Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spartan Defense Outscores Its Offense in Ugly Win over Western

OK, Michigan State beat Western Michigan, 26-13 (box score), in the season opener... but, OMG that was ugly.  The gods almost gave us salvation from the Spartan offense.  When the lightning storm came and the heavens opened up, and the game delayed (first game delay in MSU history)... the ES was sitting there in the upper deck thinking... can we just end this game at 7-0?  Do we have to witness any more of this agony we call the Michigan State "passing game"?

I don't know if we should 1) shoot any and all MSU wide receivers; 2) install a wishbone offense; or 3) let the defense play on offense.  Maybe all of the above. 

Keith Mumphery dropped a touchdown pass.  Hit him right in the hands. On third down. We kicked a FG instead.

Bennie Fowler dropped a post pattern on a beautifully thrown ball by Andrew Maxwell.  Hit him right in the hands.  On third down. We punted.

And on.  And on.

Connor Cook proved little better than Maxwell in relief.  He ran the ball well (4 carries, 35 yards), his best asset.  But, on a beautifully executed play action roll out with our TE wide open downfield, Cook sailed it over his head.  Incomplete. On third down.  We punted.

MSU finished the day 5-of-19 (26.3%) on third downs.  As a result, punter Mike Sadler got a workout:  11 punts, six downed inside the 20.  26.3% against Western Michigan. 

And, as the ES predicted, our defense scored more TDs than our offense; a beautiful interception from Jairus Jones and pitch to Kurtis Drummond moved MSU to a 7-0 lead; the defense ended MSU scoring for the day with a beautiful hard hit by Marcus Rush knocking the ball loose for Shilique Calhoun to pick up and take to paydirt in what completed an eventual 26-13 victory. 

The Good:  Defense. 2 TDs, 4 turnovers, 5 sacks, 8 QB hurries, 11 passes knocked down... and giving up just 11 rushing yards to WMU.  For the Broncos, 56 of their 204 total yards came on their final possession of the game against MSU's backups.  Max Bullough had 9 total tackles, 2.5 for loss.  Marcus Rush, Denicos Allen, and Taiwan Jones were in the Bronco backfield for much of the game. 

The Bad: Michigan State had 181 yards rushing on 42 carries; it was ugly looking for much of the game, but Jeremy Langford (20 carries, 94 yds) did look better as the game wore on.  Unfortunately, the long run on 18 yards pales in comparison to the havoc caused by Le'Veon  Bell last year... this looks to be serviceable at best this season.

The Ugly: The passing game was, well, awful.  A combined 17-of-37 (46%) for 116 yards.  The ES lost count of the number of drops, other than identifying that every Spartan receiver dropped a pass. Said Dantonio after the game, "We've got to catch the football. (Dropped passes) aren't something we've seen in summer camp, so it can be straightened out. As we move through it, we can't make mistakes and beat ourself. The thing you worry about in the first game are unforced errors, and we had them."

Bottom line:  It is going to be a LONG YEAR on offense.   The ES sees no improvement in the passing game... and, without Le'Veon Bell running the ball:  this offense is actually a step down from last year's 108th ranked scoring offense, and 95th ranked total offense.  As the ES told Sloth during the game: watching that offense was like watching paint dry.  It was boring and underwhelming.

Against WMU, Michigan State proved what we already knew: the Spartans have the BEST defense in the country.  Unfortunately, the Spartans also have the WORST offense in the country.

Now that's ugly.  At least we're 1-0.  Photos below:

At kickoff, with hope

After the storm, stadium emptied sick of the rain and the Spartan offense

Lineup for eventual dropped TD pass by Mumphery

Friday, August 30, 2013

Peanut Barrel predicts MSU over Western

Got some predictions from the Peanut Barrel today:  Joe (owner), MSU 28-0; Rod, MSU 38-20; Scoos, MSU 31-13.  Downtown EL is already hopping (2 pm)!

ES Preview: MSU will shutout Western

Time:  8 pm
Location:  Spartan Stadium, EL
Weather:  76 and sunny. PERFECT.
TV:  Big Ten Network

Predictions:  Det News: Charboneau MSU 34-13, Niyo MSU 38-7, Wojo MSU 23-10; Bennett MSU 28-6, Rittenberg MSU 31-10; LSJ:  Calloway MSU 31-3, Couch MSU 45-10, Solari MSU 49-3, Rexrode MSU 33-3; CFN/Scout: MSU 41-10. MLive: MSU 48-7

Line: MSU by 28

ES sez:  It's been 240 days since the last Spartan football game, a 17-16 squeaker over TCU.  That's 239 days too long.  GAME DAY IS HERE!!!!

