Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spartan D Dominates; MSU on BTN tonight at 8 pm

So, getting back to the important things in life, a.k.a. Spartan Football, it was refreshing to read the account of the Spartan defensive domination in the latest scrimmage.  The juicy quote from MD was "I really feel like again, we still have great chemistry on this football team, guys are playing extremely hard and playing with toughness."

And, the ES has always had a love affair with defensive-minded football, far more than an offensive shootout.  Thus, it was reassuring to know that in the recent scrimmage, the first-team defense didn't allow a touchdown and overall, the defense caused four turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Right on, knock their blocks off. The Doctor had all sorts of praise for LB Max Bullough, who seems to be fitting right along in replace of Greg Jones and Eric Gordon (ahem, as we expected with them bloodlines, no?). 

The team is healthy, with the exception of blue-chipper LB Lawrence Thomas, who has missed a majority of preseason camp with a shoulder injury -- he is being held out of practice and might not see his first playing time of his career until after a few games in the season.

MSU on BTN - August 23
Tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 23) at 8 pm, BTN will have a 30-minute preview of the Big Green. The show gives an inside look at a Spartan practice and also includes interviews with head coach Mark Dantonio, offensive coordinator Dan Roushar, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The NCAA is on life support

Maybe it's finally time to start talking about getting rid of the NCAA.  John Feinstein, who often I find rather dull or shallow, makes excellent points (though he is exasperated) about how outdated the rules and structure of the organization.  Yes, maybe three new organizations: one for football, one for men's basketball, and one for all the other college sports.  That actually makes too good of sense to really happen.  And, Dan Wetzel, who often skews facts to fit his arguments (as is the case in his book, "Death to the FBS"), happens in this case to wrap things up with a nice bow, tying the Miami scandal to the overall corrupt nature of those who are in charge of big time college sports.

Read these articles and then ponder how the NCAA gets around this mess.  My guess, is it won't.  Something's gonna change.  But, will the NCAA fix the problems?  Not if those that are making the rules are the ones reaping the profits.  The system is broken, and  it might take Congressional action or the IRS to fix it:  the NCAA won't do it. And, Congress is broken too, and has enough of its own mess on its hands.  My guess is the class action lawsuits out there, when they come to fruition, will force the NCAA's hand.  The NCAA is on life support, and their time is ticking away.

Maybe the NCAA will give Miami football the death penalty as the way to solve this?  That just removes one of the symptoms, not the cause.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Michigan State favored by "about 40" over Youngstown State; B1G Ten odds

Michigan State vs Youngstown State? No Line of course, because the Big Green decided to schedule DOWN, DOWN, DOWN.   So, the ES asks YOU (guess at right) by how many points will Michigan State defeat the Penguins. Considering the lines below (Wisky -35, OSU -32) over D1A mid-majors, the ES figures it probably is about a 35 to 45 point spread with the Spartans as Favorite.

Other Big Ten Squads?

Wisky is favored by 35 at home over UNLV; Illinois by 20 at home over Arkansas State; Purdue favored by 18 at home over Middle Tennessee; Boston College favored by 3 home vs Northwestern; Southern Cal favored by 21 at home over Minny; Ohio State favored by 32 at home over Akron; Michigan favored by 14 at home over WMU; Indiana favored by 6 1/2 at Ball State;

Not listed?  Iowa home vs. Tennessee Tech; Penn State home vs Indiana State; Nebraska home vs Chattanooga; 

FYI - Notre Dame favored by 10 1/2 at home over South Florida

And, current odds to win the 2012 BCS Title Game?  Michigan State is only a 40-1 bet.  Bet it!  What is B.S. is the oddsmakers have Notre Dame 20-1... uheam!

What the hell is the most interesting thing about YSU, other than Pengiuns can't survive there?  Um, Major Healey (aka "I Dream of Jeanie") was the grandfather of former YSU baseball shortstop Jackie Healey...

Spartan Fan/Spirit Day? Arrgh!

