Saturday, January 30, 2010

More on Big Ten/14 Expansion. Add Three?

OK, Big Ten expansion made the national media over this weekend, and the ES is happy to see his buddy, Kyle Sweitzer, mentioned in the NY Times to better understand the relation of what Big Ten membership means to academic prestige. As the ES has said once and said again, AAU membership is an important factor in determining access to the Big Ten -- but it IS an athletics conference.

So, considering all the factors including not only AAU membership and academic prestige, geographic proximity, history with the Big Ten in football, broad-based athletics program (eg. lots of sports offered), current conference athletic affiliation, and television draw/current contracts, here is how the ES handicaps potential Big Ten conference teams joining in 2012. Shown in parentheses are distance from EL and Learfield/Sears Cup (LC) standings as of January 11, 2010 (MSU is #15 overall, impressively).

1. Missouri (411 miles from EL, #121 LC). Everything you read from Missouri, and the more you figure this institution will be the next team, regardless of any decision by Notre Dame. As said by the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, would "rather the state’s flagship school hang out with Northwestern and Wisconsin than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State." Over at StLouis Today, they are already bracing for a Mizzou departure, and begging the Big Ten to take Kansas with and not moan an end to the Mizzou-Kansas "Border War." Adding the St Louis television market is revenue, and it is all about money, no (In 2000, US Census ranked St Louis Metro area as #18 in the nation at 2.7 million)? If it smells like fish, is it chicken? Give this a 75-25 shot.
3. Notre Dame (147 miles from EL, #26 LC). It is in the heart of Big Ten country. Again, ND has its own football contract and independence... but it can be easily traced that ND athletics has lost an incredible amount of prestige since the departure of Lou Holtz and the beginning of the information age. Add the Big Ten network and its $80 million annual contract, and Notre Dame finds its football independence and non-football Big East affiliation to lack complete fulfillment. That NBC contract and Big Least affiliation is no longer the goose the laid the golden egg. Will the Irish priests-in-charge be so stubborn to allow them to miss their best (or last) opportunity for probably the next 20 years or more? The Big Ten won't offer anything more than an invitation. The ND would be foolish to blink, but may be stupid enough to do so. But, from a Big Ten standpoint, while ND has strong academics (and high minimum admissions standards), it also ain't AAU. This is a 50-50 shot.

4-10: Others (read ES examination): Syracuse (#34), Iowa State (#22), Rutgers (#49), Nebraska (#36), Louisville (#70), Cincy (#52), Memphis (#121). All are no better than 25-75.

What about Kansas? 771 miles from EL. Not ranked in LC standings. But, a long time AAU member (since 1909). It would be the new West and South border for the conference, and 1,200 miles from Penn State. If you bring Kansas because of the Mizzou-Kansas rivalry... OK. But this year the broad-based success just doesn't compare without any rating at all in the fall. Seems to me a school needs to bring more than just a rivalry with another. Maybe it does: it is only 40 miles from Kansas City, Missouri, which according to the US Census is the #26 metro area (1.8 million). So, if you added both Mizzou and Kansas, you are adding a potential 4.5 million individuals to the Big Ten, which is an ENORMOUS draw. The problem: look at the map. They are just way out there; at a time when institutions are hurting with money and trimming their budgets for travel, adding a team that extends the current boundary by more than 300 miles doesn't seem to make much sense. I'd say 25-75 shot.

What if Mizzou, Kansas or Pitt, and Notre Dame joined the Big Ten/14? What would the Big Ten/14 Divisions look like? Here is the most likely geographic division split.

Big Ten West
Kansas or Purdue

Big Ten East
Michigan State
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue or Pittsburgh

When will there be an announcement?

Despite rumors here or there, it will take time. University of Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther stated on January 11, "in the next six to 12 months, expansion will be addressed or not addressed." Which puts the earliest window at July 2010. The original statement from the Big Ten, released in December 2009, said it would take 12-18 months, which would put the earliest window at December 2010. So, don't believe the rumors. Getting 11 Big Ten presidents together in one place within a month is nearly impossible to begin with, let alone all the data and dialogue to approve and submit an invitation... this is higher education, not business. It doesn't just turn around on a dime. Or does it?

Michigan State 79, Northwestern 70

OK, MSU defeats Northwestern tonight, 79-70. At one point, MSU up 16, but Northwestern hit so many big shots to try and inch closer... but too much Durrell Summers and too much Kalin Lucas. MSU now 9-0 in the conference. Next up? Tuesday night at Wisky. Can you say, "wow"!"

The best part about tonight? Looking at all the costumes in the crowd. Crazy. Which one did you like best? See below...

First Michigan State, now the rest of the world

Michigan will host Michigan State in hockey at Michigan Stadium in December this year. It's official. But, let us step back for a minute.

Michigan State led the world with the idea, that is, outdoor hockey in the information age. The "Cold War" hockey matchup between Michigan State and Michigan on a frigid fall evening in Spartan Stadium back in 2001 (still a world record attendance of 74,544 to watch hockey) has led to an onslaught of outdoor premier hockey matchups annually ever since.

It's been a huge revenue and promotional machine for pro and college hockey, and you wonder if Mark Hollis is kicking himself for not copyrighting it and getting a piece of the action. Every year, the NHL has its "Winter Classic" (the Red Wings and Blackhawks at Wrigley field last year, the Flyers and Bruins at Fenway Park on January 1 this year). And, next week, Michigan will head over to Wisconsin to play at the Camp Randall Hockey Classic.

Now, Michigan State and Michigan will face off next academic year, December 11, 2010, in Michigan Stadium for the "Big Chill in the Big House."

Everyone who has a chance to see outdoor hockey? Do it! When the ES watched the Cold War, it was a thrilling, amazing experience. Plus, a 7-hour long tailgate ain't bad either. Note to the wise: bring a stadium seat, a wool blanket, and wear long underwear.

MSU beats Michigan, again. Leads scUM 9-6-1 across all sports. NW hoops prediction

OK, we defeated our arch rival, again, last night -- this time in ice hockey. Michigan State racked up a 3-2 victory over Michigan at Munn Ice Arena amidst scrums and brawls throughout the third period. My six year old daughter, seeing the penalty box jammed with Wolverines, said "the jail is full, Dad. Where are they going to put the others." That was our third victory over the Yellow Bellies in hockey this year.

So, how has MSU fared in hoops, football, and hockey over Michigan in the 2009-10 academic year? So, far MSU leads 9-6-1, with a clean sweep in the four major sports: football, basketball (men's & women's), and hockey.