The ES ain't buying the interview of Andrew Maxwell on WILX-TV Thursday nite. In other words, let's be ecstatic from his positive vibes, but I fail to believe it until I see it translating to the playing field.  The ES' lack of confidence also is intended for Maxwell's receivers.  Against WMU, maybe the passing game can show moxie and get the job done.  But we still won't know Maxwell's true colors for a few weeks.  Both Maxwell and Connor Cook will play tonite.

Nevertheless, what I do believe in is the MSU defense, and they won't allow an inch to Western Michigan's offense.

WMU is predicted to be in the middle of the MAC; MSU is predicted to be in the middle of the Big Ten. That's a big advantage to MSU overall.  Give this one easily to Bullough and the Spartan Defense, which will outscore the Spartan Offense: 2 TDs by the defense, 1 TD by the offense.  

ES prediction: MSU 24, WMU 0.

Ole Miss - Vandy WOW

Wow, what a great start to the college FB season, watching Ole Miss and Vandy score at will in the last two minutes. Crazy fun! The ES loves football!!! ES GAME DAY ON FRIDAY MORNING!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Official 2013 Enlightened Spartan Preview: 8-5/4-4

WELCOME! Since 2001 - the oldest college FB blog in the Big Ten and among the oldest in the nation - this is the 13th annual Enlightened Spartan Football Preview, featuring your favorite opines: Big Bob, ChiSpartan (now Swiss Spartan), Chock, SpartyMSU, and of course the ES.

To see what the pundits think about Michigan State University football across the nation (a consensus pick at #23 and #3 in the B1G Legends), link to Chris Stassen's website and his excellent history of pre-season magazines.

Below, the ES leads off with his own discussion and predictions before guest opinions. Each of the following questions were asked of guests, and their answers follow.

1.  How many wins by MSU overall, and in the Big Ten?
2.  How many games will State win by less than 5 points?
3.  Who is better at QB?  A. Andrew Maxwell; B. Connor Cook; C. Your Mom.
4.  Will we beat ND in that dump of a town in Indiana? Score?
5.  Will we beat Michigan here in EL? Score?
6.  Is the Spartan defense better this year than last?  Why or why
not?  Name names....
7.  Other than QB, which player is the key to MSU season?
8.  If we win more than lose, name our bowl and who we shall play... why?
9.  Your overall grade (A, B, C, D, F) of Dantonio as head coach since
he took over:  and why?
10. Best spot to tailgate in East Lansing????


Coach Mark Dantonio (the Doctor, Mr. MD) has a philosophy that is true to his "game of inches" speeches.  He isn't conservative, but is rather a minimalist who plays to the margins.  His emphasis on defense keeps his Spartans in close games. His pro style offense, with a power running game, is highly dependent on playmakers in skill positions for any success.
As we have found out, a Cousins-Cunningham-Bell trio put plenty of points on the board and outmaneuvered errors.  Quite simply, with so much talent, the offense could find and cross the margin even if they screwed up.

But, we have also witnessed what happens with a lack of talent.  Anointed starter Andrew Maxwell, an East-West quarterback, lacks confidence, leadership, and can't make the extra play needed to win close games provided by the defense.  It did not help last year that MSU wideouts couldn't separate from defenders, and when they could, they often dropped passes. But, let the ES rate the QBs from the official roster:

1.  Damion Terry
2.  Connor Cook
3.  Your Mom
4.  Andrew Maxwell
5. Tyler O'Connor

Even with wideout errors... we need more risk from Maxwell to make plays.  Our team, and the Dantonio philosophy, depends on it.  It is a game of inches, and Spartan QB's need to get us those inches.  That takes risk and play-making ability.  Unless MSU can find that play-making ability on offense, they will have an average season.  Or, as Swiss Sparty told the ES: "really, our punter can be the MVP like when Greg Montgomery was at State.  Punt that shit so far back that it gives our offense a chance by making their offense travel such a long field against our great defense."  WARNING:  IF YOU PLAY DEFENSE FOR MSU, you may have a lot of long games this fall.

Where Dantonio has played to the margins is where he uses his bag of tricks on offense - in the right situation, at the right time.  The tricks did not work so well in 2012; a lack of confidence and talent put the opportunities to rest.  Will there be the talent in 2013?  God only knows, and hopes.

The ES #1 Prediction?  By the time the Spartans play at Notre Dame, MSU will be trailing by 20 points at halftime.  It will be then that the reality will hit the Doctor, Mr.. MD, straight in the face, and Connor Cook (or Damion Terry) will be named the starter from that point forward for the rest of the year. 

