Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Little Blue UM no match for 17-pt fave Big Green MSU

It is RIVALRY WEEK and as such it's amazing to see Michigan State favored by 17 points against the Ann Arborites.  It's the largest spread for MSU over scUM in my lifetime - and the reason is that Big Green is a Top-10 team, defending Rose Bowl Champions, and the Wolverines are not even in the same league.

The ES actually feels bad for Little Blue.  David Brandon, the scUM AD, is as clueless in marketing college athletics as he was successful as the CEO of Domino's Pizza,  backup QB Shane Morris is caught in a concussion controversy, coach Brady Hoke should be making decisions for Pillsbury crescent rolls instead of a football team, and injuries, injuries: leading rusher Derrick Green is out for the season; DL Jabrill Peppers is questionable; and, OL Sean Magnuson is also questionable... etc, etc.

Remember last year, QB Devin Gardner was planted like a petunia in Spartan Stadium in a 29-6 loss, being sacked eight times en route to -46 yards rushing. Gardner puked on his final play as he headed out of the game, smashed like your grandma's potatoes.

With scUM missing a starting OL and their leading RB gone for the season, and an anemic Michigan offense going against a fairly good Spartan defense... and, to boot, when MSU gets the ball, it is among the nation's leading scorers, giving up the fewest sacks, creating the most turnovers, and also leading the nation in Time of Possession....  Well, on paper this is a complete blow out.  MSU should be able to score at will, on long drives, and pound Michigan into a deep-six holiday that lasts until next season or longer.  Michigan can't move the ball and can't score.  Done deal.  Gardner won't survive.

Here are the basic stats:

Michigan Offense: #110 total yards, #82 sacks allowed, #44 TOP, #105 scoring
Michigan Turnover Margin: #124
Michigan Defense: #10 total yards, #41 team sacks, #29 scoring

MSU Offense:  #12 total yards, #1 in sacks allowed, #1 TOP, #3 scoring
MSU Turnover Margin:  #3
MSU Defense: #9 total yards,  #4 team sacks, #33 scoring

More later... but reads like Sayonara to me.


Michigan State is shooting up the coaches poll to #5, but is static in the AP media poll at #8.  Doesn't matter much, as the College Football Playoff poll will have its first stanza this upcoming Tuesday at 7:30 pm on ESPN - look for MSU to go up a notch or two with a pounding of hated Michigan.

USA Today Poll
1Mississippi State (36)6-01520
2Florida State (22)7-01493
3Ole Miss (4)7-01447
5Michigan State6-11243
8Notre Dame6-11117
11Kansas State5-1909
12Ohio State5-1856
14Arizona State5-1654
17East Carolina5-1578
25West Virginia5-2143

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Michigan State favored by 2 TDs at Indiana

The #6 MSU Spartans are 14-1/2 point favorites this week at Indiana.  Here's a quick looksie at what the bookies in Vegas think about the Big Ten slate:

#6 MSU (-14 1/2) at Indiana
Minnesota (-13) vs Purdue
Maryland (-3) vs Iowa
#13 Ohio State (-20) vs Rutgers
#19 Nebraska (-7) at Northwestern

Bye week: Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State

Analyzing 4th quarter woes: MSU is moving on UP!

After the 45-31 win at Purdue, the Big Green is moving on up, this time to #6 in the coaches poll, but remain at #8 in the media poll (see below). This is fine, whisper words of wisdom, Let it Be.   The Big Green will keep winning (a 2-TD favorite at Indy) and make adjustments to the point that it excels like a well-oiled machine by the time we meet the stumbling Wolverines.  Hopefully.

This team is interesting.  It has so much firepower:  the second quarter explosion at Oregon, the three-quarter domination vs. Nebraska, the third-quarter surge at Purdue.  Michigan State currently ranks fourth nationally in scoring at 45.5 points per game.

The problem is the 4th quarter.  Against decent competition this fall, Michigan State has faltered after its scoring explosion, being outscored 47-7 against these same teams in the final stanza.  This differs greatly from last year's squad, which outscored teams 112-30 in the fourth quarter over the season.

Yes, the Spartans have given up more points in the 4th quarter during six games this year than in all of 14 games last year.  Ahem, that's a problem.

On the other hand, this season's Michigan State team has already scored 245 points through the first three quarters in just six games, which is on pace to nearly double last year's team which scored 299 points through the first three quarters during the 14-game season.  And, the 80 points against the Big Green D over the first three quarters so far this season is only about half of the 155 given up in all of last year.

Here is the comparison, MSU scoring 2013 vs 2014

GP (Games Played),  Q (Quarter)

GP Q 1-3 Q 4
2014 6 245 28
2013 14 299 112

2014 6 80 54
2013 14 155 30

The stats don't lie.  The MSU scoring offense is far more explosive and efficient than last year's squad.  And the defense is not as stingy.  But, can these forces equate to more wins in 2014?  It seems to be a dicey game - and one that has proved victorious in competition against teams from non-interesting locations (West Lafayette, Laramie, Lincoln); but there is work to do to shore up the game when playing Ohio State, and/or the potential B1G title game.