SPORT (record): winner score (date)
Football (1-0): MSU 26-20 (10/3)
Men's Basketball (1-0): MSU 57-56 (1/26)
Women's Basketball (1-0): MSU 86-71 (12/31)
Hockey (3-0): MSU 3-2 (11/13), MSU 2-0 (11/14), MSU 3-2 (1/29)
Field Hockey (1-0): MSU 2-1 (10/25)
Men's Soccer (1-0) MSU 2-1 (10/25)
Wrestling (1-0): MSU 17-15 (1/29)
Women's Soccer (0-0-1): tied 0-0 (10/11)
Men's XC (0-1): UM 4th, MSU 8th (11/1)
Women's XC (0-1): UM 4th, MSU 5th (11/1)
Gymnastics (0-1): UM 194.20-193.75 (1/20)
Women's Swimming (0-1): UM 127-82 (1/29)
Volleyball (0-2): UM 3-0 (10/31), UM 3-2 (11/18)

Again, Michigan State takes on Northwestern in hoops tonight in a bid to advance to 9-0 in the conference. Tipoff 7 pm EST on the Big Ten Network. Sparty is favored by 15 (not 7 as originally stated). The best matchup this weekend is Minnesota at Ohio State (Sunday, 1 pm). Other big games in the conference this weekend include: Indiana at Illinois (Saturday, 2 pm); Iowa at scUM (Saturday, 4:30 pm); JoePa at Purdue (Sunday, 3 pm).

Predictions? Even our buddies over at Lake The Posts note the inevitable: "Sparty owns us." ES sez MSU runs away in a rout. Michigan State 69, Northwestern 55.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Michigan State TD (-7) favorite over Northwestern, Recruiting

Early line shows that the Big Green is favored by 7 points over the Skinny Cats from Northwestern in men's hoops tomorrow night at the Brez (tip off 7 pm EST). By virtue of Purdue's win over Wisconsin last night, MSU has opened a 3 game lead while on top of the Big Ten Standings.

Football Recruiting: Punxsutawney Phil + 1

The first day for potential recruits to sign a football national letter of intent, binding them to a college of their choice, is on February 3 - the day after Groundhog Day. That's next Wednesday, Punxsutawney Phil fans.

At this time, Michigan State has notched 20 verbal commitments, including in recent weeks Darqueze Dennard of Jeffersonville, Georgia. Dennard is a 5-11, 170-lb defensive back who also considered national powers Oklahoma State, Utah State, Wake Forest, and Middle Tennessee State. MSU also received a verbal from Justin Wilson, a 6-0, 217-lb linebacker from Davie, Florida. Wilson picked MSU after turning down offers from Missouri, Purdue, TCU, West Virginia, FIU, Fla Atlantic, and Toledo.

Looking at the big board, right now, if all those who verbally committed sign on the dotted line, the incoming class includes players who were predominantly at these positions in high school:

DB: 4
LB: 2
DL: 4
OL: 3
RB: 3
QB: 1
K: 1
WR/TE: 2

The bonus here is that 7 of the 20 verbals are on the interior. The ES would like to see more. We need more quality beef inside if Michigan State is ever going to move up the standings on the gridiron.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cunningham and Dell plead guilty

Lovely. From ESPN:

"Two more Michigan State football players have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery charges stemming from a Nov. 22 campus fight. Receivers B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell entered the pleas in district court Wednesday. Conspiracy charges were dropped and each player faces up to 93 days in jail at the March 8 sentencing.

Cunningham and Dell are among 11 current or former Spartans facing assault charges from the fight with members of a campus fraternity.

Running back Ashton Leggett pleaded guilty to two counts of assault earlier this month. He's transferring from Michigan State to Illinois State."

Sparty wearing on the ES

The Izzo was on Jim Rome show today. OK, I HATE Jim Rome. The whole letters to the editor innuendos signed by some third party whose name is synonymous with another societal or sports situation was always, well, call it sophomoric ("Dear Mark McGuire: Put down the cream. Signed, Pete Rose."). Plus, his pausing and phrasing is again very abrasive.

BUT, he does get along with Coach Izzo. And, the ES was accidentally flipping channels on my radio today when I heard Coach's voice on his show. So, after listening to coach talk about THE LOGO, it is time to address this again.

Coach Izzo is right by and large: "you need to really see the whole thing. Teams have had different colors of green and different looks and if we want to be like the best programs out there, we need it to be consistent for everyone." Izzo talked about Kelly Green, Dark Green, Green, etc. Izzo talked about how "it would be nice for all of us who really love this program to be behind it." Now THAT hit home.

You can't judge a car based on the looking at the rear end. Let's say the new Sparty is the rear end. The ES isn't that crazy about the Sparty on its own, but I AM getting used to it and nowhere near as negative as first impression. It isn't so bad now that the shock has worn off. Let's see what it looks like in its entirety with the rest of the imaging roll out.

But, more importantly, its just a logo. If we are all behind it, then we are all behind it. It's gonna happen anyway, so why piss and moan?

Reinventing Sparty, well let's hope they don't go ape-shit and destroy the Block 'S' or that may be going too far.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Michigan State OWNS Michigan, again, 57-56

Ha Ha Ha. Michigan State OWNS Michigan, our Little Sister. We've now whipped their tails 17 out of the last 20 games, after the 57-56 victory in their house, the Dump (aka Crisler Arena). MSU, at 18-3/8-0 is off to its best conference start in school history.

While scUM played its best defensive game of the season, they were no match for Kalin Lucas (12 pts, 5-14, 2-5 3pt, 3 asts) and Raymar Morgan (20 pts, 8-9 FG, 8 rebs). Morgan was amazing in his best performance of the season, not only scoring at will but also playing GREAT defense in helping to d-up DeShawn Sims in the post. It was Morgan with Draymond Green who helped to completely seal off the low post for most of the game.

Big Ten POY Lucas was clutch again -- he has that GAME in him, hitting the clutch shots down the stretch as he has all season long (or, all career long). Lucas hit that step back 15 footer from the point on the Spartans' last shot of the game, with 3.5 seconds left. Give credit to coach Izzo for again drawing up a gorgeous inbound play to free up Lucas.

Michigan lives by the three, and they died by the three. Just 7-29 (24%) from behind the arc. Ouch. MSU outrebounded Little Sister, 38-22, and outshot them 49% to 33%. Why was it so close? It was Michigan State mistakes that kept them close -- lots of dumb mistakes, and 18 turnovers as compared to just 4 for Michigan. And, while Michigan was just 7-29 for threes, MSU was worse at 2-12 (17%).

Stats, schmats... yes, the GREAT TEAMS ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO WIN. This is our state. We proved it. Again.

PS, another hilarious stat? That drops scUM to 10-10, which may also drop the preseason overrated #15 team into the NIT.


MSU favored by 4 over scUM; Izzo on logo

Tonight, it is time to take care of business down in Ann Arbor, and for our #5 (and climbing) MSU Spartans to beat up on the little Wolverines. Expect Manny Harris to return to the lineup. On the Tom Izzo radio show last night, he explained that "they like to shoot a lot of threes, and they've been missing a lot. But that is what scares you, when they start making them. We're worried about it." Gus Ganakas talked about Michigan's system similar to that of Phil Jackson's "triple post", coming off penetration and screens and kicking the ball out, over and over again. The Harris, Novak, Sims trio can be pretty deadly when on, and the ES really likes Sims... but three don't make a team.