I'm with Sloth last year:  it is worth going to Spartan Stadium just to watch this great defense play.  But expect many games 17-16, 13-12, or lower in scoring.  It will be like watching the Germans and Russians fight in the trenches every single week:  hardnosed, bloody, and a shark-fight over a piece of meat.  In other words: FUN. 

1.  How many wins by MSU overall, and in the Big Ten?
ES: 8-5, 4-4.  (Wins: WMU, USF, YSU, @Iowa, Purdue, Michigan, Minny, Gator Bowl.   Losses: @ND, Indy, @Illinois, @Nebraska, @NW)

2.  How many games will State win by less than 5 points?
ES: Five.

3.  Who is better at QB?  A. Andrew Maxwell; B. Connor Cook; C. Your Mom.
ES: Your Mom.

4.  Will we beat ND in that dump of a town in Indiana? Score?
ES: No.  ND 27-13

5.  Will we beat Michigan here in EL? Score?
ES: Yes.  MSU 17-16.

6.  Is the Spartan defense better this year than last?  Why or why not?  Name names....
ES: Yes.  Because it has never been so deep and so well schooled at every position.  Can't we have them play offense, too?

7.  Other than QB, which player is the key to MSU season?
The receiving corps.  They just need to catch more balls.  Arnett,  Burbridge, and Mumprhey MUST find separation deep, and they are are key and need to hang onto the ball in tight quarters.  But, maybe the TE is just as key - we have no starters returning in this area, and as an outlet (or savior) for the QB when pressured, we need these folks to move the chains.  Look for either  #92 Andrew Gleichert (6-5, 256, Jr) or # 83 Paul Lang (6-5, 247, So) to make an impact here.

8.  If we win more than lose, name our bowl and who we shall play... why? Gator Bowl:  MSU vs. South Carolina. 

9.  Your overall grade (A, B, C, D, F) of Dantonio as head coach since he took over:  and why?
B.  Dantonio needs to get over the hump. 

10. Best spot to tailgate in East Lansing????   Behind Morrill Hall. 


Another fine D will keep us in every game, but our O will be even worse than last year so I put us at a 7-5 overall record and 4-4 in the B1G.  Why will the O be worse?  No one to run the ball, the same receivers that dropped balls left and right last year and a starting QB who has already hit his ceiling (he’s a senior for crisssakes, it’s not like he’s going to take a magical Fr to So season leap).  Reports are our OL should be good.  But for us, that simply means we’ll be able to get 5 people on the field who don’t have cancer, a broken ankle, or some other injury that will force them to “retire” from football at the ripe age of 19.  But the real kicker for why our O will be worse? Absolutely no Tight-End.  When was the last time MSU did not have a decent TE?  Even in the crappiest of seasons for our O (see 2012) we could still count on a good chunk of our first downs coming from our TEs.  The only positive about the O from this year to last: at least our play calling can’t get worse.

Western_Mich, W for MSU by less than 5
So_Florida, W for MSU by less than 5
Youngstown_St, W for MSU by more than 5
at Notre_Dame, L
at Iowa, L
Indiana,  W for MSU by less than 5
Purdue, W for MSU by less than 5
at Illinois, W for MSU by less than 5
Michigan, L
at Nebraska, L
at Northwestern, L
Minnesota, W for MSU by less than 5

2.  How many games will State win by less than 5 points?

chock>>>  all of their wins, except Youngstown St., will be by less than 5 points.  When the offense can barely score more than 5 points in a game, you can’t have a lot of wins by more than 5.

3.  Who is better at QB?  A. Andrew Maxwell; B. Connor Cook; C. Your Mom.

chock>>>  chock nailed it last year when he said that we were going to miss Cousins a lot more than we realized.  We’ll still be missing a top notch QB this year and it will show in the W-L columns.  As the season goes on Connor Cook will earn the majority of reps.  In fact, the only reason Maxwell will see reps late in the year is because Cook will do some bonehead play like taking a sack for a 20 yard loss or fumbling the ball deep in our territory which will force coach to put Maxwell back in.  Our QB situation won’t improve until 2015 and Damion Terry coming off a redshirt Fresh year starts to get some serious reps.

4.  Will we beat ND in that dump of a town in Indiana? Score?

chock>>>  Unfortunately not.  We’ll lose 17-10, our offense will score no TDs (defense gets a pick 6) and we’ll long for the days of Bob Davies and Charlie Wiess.  Brian Kelly is the real deal.

