your head, you're in the right spot for my Eastern Michigan preview.

Who did EMU play last week?

A high school JV team named Indiana State, posing as a 1-AA team. Eastern put up more than 600 yards of offense in toasting the Sycamores 52-0. Eastern has had a functioning offense in the past couple years; they did beat MAC champs Central Michigan last year by beating them the only way possible for non-BCS teams - putting up more than 40 points.'s Indiana State. I'm pretty sure Larry Bird could start at any position for that team.

What will the game plan be for MSU this week?

In the offense, rushing, and lots of it. Essentially, it'll be the same game plan that the Spartans used last week against Cal, except that this time I believe that it'll work, and it won't devolve into Hoyer playing a game of Five Dollars with his receivers and the secondary. On the defensive side, I believe it's going to be plain ol' vanilla, stop the rush and make them beat us with the pass. Andy Schmidt is a decent MAC-level quarterback, and can make a play or two when he needs to, but he's no Dan LeFevour.

When will MSU break this game wide open?

Sometime in the second quarter. EMU might put up a good fight for a couple series, and then depth should start to take over, and when it does, expect Ringer to essentially play Power Ball, American Gladiators Style, running from one end zone to the other. Also, expect more sacks than last week, I have a feeling this is where Trevor Anderson makes his presence felt.

Where might a problem exist for MSU?

If anywhere, it's going to be in the secondary, particularly the safeties. Davis-Clark still isn't 100%, Jenrette is still off the team for "unspecified reasons", and Otis Wiley is only one man. EMU has the ability to complete a few passes, so if the pass rush isn't working, that could lead to a couple of 40-50 yard plays down the sidelines.

Why should I watch this game?

OK, I'll level with you - if you're not an MSU fan, you shouldn't be watching this game. Go home, and catch some other game at noon. Watch Ohio at Ohio State, or Miami of Ohio at Michigan, or something along those lines. The tailgate before the game will probably be more interesting than the game itself (at least I hope so), I will be down with the student masses at the tennis courts, cheering on MSU, one 24 oz. Coors Light at a time?

How does this game end?

I've said this before, I'll say it again - even during the John L. Smith era, this game was always a guaranteed 4 TD victory. Expect depth to become a factor, the defensive to improve, blah blah blah blah blah.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Basketball Schedule Released and a Programming Note

Programming Note: The EMU preview will be up tomorrow. It won't be as intensive as the Cal one, but it'll give you something to mull while you defecate.

At long last, the basketball schedule was released for the Big Ten. Here's what MSU is facing:


Wed. 5 NORTHERN MICHIGAN (Exhibition) East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Mon. 10 LAKE SUPERIOR STATE (Exhibition) East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Sun. 16 IDAHO East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Wed. 19 at IPFW Fort Wayne, Ind. TBA
Thur.-Sun. 27-30 Old Spice Classic Orlando, Fla.
Thur. 27 vs. Maryland (ESPN2) Orlando, Fla. 7 p.m.
Fri. 28 vs. Gonzaga/Oklahoma State (ESPN/ESPNU) Orlando, Fla. 5:30/8 p.m.
Sun. 30 vs. Siena/Tennessee/Wichita State/Georgetown (ESPN2/ESPNU) Orlando, Fla. TBA


Wed. 3 vs. North Carolina# (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) (ESPN) Detroit, Mich. 9 p.m.
Sun 7 BRADLEY East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Sat. 13 ALCORN STATE East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Wed. 17 THE CITADEL East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Sat. 20 vs. Texas$ Houston, Texas TBA
Sat. 27 vs. Oakland^ Auburn Hills, Mich. TBA
Wed. 31 at Minnesota (Big Ten Network) Minneapolis, Minn. 6 p.m.


Sat. 3 at Northwestern (Big Ten Network) Evanston, Ill. 7 p.m.
Tues. 6 OHIO STATE (ESPN2) East Lansing, Mich. 7 p.m.
Sat. 10 KANSAS East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Wed. 14 at Penn State (Big Ten Network) State College, Pa. 6:30 p.m.
Sat. 17 ILLINOIS (ESPN) East Lansing, Mich. 4 p.m.
Wed. 21 NORTHWESTERN (Big Ten Network) East Lansing, Mich. 6:30 p.m.
Sun. 25 at Ohio State (CBS) Columbus, Ohio 3:45 p.m.
Thur. 29 at Iowa (ESPN/ESPN2) Iowa City, Iowa 7 p.m.


Sun. 1 PENN STATE (Big Ten Network) East Lansing, Mich. 12 p.m.
Wed. 4 MINNESOTA (Big Ten Network) East Lansing, Mich. 8:30 p.m.
Sat. 7 INDIANA (ESPN) East Lansing, Mich. 4 p.m.
Tues. 10 at Michigan (ESPN) Ann Arbor, Mich. 7 p.m.
Tues. 17 at Purdue (ESPN) West Lafayette, Ind. 7 p.m.
Sun. 22 WISCONSIN (CBS, ESPN, Big Ten Network) East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Wed. 25 IOWA (Big Ten Network) East Lansing, Mich. 8:30 p.m.
Sat.-Sun. 28-1 at Illinois (CBS, ESPN, Big Ten Network) Champaign, Ill. TBA


T/W/T 3/4/5 at Indiana (ESPN, ESPN2, Big Ten Network) Bloomington, Ind. TBA
Sat.-Sun. 7/8 PURDUE (CBS, ESPN, Big Ten Network) East Lansing, Mich. TBA

My thoughts:

  • MSU's Winter break goes four weeks instead of the usual three this year. What does that mean? It means that the Izzone definitely won't be there for a good Ohio State team and might not be there for defending NCAA champ Kansas. Whoops.
  • The Big Ten season starts off again with two road games: A rapidly improving Minnesota and a continually-chained-in-the-basement-like-a-mutant-stepchild Northwestern. This isn't horrible, the Big Ten has surely treated the Spartans worse in the past.
  • The two opponents that are faced once? At Michigan, and Wisconsin at home. This is definitely nicer than last year, when it was the other way around.
  • The biggest tests close out the schedule, as the three most likely biggest games are in the last six: at Purdue, Wisconsin at home, and in what could be a de facto Big Ten Championship game, Purdue at home to close out the season.
All in all, I'm happy with the schedule this year. The toughest teams aren't back-to-back, and the Big Ten schedule difficulty level is decent in the beginning before getting to the real meat at the end.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Big Ten Bloggers' Round Table

Thanks to Black Heart Gold Pants for hosting this week's Round Table.