The bookies? They ain't worried: Michigan State is a 4-point favorite. Game is slated for 7 pm on ESPN, with the always excellent commentary from Steve Lavin and the knock-out sideline insight from Erin Andrews.

Trivia question: Which men's basketball program has a greater historical winning percentage? Michigan or Michigan State?
Answer: MSU. MSU is 1477 -1001 (59.60%); Michigan is 1380-938 (59.53%).

ES prediction: #5 Michigan State 68, Michigan 63. Game MVP? Durrell Summers has a breakout game, he is a matchup disaster for scUM.


Matter of fact, Tom Izzo had some comments on his radio show last night about the new image redesign. "I understand not always wanting to change and the need for consistency. ...But, it people would know how much time and effort went into this, they might have a better appreciation for it."

The ES doesn't disagree with coach Izzo. This is a Big Ten school, a major athletic program with an $80 million annual budget. The ES would fully expect an extensive effort with designers, marketers, public relations professionals, with focus groups and the like. Mark Hollis is going to make sure that he has as much ground covered and stakeholder groups involved in the process as possible. Hopefully they did some polling (one would hope!) which would have provided them some insight into possible concerns... One thing he can't do is involve the general public from the beginning because of immediate backlash, as is happening with the storm cloud now.

But, and a big "but" here -- the ES still doesn't like it. It isn't dynamic, it isn't cool, it isn't hip. And, noone -- NOONE -- has yet to express the NEED. Where is the need? Maybe see what MSU students think of it, they are the younger up- and coming- generation. What do high school students (future Spartans) think of it? What do we know anyway, other than we alumni who pay the bulk of the ticket cost and alumni donations?

You think the public doesn't like the new Sparty head? They'd SCREAM with an adjusted "block S" or other more significant changes. And, so would the ES. What a sad day coming ahead.

In the current ES poll above (you can vote): 64% vote against the logo, 8% for, and 20% "OK". Not exactly encouraging numbers....

It is easy to proclaim: "we have come this far, we can't turn back now." And, "they'll get over it" and just proceed. It is harder, and it takes greater determination and leadership, to say: "You know, we made a mistake." And, "We'll consider the public's concerns" and go back to the designers with the criticism.

There is still time to put on the brakes and reconsider. But, if Spartan athletics is headstrong, at the very least the ES and the Spartan Nation would like a case statement, to be provided with a statement of need, if we are to rally behind this redesign effort. There is a lack of understanding right now. Spartan athletics... are you listening?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spartans jump to #5 in USA Today m-hoops poll

Yup, MSU has moved back up to #5 in the Jan 25, 2010 USA Today Poll, just released (below). As for Jeff Sagarin, MSU is #12 (Wisconsin #11, Purduet #9, Ohio State #23, scUM #89); at, MSU is #14 (Purdue #12, Wisconsin #10, Ohio State #46, scUm #114; at Bracketology, MSU remains #2E (Purdue #4W, Wisconsin #4, Ohio State #7S).

Rank School Record Points Previous

1. Kentucky (31) 19-0 775 2

2. Kansas 18-1 739 3

3. Villanova 18-1 714 4

4. Syracuse 19-1 680 5

5. Michigan St 17-3 627 7

6. Texas 17-2 613 1

7. Duke 16-3 555 6

8. Gonzaga 16-3 533 10

9. W Virginia 15-3 506 12

10. BYU
20-1 485 13

11. Georgetown 15-3 483 14

12. Purdue 16-3 420 15

13. Kansas State 16-3 409 9

14. Tennessee 15-3 385 8

15. Temple 17-3 339 17

16. Wisconsin 16-4 282 19

17. Pittsburgh 15-4 267 11

18. Butler 16-4 213 20

19. Connecticut 13-6 199 21

20. Mississippi 15-4 151 24

21. Clemson 15-5 112 16

22. Georgia Tech 14-5 105 18

23. Vanderbilt 15-3 71 NR

24. Ohio State 14-6 62 25

25. Northern Iowa 17-2 60 22

Dropped out: No. 23 North Carolina (12-7).

Others receiving votes: Florida State (15-4) 50; Cornell (16-3) 38; New Mexico (18-3) 38; Baylor (15-3) 37; Wake Forest (14-4) 23; UAB (17-2) 18; Missouri (15-4) 16; Oklahoma State (15-4) 16; Saint Mary's (17-3) 11; Mississippi State (15-4) 9; Maryland (13-5) 6; UNLV (16-4) 6; Siena (17-4) 4; Texas A&M (14-5) 4; Louisiana Tech (18-3) 3; Old Dominion (16-5) 3; Xavier (13-6) 3; California (13-6) 2; Notre Dame (15-5) 2; North Carolina (12-7) 1.

Why a new Michigan State Sparty redesign? ???

OK, as we await this morning's AP and ESPN polls (Texas' two losses are the only team that was upset this week in top 5 -- that could move MSU up one spot... maybe), let's talk about logos.

If you didn't hear, MSU Athletics has been in the midst of an "image redesign" campaign (at right). First of all what do you think? Vote on the poll at right.

The first part of the logo redesign (this isn't all, folks) leaked out this week and, well, the ES don't like it either. My question: why fix what isn't broken? One of the biggest problems with MSU athletics over the years is it consistently changing its look. It is a LACK of consistency when it comes to the Spartan head. The new one looks more complicated (remember KISS - "Keep it Simple Stupid") with more angular features on the face to make it look like a hardened mask - actually, looks like devil horn to some extent sticking out the top.

Sometimes when you have new leadership in an organization, one of the first things they want to do is to recreate a look based upon what they perceive to be a need. Maybe Nike got to Hollis and offered their services and said that they'd like to redo their whole imaging strategy for a discount or for free as long as they use their equipment and let people know it. I dunno. Getting discounted marketing services from Nike would be a bargain.

And, anytime you have a logo change, people immediately don't like it. CMU changed from their "Block C" to the "Moving C" with enormous criticism around 1996 in the midst of a complete athletics overhaul. You don't hear any complaints anymore.

But, let us compare to what does work. WHAT MAKES MICHIGAN ATHLETICS the most recognizable college sports logo and the top seller of college athletics merchandise in the nation every year the last 40 years? Consistency. Don Canham as AD copyrighted, trademarked, and just about all-everythinged the Block M logo back when Bo became coach in 1969-1970... to the point that it is synonymous with the institution. And THAT IS ALL THEY HAVE, nothing more. Just a plain old ugly block M. Disgusting, but it works.

Heck, I saw an interview of some physician helping out the people in Haiti and what did he have on his shirt? A yellow block M. I wonder where he is from. It works. I had to turn the channel.

Reinventing the MSU Sparty logo is a mistake, because it goes back to square one any hope for consistency... Furthermore, the biggest problem is the lack of need. The Spartan Nation likes what we have. Don't change something that isn't necessary. Use what you already have and brand it across all of athletics, instead of inventing something new.