5.  Will we beat Michigan here in EL? Score?

chock>>>  We lose another close one:  13-14.  UM’s D gets TD off a Conner Cook mistake and we can’t overcome that because it’s hard to win when you don’t have an offense.

6.  Is the Spartan defense better this year than last?  Why or why not?  Name names....

chock>>> About the same. Which is to say, they’ll be very good.  Want names as to why they’ll be good?  Here goes:  Jones, Gordon, Worthy, Robinson, Pickleman) … but you’re saying hey, these guys aren’t on the team any more.  They left already.  Right, that’s the beauty of it.  Nardog and Coach D are in the process of building a program based on D.  Athletes, depth, and attitude at each level.  You don’t even need to don’t need to name specific player’s names to prove why the D will be good.  They’re ALL good on D, even in the second and third strings.

7.  Other than QB, which player is the key to MSU season?

chock>>>  The as of yet unidentified starting running back and tight-end.

8.  If we win more than lose, name our bowl and who we shall play... why?

chock>>>  My pick last year (MSU vs. LS coached Arkansas in the Outback Bowl) was actually a fantastic selection.  Too bad our O wasn’t good enough to get us enough wins to make that bowl and I should have guessed a JLS coached team couldn’t get enough wins to get there … although, to my defense, they started the season ranked in the top 10.  Thankfully we don’t have JLS as HC any more.  That said, an interesting thought – how about bringing slappy back to run the offense?

This year’s pick will follow in the same vein:   MSU vs. Brett Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks in the Gator Bowl.

9.  Your overall grade (A, B, C, D, F) of Dantonio as head coach since he took over:  and why?

chock>>>  B+.  He gets his A when he wins the B1G Championship.

10. Best spot to tailgate in East Lansing????

chock>>>  Since I’m three time zones away from EL, I’ll be doing my tailgating and game watching at the Pittsburgh’s Pub a block and a half down the street here on the west side of SF.


1.  How many wins by MSU overall, and in the Big Ten?   7-5

2.  How many games will State win by less than 5 points?   5

3.  Who is better at QB?  A. Andrew Maxwell; B. Connor Cook; C. Your Mom.    Those are the only options?   Ugh.

4.  Will we beat ND in that dump of a town in Indiana? Score?      17-13 MSU

5.  Will we beat Michigan here in EL? Score?   13-10 MSU

6.  Is the Spartan defense better this year than last?  Why or why     
not?  Name names….   About the same, but it's not the names, it is longevity.   Lots of depth.

7.  Other than QB, which player is the key to MSU season?   Mike Sadler.   If he can kick the ball deep, allows our defense to keep them pinned back and have a lower score for our miserable QB.

8.  If we win more than lose, name our bowl and who we shall play... why?    Texas Bowl vs. Kansas State.     Who knows why!

9.  Your overall grade (A, B, C, D, F) of Dantonio as head coach since  
he took over:  and why?   B-.   Won the last two Bowl Games and took us to inaugural Big Ten Championship.    Knocks for no Rose Bowl and believing in Andrew Maxwell.

10. Best spot to tailgate in East Lansing????     Harrison Roadhouse.


1. How many wins by MSU overall, and in the Big Ten? 6, 3

2. How many games will State win by less than 5 points?  2

3. Who is better at QB? A. Andrew Maxwell; B. Connor Cook; C. Your Mom.  My mom’s mom; she got game my momma lacks.

4. Will we beat ND in that dump of a town in Indiana? Score?  No.  24-17.

5. Will we beat Michigan here in EL? Score?  No.  17-16

6. Is the Spartan defense better this year than last? Why or why not? Name names....  Yes, Pat Narduzzi, Max Bullough, Marcus Rush, Darqueze Dennard, Pat Narduzzi.  MSU can’t move the ball but it can stop you.  Unfortunately; however, the offense will be worse.

7. Other than QB, which player is the key to MSU season?  Mike Sadler, without question

8. If we win more than lose, name our bowl and who we shall play... why?  The Little Ceasars Pizza bowl in beautiful Deeetroooiiit, Michigan because we will have earned it.     

9. Your overall grade (A, B, C, D, F) of Dantonio as head coach since he took over: and why?  B-, While he embarrassed Brian Kelly badly with the fake field goal against ND he also kept an inept Offensive Coordinator around too long.  His loyalty to a QB that can’t move the team downfield is also disappointing.

10. Best spot to tailgate in East Lansing????  The Peanut Barrel

Thanks! Go BIG GREEN!