While the Doctor, Captain Kirk, and the rest of the Spartan clan were engaging the faithful in a happy day of expectations, the ES wuz busy working on his dissertation... but happened to fall into the celebation from a distance.  This is what it looked like today, from Harper's brewpub downtown:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kiper under the pillow says: "Spartans are Undervalued"

So, here's da ES, sleeping in this morning, and with the radio under my pillow... ES starts to stir around 9:30 am.  Spin that dial to listen to something other than NPR or the BBC...and, there is Mel Kiper ALL OVER THE SPARTANS.  Just my luck.  He's just salivating over Baker, Cousins, Cunningham, Martin.  Barking out praises to Worthy, Robinson, Allen, the "pedigree" of Bullough.  Concerned about the O-line.


Love it, but maybe he should keep to the NFL Draft?

It should be noted Kiper and that other chum on ESPN radio picked Nebraska over Wisky in the Big Ten title game.  But, Kiper really hedged his bets on the Big Green - "so many offensive threats"... Nice!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Ten, MSU fare well in new NCAA rules affecting post-season play

Today, the NCAA passed legislation very un-NCAA like:  in quick fashion. Just one day after a presidential retreat, its Board of Directors passed a new rule, phased in over a few years, that would make any team ineligible for post-season play (and the revenues that go along with it, obviously) if the team was not on-track to graduate at least half of its players. This is something that has been LONG endorsed by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics going back 10 years or more.  The Knight Commission is a non-profit group advocating intercollegiate athletics reform and proper balance of athletics within higher education. The NCAA, however, uses a formula, called the Academic Progress Rate (APR) which tracks academic eligibility of every athlete, and  every team, on a term-by-term basis: awarding one point for staying in school (or graduating), and one point for remaining academically eligible both  at the institution and via the NCAA’s minimal academic expectations but rigid progress-toward-degree requirements (minimum # of credit hours passed each year).  An annual APR score is then averaged over a four-year period for the current APR score, which will be used in this instance.  A 930 score equates to about a 50 percent graduation rate.  A 1000 score is perfect.

So, the ES decided to look at MSU and other Big Ten schools and their 2011 APR scores (based on the 2009-2010 academic year) in men’s basketball and football, and… if this rule were in effect this year, who would be affected in the upcoming 2011-2012 academic year?  Well… here are the numbers:

Ohio St
Penn St

Michigan State is fine: matter of fact, all of MSU’s 20+ athletic teams are above 930.  Just two Big Ten schools in football or men's basketball would be impacted:  the Wolvies in football (928) and Indiana in men’s basketball (929).  Mind you, this will be phased in, so these schools have some time to put in the resources (or recruit athletes with better expectation they will remain academically eligible) to improve their scores.  But, the Big Ten looks pretty solid compared to other conferences.    

The ES won’t get into details about some of the dirty little secrets allowing teams to have exemptions for certain players.  But, the NCAA may take that on next as part of their reform effort.  

Interesting times as we head into football season.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Big Ten schedules down down down: A look at the toughest and easiest non-conference matchups

The ES has looked at Sagarin Ratings to rate how each of the Big Ten teams stack up entering the 2011 season, and particularly to compare non-conference scheduling. OK, we can all dispute the validity of Sagarin ratings, especially before the ball has even been set on the tee for the first time. And, look at the ratings below (with MSU at #36, compared to ES composite at #18 and USA Today coaches’ at #17).

Sagarin Ratings
#. School. Sagarin pts.

3. Ohio State. 90.55
17. Wisconsin 82.76
18. Nebraska 82.61
19. Iowa 32.48
24. Penn State 81.06
36. MSU 77.38
54. scUM. 73.19
56. Illinois 73.09
66. Northwestern 70.31
80. Purdue 68.26
81. Minnesota 67.84
96. Indiana 63.77

However, the Sagarin ratings are the only ones out there that include Division I-FCS teams with Division I-FBS: that makes a total of 246 teams in the rankings. And, since the Big Ten and other BCS-conferences keep loading up with playing games vs the Sisters of the Poor, it is worth seeing the relative amount of worth of playing each of these games, in preparation for the Big Ten season.