What is also impressive is that this Michigan State team is dictating the game more often than not, leading the nation in Time of Possession, with 35:52 per game.  That is very impressive of a team that is also #17 in Total Offense at 502.3 yards per game... but, moreover:  #2 in the country in Turnover Margin, at 1.83 per game; #5 in Rushing Defense at 81.5 yards per game; and #12 overall in defense at 304.2 yards per game.

In other words, statistically this team is very very stout.  The problem is this 4th quarter hiccup in the three games... otherwise, MSU would likely lead in every single statistical category in the nation.

Shoring up the defense in the 4th quarter, completing passes on third downs in the 4th quarter, and not trying a fake-punt in our own territory in the 4th quarter would go a long way toward a greater statistical advantage... and less nausea.  Furthermore, MSU showed poor form with the young LB Riley Bullough (#30) out of position on a 52-yard TD run by the Boiler's Akeem Hunt; as well as  the once-again-close-but-no-cigar, 4th-quarter phantom-INT by Kurtis Drummond that led to a 12-yd first down completion on a TD drive by Purdue.

But, it is a game of inches.  And, vs both Nebraska and Purdue, the defense picked off passes late in the game that were definitive in the Spartan victories.

This week, our Michigan State team has another good test to get its act in order vs a high-flying Indiana team.  Let's see if they can settle down, again score early but for once put the game away early in the 4th quarter and keep the Hoosiers at bay.  Here's the USA Today poll for you to enjoy...

USA Today Poll
1Mississippi State (26)6-01490
2Florida State (31)6-01489
3Ole Miss (5)6-01436
5Notre Dame6-01292
6Michigan State5-11129
13Ohio State4-1737
14Kansas State4-1710
15Oklahoma State5-1610
16East Carolina5-1518
18Arizona State4-1471
21Texas A&M5-2269

Friday, October 10, 2014

ES Game Day: Purdon't Won't

#8 Michigan State Spartans at # 97 Purdue Boilermakes
October 11, 2014.  3:30 pm ET.
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN

Weather: 59 and sunny.

Sagarin Ratings:  MSU #14, Purdue #97
Line: MSU favored by 21

Predictions & Previews:

ES sez:  Well, ahem, later next week,  the ES will discuss the insanity of Mark Hollis' considering penalizing the student body by reducing their ticket allotment (isn't it COLLEGE???? yeah, let's cut out the college out of college sports).  The fact that ESPN's Brian Bennett seemingly agrees with this viewpoint once again underscores the fact that students don't matter when the media is paying the bills.  Read this: 
  • "If students don't want to go or stay through the game -- particularly in the upper-deck areas -- then I have no problem with the schools cutting those sections back. Students aren't obligated to attend or stay through home football games. Likewise, tuition does not guarantee good seats to those games."
This is about the dumbest argument ever made, from both a commercial and an amateur point of view.  Reducing access to students who will be your future ticket sales?  Biting the hand that feeds?  Actually, tuition SHOULD guarantee good seats.  The argument here is so backwards from both a branding and commercial standpoint, it defies logic.  Absolutely Stupid.  Anyhow... 

But, as far as this weekend's game:   Oh My.  Poor Purdon't.  They will be taking on the Spartans after the wrong end of a quarter of football in which the Spartans fell asleep... After dismantling Nebraska for 85% of the game, MSU nodded off and nearly paid the price.  Not this week.

The problem for Purdue is - they really don't.  They are arguably the WORST team in the B1G Ten this year.  The Big Green is arguably the best team... and the defending champions need to make a stride after last week's scare.  

Let's look at the basic stats:
  • Purdue Total Offense #102, 351.8 ypg vs MSU Total Defense #11, 297 ypg
  • Purdue Rushing Offense #67, 170 ypg vs MSU Rushing Defense: MSU #4, 72 ypg
  • Purdue Passing Offense #104, 181.8 ypg vs MSU Passing Defense #48, 225 ypg
  • MSU Total Offense #24, 497.4 ypg vs Purdue Total Defense #76, 408.6
  • MSU Passing Offense: #51, 257.2 ypg vs Purdue Passing Defense #105, 273.5 ypg
  • MSU Rushing Offense #22, 239.2 ypg vs Purdue Rushing Defense #48, 135.2 ypg
In every category, offense vs defense, Michigan State overwhelmingly ranks as superior.  And, MSU has had the tougher schedule, playing at Oregon and vs Nebraska.   Not much more needs to be said.  The ES sees an absolute demolition tomorrow in West Lafayette:  the Hammer will fall off the Rails.  

MSU 55, Purdon't 13. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

An empty Spartan Stadium? Blame the colleges, the media... blame everyone

Before the ES gets to the game vs Nebraska, there's an interesting happenstance that occurred during the game that is also occurring at stadiums around the country:  lack of student support.  It's occurring everywhere: Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, etc.

Fourth quarter
For those, like the ES, who made it to the game... well, the #10-ranked and defending Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans were pounding #19 Nebraska, 27-3, early in the 4th quarter.  While the student section never completely filled during the game, it nearly completely emptied by the 4th quarter (see photo at right). It wasn't just the student section, but various other sections of the stadium also emptied.

