Phil Steele disappoints on #28 Michigan State The Enlightened Spartan: Phil Steele disappoints on #28 Michigan State

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Phil Steele disappoints on #28 Michigan State

Reading Phil Steele's writeup of his #28 Michigan State Spartans was one of the more disappointing reads of the preseason previews; although he is accurate in his assessment by position, he uses a negative connotation about MSU, unlike his love of the scUM mystique.  Just starting with the cover -- a scUM player (Robinson), a Ohio $tate player (Williams), and a Nebraska player (Crick).... even though Steele picks MSU in a tie in the Legends Division with Nebraska. 

But, his analysis of the Spartans sez this by position, fairly accurate:
  • QB: "Cousins should be one of the Big Ten's best"
  • RB: "This is one of the deeper RB corps in the country"
  • OL: "With a deeper overall unit MSU could top last year's production"
  • DL: "This looks like the Spartans' deepest and most complete DL since at least '07"
  • LB: "With the loss of the top 2, however, this unit will be down a few notches"
  • DB: "This group is equal to last year in terms of experience and 6'2' Tony Lippet could be a big upgrade at CB if he stays on defense"
  • ST:  "may drop a few notches"
Forecast:  "This year MSU has just 12 returning starters and play five road games vs. bowl teams. Despite that 7-1 mark in Big Ten play they were only +39.9 yards per game.  MSU also benefitted from three net close wins and had just 7 starters lost to injury.  This is probably the strongest team that Dantonio has fielded but the above factors make it tough to match last year's 11 wins."  He ranks Michigan State #28 overall, although he has them in a tie for first in the Legends Division... ????

ES:  My problem with the forecast is the framework provided by Steele is one of the glass being half empty instead of half full:  why is ypg, close wins, and lack of injuries seen as a negative?  This is Dantonio's style, to play tough on defense and give his teams a chance to make plays and win.  Spartan fans will (hopefully) see this year in and year out... and also celebrate the victories to match. 

Notably, in every other BCS conference where he picked a #1 team or a tie at #1 in a conference division, Steele ranked them in the Top 25 (except the Big Least with Pitt) :  SEC (Alabama #1, Georgia #9), ACC (#5 Virginia Tech, #10 Florida St), Pac-12 (#4 Oregon, #17 Southern Cal), Big East (#25 South Florida, #27 Pittsburgh), Big 12 (Oklahoma #2), Big Ten (#12 Nebraska, #15 Ohio St, #23 Wisconsin, #24 Penn St). 

Steele projects Michigan State to play Florida in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.  He has Cousins as his #6 QB, Baker as his #7 RB, Martin as his #51 WR, Cunningham as his #65 WR, Linthicum as #24 TE, Foreman as his #7 OG, Conroy as #16 PK, Worthy as #2 DT, Norman as #43 LB, Adams as #33 CB, Robinson as #17 FS, and Martin as #15 PR.  Never in my years reading Steele have I seen as many Spartans listed so highly. 

As units go, Steele has MSU QBs at #23, RBs at #6, DL at #25, ST at #6.  Steele blew it not including the Spartan WR corps or the DBs in his top 25 -- clearly they deserve a nod. 

Bottom line: the ES despises being lumped into the same category as Pittsburgh and not being given a nod for its talent... but, this just means that Dantonio has lots of work to do to give Michigan State the respect after so many years of underachieving.  That starts with 2011-12.