Happy Football Season from…

ES sent over some questions to start us all thinking about the season. From our SpartyMSU fan opinion, from up in row 63, here you go…

The season summary is above.  We are projecting a 9 – 2 seasons, with a 6 and 2 B1G record. The closest game will be with the team from AnnArbor.  The Spartans should win, a close battle, as it always is.. I do think we will see 2 quarterbacks platooning in the game. This will be the 5th  win in the last 6 years for the Spartans, and how well be celebrating in East Lansing… Spade is a spade, we will rejoice, don’t kid yourselves… Some Spartans say, “Oh its just another win, don’t treat it any different”..  but for SpartyMSU, who grew up in AnnArbor.. it will be one more time to put a beat down on the ArrogAnt weenies from AA. Growing up as a Spartan fan in AA.. For all the crap I took for years..  I saw the faith, the truth and the light and went to MSU.. Oh yeah, I will rub it in. I can’t get enough victories over the Blue team.

Q: Who is better at QB?  A. Andrew Maxwell; B. Connor Cook; C. Your Mom

    Quarterback: My heart say Connor Cook or Tyler O'Connor, my wallet says Maxwell gets the     start. So, I will go with Maxwell. Simple, make quick reads, pitch and catch.

Q: Is the Spartan defense better this year than last?  Why or why not?  Name names....

    Spartan Defense: they are better than last year.. oh yeah baby.. They will rock. Max Bullough is a     stud. I would like to see Tyler Hoover make a big statement, been waiting since he was     recruited. Darqueze Dennard will make people think twice throwing his way. The entire unit is     solid. 

Q: Will we beat ND in that dump of a town in Indiana? Score?

    When we travel to South bend, I think we will come away with a win from under     Touchdown Jesus.. Score Prediction: 34 – 20.  The Spartan Defense will be a BEAST this game..      Spartans have an easier set up for the one.. Notre Dame will have already played at Michigan     and at Purdue, so this will be their first home game. Purdue is always an emotional game for     the Irish, and scUM will try to kick the crap out of them in AnnArbor.  2012, Spartans lost by     17  points. In 2013  the Green Machine will put pressure on the inexperience at Irish QB, and the     inept Domer running game. Spartans take the Victory Bus back to East Lansing.

Q: Other than QB, which player is the key to MSU season?

    This is an easy one.. RECIEVERS.. Catch the damn ball. For two years I have sat in the stands     slapping my head, time after time,  like John L. Smith.. I couldn’t believe the drops.. I saw so    many balls sail right threw the catchers hands.. Again, I’m a fan who sits in the stands drinking     my Coke, eating popcorn.. OMG.. Catch the damn ball this year.. PLEASE..

Q: If we win more than lose, name our bowl and who we shall play... why?

    We will probably head to the Capital One Bowl.. That’s right, another Sunny destination.. I realize     its been since 1988 since we went to Pasadena, just don’t see it in the cards this year. I have not     made hotel reservations yet, but will do so soon for Orlando.. I want to drink from the Big Green     fire hose, and say Rose Bowl or Bust.. but, that’s not reality this year..

Q: Who will we play –

beats me.. don’t care..  Some SEC puke.. Go Green !

Q: Your overall grade (A, B, C, D, F) of Dantonio as head coach since he took over:  and why?

    Easy question ES.. Dantonio gets an A+  !
    Why you ask: We were looking for a culture change, someone who was willing to recreate the     foundation of a program which could launch us back into prominence. He has done that. He has     developed a perceived culture that focuses on fundamentals, family, accountability and follow-    through. Again, this is looking at the program from row 63, but this is what I see. Also, the     recruitment is picking up, and I have learned not to rely on the “star” system you see published.     Dantonio has created and formed a solid foundation, its time in the next 3 years to take the next     step, I plan to see a Rose bowl at a minimum. Much in the mold of BBall God and Coach     Mr.     Tom Izzo, I think Dantonio is building long term structure. I’ve waited 40 some years, I can wait a     couple more.

    So to answer the question: Yes, he has exceed my expectations.. and delivered us from the     depths of 1994 through the John L. Smith era.

Q: Best spot to tailgate in East Lansing????

    Best place is with SpartyMSU and my Peeps at Guiltner Hall on Football Saturdays, the grills are     hot, MSU Alum having a great time,  the food menu is delicious, beer is cold, and this year the     MSU dance team will stop by. Harrison Roadhouse for BBall pregame festivities, and then     Dagwoods to power up for MSU Ice Hockey..     Go Green !

Hope to run in to you again this year ES !
Sparty On !

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spartan Stadium is READY FOR FOOTBALL

So, the west coast's regional reporter for the Enlightened Spartan, chock, made a visit through East Lansing on his way to his cousin's wedding in the Soo (FYI - his cousin played on the 2006-2007 Michigan State national title ice hockey team).