Below, I include the rating of each non-conference game in the Big Ten, some of the weakest and strongest schedules. The argument can easily be made that the Big Ten is embarrassing in the number of non-Division games, and games vs non-BCS teams, that are creeping into scheduling, just to be bowl eligible if anything else.  The non-conference schedule strength is based on the Sagarin ratings. Illinois has the toughest non-conference schedule, and are the only program in the Big Ten with three of their four opponents ranked under #100. Notably, the AVERAGE non-conference schedule strength for the Big Ten is OVER #100, at 102.98. That is embarrassing. What does this mean? The Big Ten continues to dilute their schedule with weaker and weaker opponents… this is reason enough for the Big Ten to move to a nine-game schedule in 2017.

1 ILL 81.5
2 OSU 90.5
3 NEB 92.5
4 MICH 94.25
5 WIS 96.75
6 MSU 101
7 MINN 102.25
8 IOWA 109
9 NW 113
10 PUR 113.25
11 PSU 116.5
12 IND 125.25

average 102.9792

Toughest non-conference matchups:

1. #24 Penn State vs #1 Alabama (9/10).
2. #81 Minnesota at #10 USC (9/3).
3. #17 Wisconsin vs #23 Oregon State (9/10).

Weakest non-conference matchups:

1. #24 Penn State vs #209 Indiana State (9/3).
2. #19 Iowa vs. #198 Tennessee Tech (9/10).
3. #80 Purdue vs. #194 SE Missouri St (9/17).

Biggest swings between back-to-back non-conference games:

1. Penn State: 208 points, playing #209 Indiana State followed by #1 Alabama.
2. Purdue: 161 points, playing #194 SE Missouri State followed by 33 Notre Dame.
3. Minnesota: 152 points, playing #10 USC followed by #162 New Mexico St.

Non-conference games

9/2. Youngstown St. #151
9/10. Florida Atlantic #133
9/17. at Notre Dame #33
9/24. CMU #87

9/3. Arkansas St. #119
9/10. San Diego St. #76
9/17. Arizona St. #34
9/14. Western Michigan #97

9/3. vs. Ball State (in Indianapolis) #127
9/10. Virginia #65
9/17. S. Carolina St. #155
9/14. at North Texas #154

9/3. Tennessee Tech #198
9/10. at Iowa St. #79
9/17. Pittsburgh #28
9/24. Louisiana-Monroe #131

9/3. Western Michigan #97
9/10. Notre Dame #33
9/17. Eastern Michigan #171
9/14. San Diego State #76

9/3. at USC #10
9/10. New Mexico St. #162
9/17. Miami, Ohio #117
9/24. North Dakota St. #120

9/3. UT Chattanooga #148
9/10. Fresno St. #70
9/17. Washington #52
9/24. at Wyoming #100

9/3. at Boston College #38
9/10. Eastern Illinois #185
9/17. at Army #108
11/12. Rice #121

Ohio State
9/3. Akron #157
9/10. Toledo #103
9/17. at Miami, Fla. #30
9/24. Colorado #72

Penn St.
9/3. Indiana St. #209
9/10. Alabama #1
9/17. at Temple #85
9/24. Eastern Michigan #171

9/3. Middle Tennessee St. #105
9/10. at Rice #121
9/17. SE Missouri St. #194
9/31. Notre Dame #33

9/1. UNLV #113
9/10. Oregon St. #23
9/17. vs Northern Illinois (in Chicago) #75
9/24. South Dakota #176

Frank Deford on Bubba Smith

Great report by Frank Deford (of Sports Illustrated and NPR) about Bubba Smith.  Listen.

Friday, August 05, 2011

MSU Spartans ranked #17 in coaches preseason poll; five Big Ten teams in top 25

Michigan State is ranked in the top 25 along with four other Big Ten teams in the newest 2011 USA Today  preseason coaches' ballot (below).  Wisconsin is the highest ranked among the Big Ten, at #10; Nebraska at #11, Ohio State #16, Michigan State #17, and JoePa #23.

The ES went back and looked at his preseason composite poll published June 7, which looked at eight different magazines or other national polls, these polls are prominent across the web and have been prominent for years -- prior to the 21st century of advanced internet technology. FYI - you can always look at Stassen's review and accuracy of magazine preseason polls dating back to 1993 (Phil Steele is the most accurate the past 10 years; hope he is wrong and the Spartans do much better than his #28 ranking of MSU for 2011). 