Beginning of second half
Then, Nebraska made its furious rally.  Luckily, the Corn came up short.

Now, Spartan Athletic Director Mark Hollis has expressed his displeasure. But, there is plenty of blame to go around for the lack of Spartan student enthusiasm on a cold night. Sure, the ES shares in disappointment that students didn't stick around until the end of the game.  However, if you want to play the blame-game, let's be honest about it.


The game was late.  It's an 8 pm kickoff.  And, it was cold (40 degrees), with a forecast for rain (which ended up being a mist).  Whose fault is this?  Well, Michigan State and the Big Ten conference can blame themselves for kowtowing to the media interests (ABC, ESPN, and its own Big Ten Network) who schedule these prime time games in exchange for big money.  If many of these students decided to go and instead cram for mid-terms (OK, I doubt it, but maybe a few did use that time wisely to study), then I'd argue Hollis' comments are, well, hollow.

First half
Students purchased their season tickets at the beginning of the season and knew the meeting vs. Nebraska would likely be a dandy matchup.   The time was set to 8 pm "PRIME TIME" because of the significance of the game.  However, if the time was set to 3:30 pm or 1 pm (like the old days), my guess is you would have seen a full crowd for most of the game.  It didn't rain all afternoon, and the weather was pretty nice during the day, cool but partly cloudy.  At night, it got cold and damp.  Bone-chilling cold.

Actually, many complained about the lateness - for me, it wasn't exactly great getting home at 1 am.


OK, now let's follow this conversation.  My father, a Spartan alum who lives near Seattle, came to town this weekend and went to the game with me.  Last week, he visited my Uncle Denny up in Traverse City.  Denny is a longtime Spartan (with whom I tailgated back in the 1980s).  Here is the conversation retold to me:
  • ES' Dad:  "Denny you going to the game?"
  • Denny: "Why bother?  I can sit here, right in my chair, with my drink and watch it on my big-screen tv."
The learning lesson?  Today, there is not enough value added going to the games for those who don't go to the games.  Hollis is right - meet with the students and see what they WANT to get them to attend... unlike that program down the road who makes marketing decisions without asking their consumers.

Way, way, waaaaay back in the 1950s (the ES invites you to read the 1952 Collier's college football preview), colleges were afraid to televise football games because "attendance will suffer as people will choose to instead watch the game at home."  Well, that failed to materialize, and instead television, and eventually cable tv, helped enhance the marketability and interest of college football to the billion-dollar enterprise it is today.

But, now, after all those years, the prophecy from the 1950s seems to be happening.  Major college football programs and the mass media enterprises have created a product that looks even better on television.  Big time college football powers can blame themselves for creating such a great product that people can sit at home and watch it instead of going to the game.  Today, colleges from the Big Five conferences can make enough money from television broadcasts (more than $1 billion per year) even if the stadium is half full.

Whose to blame?  Universities and big-time athletic directors should point to themselves.  If college athletic directors want to keep their business model (and complain about there not being enough revenue to feed the expenses), then find a way to add value to the product to get those consumers (student attendees) interested.


MSU has already won the Rose Bowl for the first time in thirty years; went to two of the first three Big Ten title games; and, are poised for another Big Ten title and potential national championship playoff berth in its inaugural year.  Top 10 rankings are now commonplace in EL. So, success isn't the issue.

One way to fix this would be to stop this "Prime Time" nonsense; the result is devaluing lovely fall Saturday football afternoons.  We'd save electricity, too.  Or, another way would be to learn about new ways to add value to college football to keep Millennials coming to games.

Transform or go out of business.  That is up to the colleges, not the fans nor the attendees.  As for Michigan State, they've succeeded in the recent past with marketing challenges... and likely will meet this challenge as well.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

#8 MSU favored by 22 at Purdon't

Well, despite the 27-22 victory... after the Spartan 4th quarter meltdown that led Nebraska back into the game, we missed an opportunity for a major vault in the national rankings.  MSU jumped up two spots to #8.  Watching a 27-3 lead evaporate in the span of 12 minutes was nerve-racking... but, there is one relief: Spartan teams of the past would have choked.  But, not us. It was the best defensive performance of the year out of MSU.  More on this in Monday's post.

That said, the Big Green is a healthy 22-1/2 point fave at Purdon't this week.  Early odds for upcoming Big Ten stints:

MSU -22 at Purdue
Minnesota -3 vs Northwestern
Wisky -24 vs Illinois
Iowa -7 vs Indiana
Penn State -1/PK at Michigan

Bye:  Nebraska, Ohio State, Rutgers, Maryland

Associated Press Poll:

AP Top 25
1Florida State (35)5-01461
2Auburn (23)5-01459
3Mississippi State (2)5-01320
3Ole Miss5-01320
6Notre Dame5-01186
8Michigan State4-1981
14Texas A&M5-1731
15Ohio State4-1534
16Oklahoma State4-1527
17Kansas State4-1486
19East Carolina4-1344
20Arizona State4-1325
22Georgia Tech5-0235