Mind you, Spartan athletics won't sell more merchandise with a new logo; it will become less recognizable (in the short term). However it will also sell more and become more recognizable if MSU teams win more championships, if more strategic planning goes in to the use of the logos (instead of a redesign), and if you can get the overwhelming amount of scUM merchandise from dominating Metro Detroit airport.

Let's hope for godsakes they don't change the Block S.

One other thing... the ES is a collector of old Spartan banners. I have some from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. What is the one thing consistent? The logo was the seal of the university. Now THAT is consistent, and it rocks. And, it was used BY SPARTAN ATHLETICS. My how things have changed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the Barn: The Gopher blogosphere on MSU win

Always love what the competitor blogs are saying the day after a nice Spartan victory on the road. The Gopher blogosphere noted the game as "extremely important" and that the season was "on the line." OK, so season over, no?

Read From the Barn here and here. Enjoy. GO STATE!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Michigan State defense stops Minnesota, 65-64

Today, that was STEALING. Or, steely resolve by our Michigan State Spartans, in an exciting, 65-64 victory over Minnesota which saw the Big Green behind the whole game, and by as many as 13 in the second half. Yes, MSU kept chipping away, chipping and chipping. At the 5-minute mark, CBS all-world announcer Gus Johnson said "this is where the Spartan defense usually clamps down." And it did, shutting down Minny the rest of the game. In the last 6:07, MSU outscored Minny 13-4. Game, set, match - MSU.

The Big Green didn't lead until 1:27 left, after Big Ten POY Kalin Lucas came through again with yet another clutch shot, a three pointer that helped the victory. Then, on the final play, Minnesota set up with 15 seconds left and, as Izzo said, "we switched up everyone" and next thing you know Allen guarded Minny ace Westbrook; Allen closed off the door and Westbrook's off-balance shot led to a ping pong gallery the final five seconds, all misses until the clock ran out. GREAT defense by MSU, and GOOD TEAMS ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO WIN. Lucas (22 pts, 8-14 FG, 4-6 threes) and Morgan (17 pts, 6-6 FG, 6 rebs, 2 blks) were the best players for the Spartans, and chip in some kudos to Allen (12 pts, 4-7 threes).

The biggest problem today was Minnesota's size on the interior made it very difficult for MSU's offensive big-guys, as Delvon Roe (0-5, 7 rebs) and Draymond Green (2-9, 8 rebs) had 4 pts between them. But, MSU had its best 3 point shooting game of the season (11-24, 46%) and had just 10 turnovers. This efficiency kept them in the game until the end.

Most interesting stat of the season? In a tough, defensive game, MSU was only called for 12 fouls... and Minnesota 10 - that is a combined 22 fouls for both teams the whole game. We've seen the Spartans typically get over 20 fouls per game. (24 vs UNC and Nwestern is the most this year; five times with 20 fouls or more, 11 times with at least 18 fouls).

Winning in Minnesota is never easy, but MSU now has 8 consecutive victories over the Gophers (14 of the last 16)... yes, the ES sez it is now official: MSU dominates Minnesota in basketball. It also has 8 consecutive victories this season to jump to 17-3 overall, and 7-0 in the conference -- its best conference start since Magic Johnson's freshman year. Wow. The Big Green now has a 2 game lead over the field, with another difficult test -- heading into scUM land, where we can wipe the floor with Manny Harris' face.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A win's a win: Thumping Iowa

Well, there is one good reason to lead another team by 19 points with 10 minutes to go... that might just be enough to hang on to win.

It was the case last night, as #6 Michigan State hit clutch free throws by Delvon Roe and Draymond Green in the final minutes to eek out a 70-63 victory over Iowa and remain undefeated at 6-0 in Big Ten play. MSU had an amazing 24 assists to 28 baskets, but a bulk of their 15 turnovers committed were when Iowa was making its run to cut the lead all the way to three points with 2 minutes left.

Who was the best player on the court? Either Raymar Morgan (16 points on 7-11 shooting, 3 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 1 blk, 3 TOs) or Draymond Green (9 points, 11 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 2 blks).

What was the problem? Guard play was inconsistent, particularly late in the game. MSU guards combined for 15-38 shooting (39.5%), 2-11 threes (18.1%), only 2 of 2 FTs. Just two free throws from the guards ain't good enough. However, a key stat was the guards providing 17 assists to 7 TOs, which is a nice 2.43-1 ratio.

Up next? 12-5/3-3 Minnesota at Noon EST on Saturday. Minny's last game was a 81-78 loss to Indiana in OT last Sunday. That's a whole week off for them to prepare for the Big Green. Let's see what they got.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MSU jumps to #6 in hoops poll

Michigan State extends its dominance in the Big Ten, and it is evidenced now in the latest AP Poll, with the Big Green up to #6 nationally. According to Jeff Sagarin, MSU is #11 nationally, Wisky is #10 and Purdon't is #13. And, in Bracketology, the Spartans sit at a pretty #2 seed in the West, Purdue is #4 MW, Wisky is #3 E, Illinois is #12 E, Ohio State is #5 S. In CollegeRPI, MSU sits at #18, Purdue is #17, Wisky is #9.

Yes, college hoops is a war of attrition and as the war goes on, the cream rises. MSU keeps going up up up....

AP Top 25
1. Texas (57) 17-0 1,617
2. Kentucky (8) 18-0 1,568
3. Kansas 16-1 1,457
4. Villanova 16-1 1,442
5. Syracuse 17-1 1,376
6. Michigan State 15-3 1,259
7. Duke 15-2 1,249
8. Tennessee 14-2 1,163
9. Pittsburgh 15-2 1,015
10. Kansas State 15-2 989
11. West Virginia 13-3 922
12. Georgetown 13-3 873
13. Purdue 14-3 799
14. Brigham Young 18-1 763
15. Gonzaga 14-3 748
16. Temple 15-3 581
17. Clemson 15-3 568
18. Wisconsin 14-4 542
19. Georgia Tech 13-4 380
20. Northern Iowa 16-1 252
21. Ohio State 13-5 228
22. Mississippi 13-4 211
23. Mississippi State 15-3 189
24. North Carolina 12-6 161
25. Baylor 14-2 147
Others Receiving Votes
Vanderbilt 122, Connecticut 98, New Mexico 96, UAB 59, Virginia 50, Florida State 41, Butler 35, Texas A&M 28, Cornell 15, William & Mary 15, Wake Forest 13, Rhode Island 11, Marquette 10, Missouri 8, Louisiana Tech 7, Northwestern 6, Old Dominion 3, Arizona State 3, Marshall 2, Xavier 2, Harvard 1, Siena 1.
Dropped From Rankings
Connecticut 15, Florida State 25.

FYI - Spartan icehockey is at #10 in the USCHO poll.

Burly's Money Makers wins ES Bowl Pick 'Em

Congrats to Wyatt of Burly's Money Makers who won the ES Bowl Pick 'em with a whopping 24 of 34 games picked correctly, and a dominating 459 points.