Well, below I compared the ES composite to the coaches' poll... and the similarities are remarkable.  Matter of fact, 24 of the 25 teams in the ES composite are in the coaches' poll - the lone exception being Texas at #24 (ES composite had the Longhorns at #26).  The standard deviation comparing the rankings of each team in the Top 25 was only 2.94 -- meaning, on average, the teams in the coaches' poll were within less than 3 spots of the ES poll. The argument can be made the ES composite poll fairly well resembles what the coaches are reading and thinking. So, why wait until August for the USA Today coaches' poll??  Read the ES composite poll in June.  That said... here is the newest poll and comparing it to the ES composite poll. 

* = "also receiving votes," not in top 25.   Big Ten teams in bold.


8/3/2011 6/7/2011
      ES pts
1 1 Oklahoma 1.50
2 2 Alabama 2.13
3 3 Oregon 3.38
4 4 LSU 4.38
5 8 Florida St. 9.75
6 6 Stanford 7.88
7 5 Boise St. 6.25
8 9 Oklahoma St. 10.25
9 7 Texas A&M 9.63
10 17 Wisconsin 16.75
11 13 Nebraska 14.13
12 15 South Carolina 14.88
13 16 Virginia Tech 15.00
14 14 Arkansas 14.13
15 11 TCU 13.63
16 10 Ohio St. 10.75
17 18 Michigan St. 17.25
18 12 Notre Dame 13.88
19 21 Auburn 21.50
20 20 Mississippi St. 21.00
21 25 Missouri 22.88
22 19 Georgia 19.13
23 22 Florida 22.50
24 26 Texas 23.63
25 23 Penn St. 22.63
26* 27 Arizona St. 24.38
27* 24 W. Virginia 22.63
28* 34 Utah 25.50
29* 30 Miami-Florida 25.00
31* 29 Northwestern 24.75
33* 37 Central Florida 25.88
34* 32 Michigan 25.25
Air Force
North Carolina
37* 33 Houston 25.38
38* 35 South Florida 25.88
42* 31 Southern Miss. 25.25
N. Carolina St.
Northern Illinois
Oregon St.
Georgia Tech

27 USC 24.13

36 Tulsa 25.88

Thursday, August 04, 2011

RIP: Greatest Spartan Gridder Ever, Bubba Smith, Heads to the Pearly Gates

Sometimes, bloggers get to a news item they MUST write about, but abhor the thought of doing so. Today is so.

Bubba Smith has died.
Yes, Bubba.  The greatest Michigan State University Spartan football player of all time.  "Kill Bubba Kill" Bubba Smith.  He anchored the greatest Spartan football teams of all time, the 19-1-1 Spartans from 1964-1966.  Bubba, who also starred in Miller Light Beer commercials with Dick Butkus and Rodney Dangerfield, who was "Hightower" in the Police Academy movies.

Yes the Bubba who was a Spartan to the day he died.  The ES met Bubba once, on his honeymoon, with the ES' brand new wife, at LAX.  He was scrunched into one of those airport chairs, this was back in 1996.  All 6-8, 320 pounds of him into some tiny chair, with a blue ball cap on, trying to hide... and the ES saw him from an instant.  Sorry, but I couldn't help myself! "Hey, Bubba, Bubba Smith!  Man you are the greatest."  He asked me about Nick Saban and the future of hope of Spartan football.  He said "I hope he's the right guy."  Little did the ES know - that should have been hint enough...  :) But, he gave me his autograph, he posed with a photo with my new wife (which is proudly displayed at my work).  A very gracious, humble giant.

Oh, man.  When the ES was brought up, it was all about how great Bubba was.  Actually it was the formation of my Spartan brainwashing -- pre-Magic Johnson.  He was THE MAN.  Matter of fact, a few years ago Sports Illustrated ranked one person from the history of college football for each position on offense and defense, and kickers... 24 in all.  Only one Spartan made the cut:  Bubba Smith.

Bubba Smith - you will always be remembered as a GREAT SPARTAN.  GO GREEN GO WHITE!  This 2011 season is dedicated to you.

FYI - Bubba has a fascinating history in College Football, important in the annals of integration -- one that if any of you ever get the chance to learn about, you should read:  Smith, John Matthew. "'Breaking the plane': integration and black protest in Michigan State University football during the 1960s." Michigan Historical Review 33.2 (2007): 101-129. 