1. Week 1's in the books. What surprised you about your team? Are you optimistic? Disappointed? (NOTE: Purdue does not apply here, so these fans must talk about Wake Forest instead)

Disappointed, mainly due to three things: the penalties, the special teams miscues, and the failure of the offensive line to consistently block. As I previously said, if Ringer's being held to less than three yards a carry, there's a failure somewhere in the rushing game, and nine times out of ten, that's the offensive line. Nevertheless, I'm optimistic, as MSU kept the game close even though it had no such business doing so, mainly due to capitalizing off of Cal's mistakes. One of the things that's keeping my going right now is that Cal's one of the frontrunners behind USC in the Pac-10. If they lose to both Washington teams, they might have to talk me down off of Hubbard Hall.

2. Beanie Wells' foot is definitely the top story in the conference. What's #2?

It's easily Michigan's failure to put up any semblance of a sustained offensive attack against Utah. The WoLOLverines' longest drive was seven yards, and the quarterback situation went as expected. However, while many are focusing in on the debacle at quarterback, I think the rushing game was easily more atrocious than the passing game. Stat of the game: Michigan rushed 25 times for 36 yards; one of those rushes went for 21 yards. Take that one big play away, and the WoLOLverines rushed 24 times for 15 yards, or an outstanding 0.6 yards per carry. Is there any way the offensive line can be renamed the LOLffensive line?

3. Admit it: you loathe DickFraudROFL (*neé* Rich Rodriguez), but when Michigan scored that last touchdown, you were rooting for them to make the 2-pt. conversion.

Nope, not in the slightest. I was debating in my head whether it would be better for Michigan to win to get some heat off the Big Ten, or to have Michigan fail, and deal with the media hate. All of a sudden, it hit me - the only place I have to deal with the Big Ten hate is on the internet and watching ESPN, while, living in East Lansing, I have to deal with Michigan fans on a semi-constant basis. If Michigan had tied it up and won that game, I would have had to deal with the hyperbole of mouth-breathing Michigan fans screaming, "#1 DICKROD ROOLZ SUCK IT SPARTY", all while they rush to Ann Arbor to see who can give Barwis a Z-Job first. Anything that humbles Michigan, I have to root for, even if it is at the expense of the Big Ten.

4. Is this weekend's slate of games actually *less* interesting than last week's?

Yup. The game that will be of most consequence is Oregon State at Penn State. Given the Beavers' loss to Stanford last week and the Nittany Lions' demolition of a Pop Warner team, I think PSU walks. The only other game of consequence will be Minnesota at Bowling Green. Bowling Green beat Minnesota last year, and is a six point favorite at home. Can Bowling Green keep up the momentum? Will Minnesota have a winning streak for the first time since '06? The storylines are endless.

There are two other games that might be of some interest to masochists: Northwestern @ Duke, where we'll see if the Wildcats can crap themselves again against the Blue Devils, and Miami of Ohio at Michigan, where one of the Michigan running backs will try to rush for more than 25 yards.

5. Don't you hate pants?

Absolutely. If pants are horrible enough for Alex Trebek to forego, then take the hint.

What else happened?

College football games. There are a lot of them, and let's be honest - sometimes, you can't catch them all, because of falling into a drunken stupor before five your lack of televisions. Thus, I've decided to start a new feature called "What else happened?", in which I rattle off a few of the other games I saw during the weekend. Here we go:

East Carolina 27, Virginia Tech 22
This game came down to Special Teams, with two strange events: One, Virginia Tech blocks an ECU extra point, and runs it back for two points. Two, East Carolina took the Master Sword to VaTech's special teams magic and reflected it back at them, blocking a punt with about two minutes left and running it in for a touchdown. Thing to take away from this game - Tyrod Taylor needs to play now, as Tech's offense isn't getting it done.

The Master Sword: Works on Octaroks, magic, and special teams.

Utah 25, Michigan 23
I knew Michigan's offense was going to be ugly, but I didn't expect it to be Elephant Man ugly. UM only scored if it started from within Utah territory, and sustained no drive longer than 7 plays. The good news for Michigan: it looks as if this Barwis thing has legs, Michigan was clearly the better conditioned team in the second half; Utah's longest drive was 14 yards. The bad news: All the conditioning in the world can't make a team execute on offense. Thing to take away from this game: All the undersized running backs in the world can't help you if the OL can't block for them: Michigan's YPC minus the 21-yard carry by Minor was an emasculating 0.4.

Missouri 52, Illinois 42
I didn't catch much of this game, but I watched enough of it to know the outcome was never seriously in doubt. Missouri laid the Illini out like a frog in a high school biology class, dissecting them for 549 total yards of offense. That's what happens when you allow J Leman to graduate. Thing to take away from this game: Juice Williams might actually be legit, as he threw for 451 yards, 5 TDs to only two picks. Caveat: Missouri defense might be awful this year.