Wyatt - you need to respond to this posting with your email address or phone # in the comment form for me to contact you or set up arrangements for your winnings. I have a pair of tickets to tomorrow night's MSU vs Iowa men's basketball game.

The final standings are below (the ES came in 17th. Urgh). Thanks for everyone for playing -

# Team Name - Player name Correct Score
1 Burly's Money Makers Wyatt 24 of 34
- 459
2 schoppd1234 schoppdavid 21 of 34
- 417
3 Dew NCAA 2009 dwilson160 19 of 34 - 395
4 Bleedin Green Oscar 20 of 34 - 371
5 My opinion Eric 19 of 34 - 370
6 Disnox dniysx 18 of 34 - 368
7 Kwyjibo eric_lindbloom 19 of 34 - 363
8 AE1 Athletic 18 of 34 - 362
9 Pocan Pocan 21 of 34 - 352
10 Paul des Paul des Lauriers 18 of 34 - 350
11 GoState Go Green 20 of 34 - 344
12 Canadian Spartans mrose_gostate 18 of 34 - 337
13 msufan mike 19 of 34 - 336
14 Mitchell t fireballs mitchelltsfireballs 19 of 34 - 333
15 Winston's Gang David 17 of 34 - 331
16 TheES * Enlightened 21 of 34 - 330
17 ten penny frommer81 17 of 34 - 316
18 SpartyMSU John 16 of 34 - 304
19 Go Green! Go White! paintballmann06 15 of 34 - 302
20 Greenwithenvy bryanblough@... 18 of 34 - 293
21 Sparty's Pal Sharlene L 16 of 34 - 279
22 Crunch Crunchy 17 of 34 -267

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"That is a quality program there boys": Illini on Michigan State

Michigan State totally dominated Illinois today, just crushed 'em, with a 73-63 victory. Illini 4-0 record coming in was deceiving, and their NW-Ind-Iowa-JoePa run was exposed. We showed UI how to really play basketball. We kicked their arse! up by as many as 23 late in the game when Izzo decided to lay low. It wuz ALL DEFENSE, baby, just suffocating!

What do the Illini faithful say? Well... read this - from DRS on IlliniTalk:

Painful game to watch after the first 10 minutes. To open the offense was great. Motion, motion, motion. throw in Griffey's burst, that was nice to see, and they was rolling. But, the team caved in. Players began to go one and one and Mich St extending out on the defensive. Illinois attempted to go down low to Davis who looked befuddled again down on the block and they really started to miss Tisdale's presence. Mich St. did the rest.

Roe kept them in it early, Morgan built the lead and Lucas sealed the deal. That is a quality program there boys. Illinois should aspire to be that disciplined and professional. even when they were down they kept running their sets getting good looks and the shots started to fall. Outclassed straight up and down. Morgan was the player of the game, the commentators gushed about everybody else but his influence and call game was the difference. I hope Davis can look like that his senior year, gotta long way to go.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Big Ten Standings: MSU on Top

Here are your Big Ten men's basketball standings, as it should be - with Big Green on top. Next to be slain: Illinois (Saturday, 3:30 pm, CBS).

Standings Conference Overall

#7 - Michigan St 4 0 - 1.000 14 3 .824
Illinois 4 0 - 1.000 12 5 .706
#13 - Wisconsin 4 1 ½ .800 14 3 .824
Minnesota 3 2 .600 12 5 .706
Michigan 3 2 .600 9 7 .563
#6 - Purdue 2 2 2 .500 14 2 .875
Ohio State 2 3 .400 12 5 .706
Northwestern 1 3 3 .250 12 4 .750
Indiana 1 3 3 .250 7 9 .438
Penn State 0 4 4 .000 8 8 .500
Iowa 0 4 4 .000 6 11 .353

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help out Haiti

If you get a chance, let's drop our Green guard and go Red - help out the folks in Haiti who are in one of the worst disasters imaginable. Contribute something, anything, to help out these most vulnerable people. Link to any of these organizations below:
For more sites to donate, visit the Huffington Post's list. The video on all the television and online is riveting and heartbreaking.

Michigan State football player suspension update

There was a report last night by ESPN and others in the media that eight suspended Michigan State football players were "reinstated" and allowed to return to the team and that four would depart; this as a result of their participation in the Rather Hall brawl in November.

However, these reports are not completely accurate. Instead, as noted by the LSJ, these players were "were welcomed back to a recent team meeting." This does not necessarily mean they have completely served the penalties imposed by the head coach to regain full status on the team. There is some distance to go from being invited to participate in a team meeting to "reinstatement" as a regular team member. How far is that distance? Only MD knows...

More importantly is that GREG JONES IS RETURNING!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Greg Jones To Return to MSU... Spartan Hoops Stop Minny 60-53

Michigan State All-Everything LB Greg Jones announced tonite he would return for his senior season. The reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American all but assures the Spartan defense will be full of experienced playmakers (hopefully) next fall. Said Jones, "My teammates and I have some unfinished business to take care of." Go GREEN!

Tonight, MSU's men's hoops team held its third consecutive opponent to under 54 points with a 60-53 victory over Minnesota to advance to 4-0 in the conference. Yes, Michigan State IS the best defensive team in the conference. Get our offense going, and the Big Green will be unbeatable. Seems like another, typical, Izzo-style defensive-minded run at another NCAA Final Four... the ES LOVES IT.

Michigan State to whip Minnesota tonite

Not going to the game tonight. Harumph.

But, this is a big talent mismatch at nearly every position in Michigan State's favor. As for team results, again a huge mismatch when you look at the final scoreboard numbers. Minny lacks impressive wins (Ohio State?) and has losses to Portland, Miami, Texas A&M, and Purdue. In its four road losses, Minny has scored no more than 65 points and as averaging 59.7. Minny is 2-4 away from home this year. MSU has impressive wins against Wisconsin and Gonzaga, both at the Brez. In Michigan State's three losses (all on the road vs ranked opponents Florida, UNC, Texas) it scored no less than 68 and averaged 74.8.

When just comparing losses, MSU averaged 15 more points than Minnesota. And, MSU's losses were to quality, Minny's were to sisters-of-the-poor. And, this game is at home. And, ....

That's enuff for the ES. You can't bring that crap into the Brez and expect to win. It will be a whipper-snapper. Michigan State 79, Minnesota 63. Player of the game: Kalin Lucas. He'll score at least 25 against the Gophers.

Here's a preview from thy enemy blog, Minny's From the Barn.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Enos named CMU coach. MSU -7 1/2 over Minny

How 'bout that? Dan Enos (center right) is the next head football coach at Central Michigan University. Enos was the RB coach and previously the QB coach at Michigan State; and was the last Spartan QB to lead the school to a Big Ten championship. How will it affect Michigan State? In the upcoming heralded class, Enos was the lead recruiter for Joe Boisture, Taylor Calero, William Gholston, Mylan Hicks, Nick Hill, Jeremy Langford, and Tony Lippett. Who will replace his fire as lead recruiter next year, who has the Spartan blood to sell the program? Further, next year, Michigan State will try to again inch itself into the Big Ten's upper tier -- ESPN makes very good note of the fact that Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Joe Pa return an intact core and will be tough to jump on the leaderboard. Clearly, Enos is a good coach - as we saw his skill with both Ed Baker and Larry Caper coming on as the season progressed. Could be worse - we could be scUM or ND.