Here are two sections about Bubba from John Smith's very good research. The first is here, the second below is more specific to Bubba.


"For Michigan State star player Charles "Bubba" Smith, a black Texas native who had never played in an integrated stadium until he went to college, this would be the pinnacle of his college career. If Smith symbolized Michigan State football, Jim Lynch, a white Irish-Catholic Ohioan and All-American linebacker, epitomized the kind of player for whom Notre Dame fans were used to cheering. At a pep rally two days before the game, on Notre Dame's pristine campus in South Bend, Indiana, forty-five hundred students and fans flooded the old field house as the marching band played the school's fight song. With chants of "cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame" ringing from the rafters, the overwhelmingly white male crowd hanged Bubba Smith in effigy next to a sign that read "LYNCH 'EM."

Coaches and athletes were often hanged in effigy by the fans and students of opposing schools, but "hanging" Smith next to a sign that said lynch 'em suggested some mixture of insensitivity and outfight racial bias at Notre Dame. Two years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and nearly twenty years after Jackie Robinson broke major-league baseball's color barrier, the "dummy in the green uniform with a number 95" represented not only Bubba Smith but a rejection of racial equality. Well into the twentieth century lynching had expressed and enforced white supremacy in the South, and the powerful memory of mob rule was reinforced for African Americans in the 1960s when their churches were bombed, or they were clubbed and hosed by police or stoned by white crowds. Notre Dame's rally was emblematic of a dominant white sports culture that resisted integration.

The racial makeup of each school's football team illustrates the uneven progress of the civil fights movement. On one end of the spectrum, Notre Dame represented how hard blacks had to struggle to move beyond token athletic integration at predominantly white institutions. At the other end, Michigan State's squad was an example of what a fully integrated team might look like. While many northern football programs firmly believed that it would be dangerous to play more blacks than whites, in 1966 Michigan State's defense started eight black players and three whites. The offensive backfield started two black running backs and a black quarterback, and the team's two captains were black. In an era that accepted without question the myths that teams could not win by playing more blacks than whites and that black players did not have the intelligence to handle leadership positions, Michigan State's 1965 and 1966 football teams were unlike any others in the prior history of integrated college football.

Not only were Michigan State's teams in those two years fully integrated, but also they were the best that the school's head coach Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty had ever fielded, finishing a combined 19-1-1 as well as sharing the 1965 national championship. What separated these MSU teams from others in the country was a nucleus of talented black players, many from the South. In the late 1950s Daugherty took advantage of a talent source previously untapped (at least by coaches at primarily white schools) by developing relationships with black high-school coaches at coaching clinics in the South. Michigan State's integrated teams were created in an era when television had begun to come of age; young athletes and high-school coaches could see blacks and whites lining up beside one another.

Despite the widespread perception that Daugherty had built a color-blind football program, Michigan State's black athletes later challenged the assumption that all of the university's sports programs were free of racism by boycotting spring practice in 1968. At the height of the Black Power movement, these black athletes protested racial discrimination in MSU's athletic department and transformed their privileged position into one of empowerment. Thus, football provided a way for Michigan State's black athletes to challenge segregation both on and off the field."

And, here is a second entry relating to Smith more directly:

"Despite winning praise from the African American community, Michigan State's team struggled, ending the 1962 season at 5-4, good for a fifth-place tie in the conference. It was clear the Spartans would have to rebuild. Although the team was floundering on the field, Daugherty's program continued to receive national attention for playing African Americans. The AP reported that MSU "has probably the largest delegation of Negro players in the history of major college football." Slowly other coaches began to realize the benefits of recruiting black players. Ohio State's Woody Hayes contended that most coaches began playing black players not because they believed in the importance of equal opportunity regardless of color, but because they believed in the importance of winning and the financial rewards that accompanied success. While speaking to a group of coaches at a clinic Hayes stated, "We had a Negro problem once, I know. That was in 1959, when we had no Negroes on the team and we lost four [conference] football games. I hope we never have a problem like that [again]." Even so, most coaches like Hayes and the University of Michigan's Chalmers "Bump" Elliot were slow to play as many black athletes as Daugherty. Meanwhile, the MSU coach increased his recruitment of black players, especially in the South.