Anyhow, we made a detour into Spartan stadium to take some pics of the most beautifully maintained football field on the planet.  Here's a shot of C and a video from end to end of Spartan Stadium.  Enjoy

Sunday, August 18, 2013

EJECTIONS: Rule changes for college football

For those who have yet to see it, there are several rule changes in football this year, but the significant changes really are pointed at safety, particularly at a player charging or leading into a brutal tackle.  Other rule changes deal with offensive blocking, timing issues of spiking the ball and uniform visibility.

1.  The main changes are for immediate ejection-plus 15 yards for two halves.  If a player "targets" an opponent, an immediate 15 yard penalty will be enforced as well as an ejection for two halves.  Replay can overturn the ejection but not the walk-off -- which could be the most significant part of the penalty in late game situations.

So for instance, many of you Spartan fans remember the crushing last-play-of-the-game defeat to Iowa at home in 2009.  A significant play in the game was from Spartan Jeremy Ware, who CRUSHED Hawkeye RB Colin Sanderman on a hit in the right flat in the fourth quarter, when the game was tied, 6-6.  There was no initial penalty, but the replay booth called down to the field one-minute after the play, and demanded a personal foul AFTER Sanderman was knocked out.

Here is the clip:

This year, Ware would be ejected, and only a replay could overturn his ejection.  And, Ware would also be ejected for the first half of the NEXT GAME because his hit on Sanderman was in the fourth quarter (second half) -- and the new rule states TWO halves.

I like the intent of the rule, and like the focus on safety.  However, I do NOT like the fact that referees are going to be eloquent with the flag and can change the outcome of the game based on what they think is a  target from what may be just a good hit. But, the ES still doesn't like the replay booth calling for penalties on the field - that's not what it should be about.. it should be about "replays" and not about calling penalties.

2. Only-from-the-front rule:  basically, a new zone is created for blocking, 7 yards side-to-side from the line of scrimmage and 5 yards down the field.  In this zone, the offense can block below the waist UNTIL the ball leaves this area.  Everyone else on offensive may block below the waist ONLY if the block is front of the opponent. And, it is a no-no to block below the waist facing your own goal line.

3. Clock management.  If a player is injured in the last minute, 10 seconds are run off the clock unless the team with the injured player takes a time out.  And, if a player loses his helmet, he can stay in the game the next play if the team takes a time out.  Going back to the Smoker-to-Duckett win over scUM, the NCAA now requires a minimum of 3 seconds remaining to allow for a spike and another play (if this was the rule, Smoker-to-Duckett never would have been allowed).  

4. Other changes, not so interesting, is that you can't have two players at the same position wearing the same number.  If someone wants to change positions and change a jersey, he has gotta let the ref know.  Finally, you can't have the same color number against the same color jersey with an outline - there needs to be a contrast.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Phil Steele loves Green defense as the Dark Horse in the B1G for 2013

Phil Steele hones in on the close losses and the stout defense to give MSU the official underdog status of the 2013 season.

(FYI - Tom Deinhart at chimes in on MSU with his impressions, and they are all spot on with the ES' so far on offense and defense.  Deinhart notes the great play from Bullough at RB, his senior brother at LB, and better results at WR).

When you read his unit projections, overall he predicts MSU as the #5 scoring defense and #3 overall defense in the nation (Behind Alabama and Florida State).  He likes the MSU schedule avoiding Wisc and Ohio State.  And, he figures the wide receiving corps can’t get any worse.  Interestingly, he predicts MSU coaching as third-best in the Big Ten, after Ohio State (Urban Meyer) and Northwestern (Pat Fitzgerald). 

Steele projects out best individual units every year.  Don’t think I have ever seen MSU defense ranked so high in so many categories:  Defensive Line (#35), Linebackers (#5), and Defensive Backs (#14). No mention on special teams, quarterbacks, running backs, or receivers – we earned that.  But, the O-Line has a #17 ranking.  So, we have a great line to block for… nobody????  Argh. 

Steele ranks MSU tied for first in the Legends (with Nebraska and Michigan), and his preseason rankings post MSU at #23 overall (one spot ahead of Michigan at #24). Other Big Ten teams in his preseason are: Ohio State (2), Nebraska (16), Wisonsin (20), Northwestern (32), and Penn State (34).