Spartan Hoops?
Michigan State is an early 7 1/2 point favorite over Minny tomorrow night at the Brezlin. Sparty will win that and improve to 4-0, rolling as the season moves on...

Monday, January 11, 2010

MSU up to #7 AP, #2 South in Bracketology

The ES wuz right on, MSU is up to #7 AP/#8 USA Today in the latest men's basketball poll. I posted the AP poll below. And, in Bracketology, the Big Green move up to a #2 seed in the South: Lunardi only has four Big Ten teams in his field: MSU (#2S) , Purdue (#2W), Wisconsin (#3MW), and Minnesota (#7E).

AP Top 25
1. Texas (56) 15-0 1,616
2. Kentucky (9) 16-0 1,569
3. Kansas 14-1 1,441
4. Villanova 14-1 1,426
5. Syracuse 15-1 1,353
6. Purdue 14-1 1,317
7. Michigan State 13-3 1,191
8. Duke 13-2 1,178
9. Tennessee 12-2 1,030
10. West Virginia 12-2 1,006
11. Georgetown 12-2 934
12. North Carolina 12-4 844
13. Kansas State 13-2 746
13. Wisconsin 13-3 746
15. Connecticut 11-4 633
16. Pittsburgh 13-2 565
17. Gonzaga 12-3 559
18. Brigham Young 16-1 456
19. Temple 13-3 388
20. Georgia Tech 12-3 342
21. Mississippi 12-3 326
22. Baylor 13-1 301
23. Miami (FL) 15-1 189
24. Clemson 13-3 167
25. Florida State 13-3 155
Others Receiving Votes
Texas A&M 126, Northern Iowa 91, Missouri 64, Mississippi State 61, New Mexico 59, Dayton 39, UAB 35, UNLV 28, Oklahoma State 26, Vanderbilt 21, Notre Dame 18, Wake Forest 14, Cornell 12, Butler 10, Texas Tech 10, Marquette 9, Virginia Tech 9, William & Mary 8, Louisiana Tech 2, Florida 2, Harvard 1, Missouri State 1, Siena 1.
Dropped From Rankings
New Mexico 15, Texas Tech 22.

The Rise of Michigan State... Again

The ES anxiously awaits USA Today and AP rankings this week for the men's hoops team.

There were certainly upsets in the Top 10, giving room for #10 Michigan State to move up. As expected, Wisky beat #4 Purdon't and ruining their feeling of invincibility. The cream always rises to the top, now, doesn't it. The Big Green is back atop the Big Ten leaderboard, where it rightfully should be. Other losses were #9 UNC to Charleston, #8 West Virginia to Notre Dame, #5 Duke to Georgia Tech, and of course #1 Kansas to Tennessee.

This, combined with Michigan State's thrashing at home of Wisconsin (54-47) and whipping of Iowa in the corn state (71-53), should move the Spartans up to #8 or #7. According to Sagarin, Purdon't dropped to #5, Wisky to #12, MSU is at #13, and Minny is at #36. According to RPIratings, Purdon't is #5, Wisky #15, MSU #25, Minny #43.

The hockey team ain't bad either, with a win and a tie/shootout loss to Lake Superior State this weekend. MSU was #13 in the nation heading into the weekend, and at 15-6-3/10-3-3 is just one point behind CCHA leaders Ferris State and Miami-Ohio.

Friday, January 08, 2010

What it feels like to be average: MSU and who?

How does it feel to be a Michigan State football fan compared to others? Who else is like us?

After yet another average (6-7) season for Michigan State, the ES started thinking.... how many other people feel the same way about their colleges, rooting their hearts out year after year after year... but really expecting not much. Who else has gone to their alma mater's football games since 1986, knowing their team likely has a 50-50 shot to win or lose every game, maybe have a chance at an upset or to be upset? How many people keep renewing their season tickets only to know that really, the end results will be the same - mediocrity. Which schools football team is always treading water, consistently, not sinking, but not swimming? Which teams from other conferences most closely resemble the mediocrity of Michigan State over the past 22 years?

Well, let us find out. The ES dug into some online statistical databases (thank you Chris Stassen and James Howell), and decided to use conference records instead of all-time records because membership in a conference is the best indicator of consistent level of competition, as is Michigan State's membership in the Big Ten since 1952. OK, there is an assumption here: Sure, some teams have joined or switched conferences (Boston College & Miami-Fla from Independent to Big Least to ACC; Louisville from Conference USA to Big Least; etc.); but, most teams are consistent over time. Yet, the ES argues the level of competition within a conference is roughly the same regardless of the level of competition across conferences. The Big Ten is far tougher than the WAC or Big East; but over time, MSU plays teams at a level of competition similar to their own within the Big Ten, as does who Utah State plays in the WAC, or who Syracuse plays in the Big East.

In the end, what I have provided below are those Division I-FBS teams within one variance (VAR=0.022) of Michigan State's average (.530) over the last 22 years, so these are teams' conference winning percentages between .552 to .508 since 1986. In BOLD are BCS-conference member teams, as is Michigan State.
  • Team - Conference. - Conf. Win %. - Games Played, W/L/T.
  • Northern Illinois - MAC. - .545. - 112 GP, 61, W, 51 L.
  • Georgia Tech - ACC. - .534. - 177 GP, 94 W, 82 L, 1 T.
  • Michigan State - Big Ten. - .530. - 184 GP, 96 W, 85 L, 3 T.
  • Syracuse - Big East. - .528. - 123 GP, 65 W, 58 L.
  • Boston College - ACC. - .528. - 127 GP, 66 W, 59 L, 2 T.
  • San Jose State - WAC. - .527. - 169 GP, 89 W, 80 L.
  • Central Michigan - MAC. - .521. - 188 GP, 95 W, 87 L, 6 T.
  • San Diego State - MWC. - .514. - 176 GP, 90 W, 85 O, 1 T.
  • Arizona State - Pac 10. - .514. - 182 GP, 92 W, 87 L, 3 T.
  • Texas Christian - MWC. - .511. - 176 GP, 90 W, 86 L.
  • Utah State - WAC. - .511. - 138 GP, 70 W, 67 L, 1 T.
  • Arkansas - SEC. - .508. - 185 GP, 93 W, 90 L, 2 T.
So, the ES has his answer. Since he first went to Michigan State as an undergrad in 1986, when comparing to other members of BCS-conferences (they have similar institution size and level of competition), the Spartan football fan base has similar frustrations to...

Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, Arizona State, and Arkansas. Sounds about right, though I always thought we were closer to Texas A&M (but was way off, the Aggies are .667 since 1986; NC State is also close at .503).

This year how did these teams do? Funny, MSU is in the middle (again).
  • Georgia Tech - 11-2/7-1. Orange Bowl vs. Iowa tonight.
  • Boston College - 8-5/5-3. Emerald Bowl, Lost 24-13 to USC.
  • Arkansas - 8-5/3-5. Liberty Bowl, Won 20-17 (OT) vs East Carolina.
  • Michigan State - 6-7/4-4. Alamo Bowl, Lost 41-31 to Texas Tech.
  • Arizona State - 4-8/2-7.
  • Syracuse - 4-8/1-6.
Yeah, that's about right. What do you think?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Dan Enos to CMU?

Interesting post on the ES message board; one individual reports that Dan Enos has interviewed to be the head coach at Central Michigan University. Enos is the running back's coach at Michigan State and one of the team's best recruiters. He was a quarterback at Michigan State at the end of our last glory years under George Perles; he helped lead the Big Green to its last conference title about 400 years ago (ok, back in 1990, which is 20 years ago).

As you know, Brian Kelly left GVSU for CMU, and then left CMU for Cincinnati, and then left Cincy for ND. When he left CMU for Cincy, the Chips hired Butch Jones. Jones just left for Cincy to fill Kelly's vacancy. So, will Enos be the next head Chippewa?

Yes, it would be a good pick by the Chips and a tough loss for MSU.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

U Want Defense? Sparty Teaches Bo's Badgers a Lesson


If you were at the game, as the ES wuz, or even saw on the tele - well, it wuz easy to see the Sparty's defense taught Wisky a lesson tonight. Them stinkin' Badgers came into the game with the smack talk that they were the better defensive team, and as typical, Izzo's boys kicked 'em around like rag dolls in the Brez.

Michigan State 54, Wisconsin 47
. Kicking Some Badger Tail.

Read it and weep, you friggin' Grateful Red, read it and weep. What was the best sign of the night? "Final Fours: Izzo 5, Bo 0." Yes, it IS all about dancing in APRIL isn't it? Wisky don't even know April exists in basketball... and this year's team won't know it, either. ha ha ha.

Stat Update:

Again, if you read the ES earlier, you'd see he hit the nail on the head for this game. Sure, Wisky had the Assist-to-TO ratio in favor prior and in this game: Wisky had 10 asts to 10 TOs, a 1.0 ratio. MSU was 11-14, a 0.79 ratio. HOWEVER, the telling sign was FG % and rebounding, where Michigan State led 38% - 33%, outrebounded 41-27, and had 11-6 in offensive boards over Wisky. That is just too much domination and too many chances off the glass to overcome, regardless of defensive prowess.

ES Predicts Izzo vs Bo: Sparty a 5 1/2 favorite to beat Wisconsin

Another big test vs. Wisconsin. Michigan State, at #10, is no surprise and they are beginning to hit their stride. The Wisconsin Bo-Weasels are their typical hard nosed self, with that ass of a coach helping to lead with Badgers to a surprise #17 ranking. The early -10 spread was a misnomer out of LSVC in Vegas; most lines have Sparty as a -5.5 favorite. That seems about right.

So, what's everyone saying about tonight's matchup (6:30 pm EST, Big Ten Network)?

Sportbooklists predicts an MSU win; Lansing State Journal predicts a 70-64 MSU win; Badgermaniac has their official prediction thread; Swingtown has Wisconsin 69-62. Bleacher Report calls this UW's "Game of the Year";

The ES sez? I've always been impressed by that Bohannon dude (10.0 ppg), he always seems to hit clutch shots for the Stinkin' Badgers. Trevon Hughes (16.5 ppg) vs Kalin Lucas should be sweet. The Badgers' Jon Leur (15.8 ppg) is an incarnation of Goran Suton. But... the Badgers aren't as deep, with six players averaging 20+ minutes, and MSU goes 9-10 deep with seven players average 20+ minutes per game.

Offense: MSU is leading the nation averaging a +10.3 on the boards - and averages 14.1 offensive rebounds a game compared to Wisky's 9.6 offensive rebounds per game. Add the offensive rebounding advantage to a FG % advantage of 50% for MSU and 47% for Wisky, and you get more touches and more opportunities for MSU to do damage.

Defense: On the other hand, Wisky's defense shows a bit more swagger, with opponents' Assist to Turnover Ratio of just 0.72 assists per turnover; compared to MSU's A-TO defense of 0.98 assists per turnover.

You get two styles here: run and gun of Michigan State vs the grind line of Wisconsin. But, a little more depth, a little more offensive efficiency with the help of offensive rebounding gives the Spartans the edge. Wisconsin is coming off an impressive win against ho-hum JoePa, while Michigan State is coming off its best game of the year in a blow out at upstart Northwestern.

ES predicts: Michigan State 73, Wisconsin 64. Halftime: MSU 32, Wisconsin 29.

See ya at the Brez!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Michigan State jumps to #10, favored by 10 over Wisky

Current line out of Vegas seems a bit high, but it has #10 Michigan State as a 10-point favorite at home tomorrow night over #17 Wisconsin in men's hoops at the Brez. The AP Top 25 is below, but Jeff Sagarin lists Wisky at #11 and Sparty at #20. And, in collegeRPI, Wisky is also ranked higher at #19 with MSU at #35. Screw the computers, GO GREEN!

AP Top 25
1. Kansas (56) 13-0 1,614
2. Texas (8) 13-0 1,550
3. Kentucky (1) 15-0 1,489
4. Purdue 13-0 1,457
5. Duke 12-1 1,348
6. Villanova 12-1 1,279
7. Syracuse 13-1 1,173
8. West Virginia 11-1 1,147
9. North Carolina 11-3 1,098
10. Michigan State 11-3 1,009
11. Kansas State 13-1 996
12. Georgetown 11-1 911
13. Connecticut 10-3 760
14. Mississippi 11-2 699
15. New Mexico 14-1 667
16. Tennessee 10-2 649
17. Wisconsin 12-2 526
18. Florida State 12-2 446
19. Gonzaga 11-3 351
20. Georgia Tech 11-2 203
21. Temple 11-3 173
22. Texas Tech 12-2 166
23. Pittsburgh 12-2 156
24. Washington 10-3 149
25. Brigham Young 14-1 145
Others Receiving Votes
Clemson 139, Texas A&M 86, Cincinnati 76, Florida 75, Baylor 73, Miami (FL) 70, Rhode Island 52, USC 46, Dayton 45, Ohio State 42, Wake Forest 42, William & Mary 37, Northern Iowa 35, UAB 29, Mississippi State 26, Virginia Tech 20, Oklahoma State 16, California 15, UNLV 12, Cornell 9, Butler 6, Virginia Commonwealth 5, Oregon 4, Minnesota 3, Vanderbilt 1.
Dropped From Rankings
Ohio State 15, Clemson 21, UAB 24, Northwestern 25.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Michigan State 2009 review; 2010 early prediction

Final thoughts on 2009 Spartan Football

It was an average year in 2009-2010, and that is a disappointment. Michigan State let four games slip away in which they led in the fourth quarter (CMU, ND, Iowa, Alamo Bowl). That needs to improve, and experienced leadership can hopefully seal the deal late in games.