After moderate success in 1963, finishing 6-2-1 and second in the Big Ten, the 1964 team slid back to 4-5, placing sixth in the conference. The Spartans' record left fans dissatisfied, but Daugherty had begun to develop talented players who would be critical to the team's success in the coming years, when it would have some of its best seasons. Many of these gifted players were blacks who had migrated from the South. Of the twenty-one black players on MSU's 1964 squad, ten were from the South, a major shift from Daugherty's first team in 1954, which did not have a single black southerner. In contrast, only three of Daugherty's fifty-seven white players were from the South. Clearly, Daugherty limited recruiting in the South mainly to black players.

Yet, even as Daugherty worked to establish MSU's football program as a place of opportunity for black athletes, many whites decried Daugherty's liberal policies about integration. A number of alumni questioned why Daugherty used so many black players. He recalled one alumni meeting where in the middle of his speech someone yelled, "Hey, Duff, how many niggers are you gonna start this year?" Daugherty responded by questioning the manhood of the racist who was willing to yell an epithet from the back of the room but unwilling to step forward, identify himself, and take responsibility for his words. The room fell silent.

Daugherty explained that it was his policy to "play the best players, whether they happened to be all black or all white." At another gathering at one alumnus's home, the man threatened the coach, "Duffy, you've been using a lot of niggers lately. You know, the minute you start four or five of them in the same backfield, you've lost me." Daugherty looked the man straight in the eye and said, "Then I've lost you right now," and with that he left.  Daugherty played African Americans to win, not to be known as a civil rights activist. Nonetheless, he risked his career by recruiting so many black players. What if his "experiment" had failed? It was one thing to play a few black players here and there, but to start more black players than whites, as he did with his 1965 defense, was unprecedented. At the beginning of the season, the only question that remained for Daugherty was whether it would work.

Twenty-three African Americans made the 1965 team, a new high for Spartan football. Not only were there more blacks than ever before, but they stood out as top playmakers as well. Among those starting on defense were Charles "Bubba" Smith, George Webster, Charles Thornhill, Jim Summers, Jess Phillips, and Harold Lucas.  Willie Ray Smith, Bubba Smith's father and the head football coach at the all-black Charlton-Pollard High in Beaumont, Texas, had a big impact on Daugherty's success in recruiting black players in the state. After meeting Daugherty at a coaching clinic in Dallas in 1960, Willie Ray Smith and the Spartan coach developed a level of trust that created a pipeline for talent stretching all the way from Smith's hometown of Beaumont to East Lansing. 

When eighteen-year-old Charles "Bubba" Smith left Beaumont in the summer of 1963 to play football at Michigan State, the East Lansing campus looked nothing like his hometown. Before his trip to Michigan, Smith had not known very many whites well. In addition, Smith had been scarred by racial violence as a young boy when he witnessed a black man cry for mercy as five members of the Ku Klux Klan branded the letters KKK into the man's chest with a hot iron. Those three letters burned into Smith's memory, leaving him wondering, "Why do white people hate me?" As Bubba prepared to leave Beaumont, one of his father's assistant coaches predicted, "You'll never make it up there with the big boys. Those corn-fed white boys will lynch your fat ass without your pappy." (49) This coach's attitude highlights the ambivalence some black southerners felt toward the North. Blacks faced a complex set of unspoken rules there that forced them into the precarious world of de facto segregation.

Football enabled Smith to escape the endemic violence of a segregated South. In Michigan there were no "colored only" signs hanging above water fountains or nailed to bathroom doors, and no "colored sections" for blacks at football stadiums. But he faced other indignities. When Smith's own fans, a predominantly white crowd, shouted, "Kill, Bubba, Kill!" Smith became, figuratively speaking, animalized. The command bore an eerie resemblance to the order one might give an attack dog. While Notre Dame students hanged him in effigy, Smith's own fans cared only for his usefulness in winning games and raising the reputation of their school. (50) Off the field, Smith and his teammates had a difficult time finding an apartment in East Lansing. Even though Smith had left the segregated South, racism was also alive and well in his new northern surroundings."