MSU is on the outside looking in at #28 ranking the national coaches' poll... PERFECT.  And, looking at the USAT poll below finds really only three surprises:  Boise State at #19, UCLA at #21, and Northwestern at #22.  We beat Boise last year in East Lansing, and they return all their starters, but they weren't THAT good.  Northwestern should be VERY GOOD this year, they beat us in East Lansing because of terrible coaching and the worst game of Maxwell's career, but just seeing them in the preseason top 25 at any time is a surprise.  UCLA, just don't know much about them.

Quick thoughts: Oklahoma State is better than #14 but needs to prove it; Stanford is  not as good as #4; Notre Dame at #11 - the Irish were lucky all over 2012 and got due payment playing ' Bama, and they won't have such luxury this year, especially after the Spartans win in South Bend in September.  Michigan at #17 is overrated, much like Notre Dame - they have a better QB and a good coach, but have a tough schedule, plus the Spartans in East Lansing.

USA Today Poll
1Alabama (58)0-01545
2Ohio State (3)0-01427
6Texas A&M (1)0-01215
7South Carolina0-01136
11Notre Dame0-0872
12Florida State0-0844
14Oklahoma State0-0726
19Boise State0-0420
25Oregon State0-0135
Others receiving votes: Kansas State 113, Miami (FL) 101, Michigan State 89, Baylor 80, Virginia Tech 65, Fresno State 62, Arizona State 51, Ole Miss 32, Vanderbilt 29, Utah State 23, Brigham Young 20, North Carolina 19, Northern Illinois 19, Tulsa 9, San Jose State 8, Ohio 8, Arizona 5, Cincinnati 3, East Carolina 3, Mississippi State 3, Kent State 3, Washington 3, UCF 2, Tennessee 1, Toledo 1, Rutgers 1, Arkansas 1, Arkansas State 1

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

New Superdivision, Different Rules for Different Sports?

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics provided some provoking thoughts with respect to further study of the wealthiest athletics programs (Michigan State among them) in the Big Five conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac 12, SEC) creating a new subdivision for Football Only.  The ES new title for such a division?  How about "Division I-Haves"?  You may recall the ES discussion on this earlier this year.

What is most interesting to the ES is the note to consider different rules or conferences for different sports, acknowledging the different realities of a football player vs a field hockey player.  Read here.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Crushing Defense Continues in 2013

Pat Narduzzi has done one thing consistently since bringing his defensive philosophy to Michigan State:  make the meanest defensive team in the B1G Ten.

(link here to see the preview on the Spartan offense).

What is even more amazing is the 2013 team may be the best Spartan defense since the 60s.  We’ve had incredible defensive efforts the past four years… and if you attended any game in the painful season last year, the only reason you would keep coming back was to watch the crushing Spartan defense.

The linebacking corps is fast, disciplined, and rock-hard.  Max Bullough continues a family blood-line for MSU of vicious hitting, but smart LBs. It’s tough to think that Max may be better than Shane, Chuck, or Hank. But, he is certaily of that all-star caliber.   Thank God for the future: Riley Bullough and Byron Bullough continue the tradition.

A look at the three incredible LBs for MSU:  Bullough is at the middle (in 2012: 111 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 10 TFL, 1 INT), hard-hitting Denicos Allen at SAM (79 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 INT), and Taiwan Jones (38 tackles, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL) at WLB.  That’s the best LB trio in the big ten.  Add in the opportunistic Kyler Elsworth (2.5 sacks)… and you have a LB corps filled with experience and very good play. 

Along the defensive front, the past two years we’ve lost Jerel Worthy and Will Gholston to the NFL, but we have depth to make up for the concerns.  Marcus Rush (38 tackles, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 5 passes broken up/PBU) and Drenzel Drone (10 tackles, 1 PBU) have starting experience and have been a force on the DE and can use a bit more speed this year to hit QBs. Tyler Hoover (13 tackles, 0.5 TFL), Michajah Reynolds (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 PBU), and James Kittredge (14 tackles, 4.5 TFL) have plenty of experiene filling the holes along the interior.  What is insteresting is moving Lawarence Thomas back to defense (from TE last year) to his natural abilities on the defenive front. He has the pedigree and blue-chip status to be a breakout player on defense:  a playmaker.  Early reports are his improvement over the summer will pay major dividends for the Big Green in the season.

Along the defensive backfield, Darqueze Dennard (52 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 3 INT) returns after such a strong year in 2012; add to it Isiaiah Lewis (80 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 2 INT) and Kurtis Drummond (53 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 2 INT) to make a very solid trio on defense.  The newcomer, redshirt frosh Demetrious Fox, looks to add a lot of talent to the safety position.