Defense: The biggest disappointment was the Spartan secondary, which has plenty of experience and played terrible all year long. One continues to be baffled by the poor secondary play on deep balls: they can't learn to turn around and knock passes away and are consistently out of position. Michigan State needs a better pass rush to help out its secondary, but these guys need to just play better and make plays. The defensive line must play better in key situations (third down) against spread offenses: Tyler Hoover, Colin Neely, Oren Wilson, Jerel Worthy, and Kevin Pickleman all return -- Trevor Anderson is the lone loss on the defensive line. MSU gave up a too-high 43% on third downs this year. The secondary just can't play any worse, and even marginal improvement (with help putting more pressure on the QB) might seal a win or two. Its defensive passing efficiency ranked 101st in the country, and its 5 regular season interceptions were the worst in the Big Ten. The defense only created 12 turnovers all year. That's awful - and points to a lack of playmaking ability. That must change for Michigan State to improve in the conference standings. LB Greg Jones will make a decision by January 15 to enter the NFL draft, and while MSU is deep at linebacker, Jones' departure would impact the Spartans' defensive success next year.

Offense: The ES was impressed with the offensive execution in the Alamo Bowl game pending all the absentees from the Rather Hall Brawl. It was nice to see OC Don Treadwell open up the playbook and use gadget play after gadget play -- successfully. We now know that Nichol can't catch, but he's a great athlete and can run well at QB. But, to see Keshawn Martin flying around on offense and consistently making great plays - he was a surprise this year and was the fastest player on the field in the bowl game. The running game improved throughout the year, and both Ed Baker and Larry Caper looked like a solid 1-2 tandem that will improve next year. Questions on the offensive line remain, but there is some experience there in 2010. The emergence of Blair White at WR was amazing - he turned out to be the best weapon for MSU all year long, and may have a nice career in the NFL (if not as a dentist). MSU can do a better job at using its tight ends, and with a very deep TE corps, the Spartans should excel at that position. Hopefully, with a year under the belt of Cousins and Nichol, and if the players can stay out of trouble... well, Michigan State has depth at all the skill positions, and with average play on the offensive line it should again be explosive.

Early prediction for 2010:

Michigan State has a non-conference slate of WMU, @ Florida Atlantic, NOTRE DAME, NO. COLORADO. That should be 4-0, no worse than 3-1.

In conference, MSU faces WISCONSIN, @ Michigan, ILLINOIS, at Northwestern, at Iowa, MINNESOTA, PURDUE, at Penn State. That should be 6-2, no worse than 4-4.

The Spartans should be anywhere from 10-2 to 7-5. ES says split it down the middle: 9-3.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Michigan State fails to stop Texas Tech, 41-31. At least we have hoops.

That was an entertaining Alamo Bowl last night, particularly out of the Spartan offense, despite MSU's 41-31 loss to Texas Tech. The game pretty much went as the ES expected - and the Spartan secondary just couldn't keep up with TTU. Trenton Robinson played AWFUL and was totally out of position on a number of Red Raider touchdowns. On offense, the Spartan line played fairly well, and both Keshawn Martin and Blair White played extremely well, as did the offensive line. It was nice to see MSU leading in the 4th quarter, but the Spartan defense just couldn't stop the Red Raiders. The third down pass dropped by a wide open Keith Nichol was a bummer, and halted MSU's potential for a comeback. C'est la vie.

But, the ES loved the gadget plays -- more than we've seen in years combined in one game: a draw by WR/QB Keith Nichol, having Keshawn Martin throw a TD pass, a successful fake FG attempt, Martin throwing a pass back to Cousins. It was fun - give Don Treadwell a solid A, because the timing of the play calls was also excellent.

However, it wasn't enough because our pass defense sucked as expected.

Here's a great slideshow of photos from before, during, and after.

At least the hoops team won - MSU crushed Northwestern, 91-70, and looked like the best team in the Big Ten.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Alamo Bowl Preview: Michigan State vs Texas Tech

Michigan State (6-6/4-4) vs Texas Tech (8-4/5-3)
Sagarin: MSU #57 (SS #55), Texas Tech #31 (SS #58)
January 2, 2010. 9 pm EST.
Line: TTU favored by 7 1/2

Tickets available

Vs ranked opponents:
TTU (1-3). W - @ Nebraska. L - @ Texas, @ Houston, @ Ok St.
MSU (1-2). W - Michigan. L - Iowa, Penn St.

Predictions: Freep/Rosenberg (TTU 37-27), Freep/Shelton (TTU 35-31), DetNews, LSJ Preview, NBC Sports (TTU 34-20), CBS Sports (TTU), ESPN/Accuscore (TTU 34-26), CFN/Scout (TTU 45-38), Bleacher Report/Trahan (TTU 45-23), Bleacher Report/Sportsmeisters (TTU 42-17), everyone else: TTU

Interesting stat matchups:

TTU rush off (81 ypg) vs MSU rush def (113 ypg)
TTU pass off (381 ypg) vs MSU pass def (252 ypg)
MSU sacks (2.83 pg) vs TTU sacks allowed (2.5 pg)

MSU rush off (136 ypg) vs TTU rush def (125 ypg)
MSU pass off (271 ypg) vs TTU pass def (225 ypg)
MSU sacks allowed (1.1 pg) vs TTU sacks (3.3 pg)

If you look at the stats, one may think Michigan State has a shot by churning out its running game and sustaining long drives to keep TTU's quick-strike offense off the field (did you see the Rose Bowl yesterday, with 41+ minutes of Ohio State offense in its win over Oregon? hint hint). Um, TTU is ranked #2 in the nation at passing; MSU's pass defense is ranked #103. In five of its six losses (not including the Iowa defensive battle), MSU gave up a whopping 328 yards per game through the air. In four of its six wins, MSU gave up 145 yards per game through the air -- with the other two victories against spread teams that also had difficulty stopping the MSU pass (NW 291, Purdue 373). In other words, for Michigan State, stopping the hemorrhaging through the air, stopping a prolific passing attack is a key to victory. But, the Spartans are up crap creek against quality opponents that know how to throw. That may be just too much of a challenge to overcome.

Yes, the Mike Leach situation may give MSU an advantage; it can only help. However, playing your backup QB and WR definitely shows an issue of concern, no matter how talented Keith Nichol may be. Even the ES sees the Spartans having a difficult time keeping up in this one.

ES Prediction: TTU 42, MSU 34


And, before the Alamo Bowl, the #12 MSU men's basketball team will top off the beginning to its 2010 Big Ten campaign, with a 6:30 pm EST tip off at #25 Northwestern (Big Ten Network).