There just aren’t many holes on defense.  While MSU will likely make things very very stingy to run the ball, they will need to get some pressure on opposing QBs – particularly on third downs – to stop opponents and give our offense a short field.  Hopefully Lawrence Thomas and Marcus Rush can lead the way with an improved pass rush.  Our offense needs all the help they can get.

BOTTOM LINE:  Lots of returning experience from one of the Big Ten’s best defenses last year… but the defense did not have much help from the offense to give them a rest off the field.  What do yo do?  Michigan State will have the best defense again this year in the conference.  Even with a sputtering offense last year, the defense gave up less than 100 yards per game on the ground, with an average of 30 carries for 99 yards (3.3 ypc).  That’s stout. And, if you can believe it, MSU averaged 85 more yards per game than their opponent (averaged 60 yards per game more than their opponent).  What does this mean?  The problems aren’t on defense at all.  This is one unit that can be relied upon all year long.

Spartan fans will hate to see the defense leave the field if the offense sputters at all like in 2012.  Can we put the defense on offense, too?  

If you love defense, come on out to Spartan Stadium in 2013.  We may see lots more 13-10, 17-13, or 10-9 games all year long.  Hopefully it's the Spartans on the front end of the ledger.   

Next report:  ES will look at coaching, special teams, and some of the rules changes in NCAA football.  We'll also look at the initial USA Today coaching poll....

Friday, August 02, 2013

Spartans back to work for Fall: About the Offense

OK, the ES is BACK! It’s been a long, beautiful summer… ES spending some time in South Haven and in Sarasota, Florida. But, ready for football!

And the Big Green Machine is in motion, today (Aug 2) being the first day Spartans report for camp.

What’s the #1 question? Will it be Andrew Maxwell or Connor Cook.. or the blue chipper, Damion Terry (6-3, 220-lbs, Erie PA). Maxwell has experience starting every game for MSU last year, is an East-West quarterback, is a minimalist without taking risks – and lacked a good receiving corps last year. Cook was the backup in '12, takes risks, and is a play-maker, and could develop into a potential game-changer. Terry is raw at 18 years old, but comes in rated as one of the best prospects in the nation. Dantonio is standing by Maxwell and his commitment to the program… but his bland performance in the Spring game demonstrates his weaknesses – the guy just has not improved. Even though Maxwell may be a better practice player, Cook certainly demonstrates the leadership and moxie necessary to lead a Big Ten team: Exhibit A is Cook’s last minute performance in the bowl victory over TCU.
The ES’s boldest prediction? By time MSU faces a real opponent in Notre Dame, a halftime goose-egg on the scoreboard will lead to Cook being installed as the eventual starter for Big Ten season. 

While the offensive line play should be very very good this fall, other concerns on offense are rather obvious: can there be any significant improvement by the receivers to just catch balls? The pathetic play of this corps last year hampered Maxwell’s development and certainly cost the Spartans a few games. Big Green lacks any experienced tight-ends (like Dion Sims) to bail out Maxwell like last year – the WRs need to make plays… or just catch the damn ball. If Maxwell ever decides to go North-South, look for Aaron Burbridge, Bennie Fowler, Keith Mumphrey, and DeAnthoy Arnett to be the playmakers. Cook is a deep-throwing QB, so these will be his targets. But, at RB, MSU will have its biggest drop since Lorenzo White was replaced by… Blake Ezor.

If you look at our RB corps, there really is only one stand out….

20 Nick Hill RB 5-8 198 JR Chelsea, Mich. - Chelsea
24 Gerald Holmes RB 6-0 212 FR Flint, Mich. - Carman-Ainsworth
33 Jeremy Langford RB 6-0 206 JR Wayne, Mich. - John Glenn
12 R.J. Shelton RB 5-11 204 FR Beaver Dam, Wis. - Beaver Dam
32 Nick Tompkins RB 5-9 185 RS FR Snellville, Ga. - Brookwood
44 Corry Brown RB/DB 5-11 170 FR Three Rivers, Mich. - Three Rivers
30 Riley Bullough RB/LB 6-2 230 RS FR Traverse City, Mich. - St. Francis
22 Delton Williams RB/LB 6-1 220 FR Erie, Pa. - Cathedral Prep

That would be Riley Bullough, who bulled through the defense for an incredible Spring Game performance. And, he’s supposed to be a linebacker. Nick Hill has moves and speed, but the ES joins the Spartan Nation being concerned about the loss of Le’Veon Bell toward the Spartan running game.

For the type of game that Dantonio calls, a balanced offense give the Spartans the best chance… Over the weekend, the ES will get to the defense and the overall Spartan game plan.