Friday, September 30, 2011

The Devil's Five Key Things

We're taking the five key things series and weaving it in with the Devil's Advocate series we did last year. Co-Authoring this segment will be my partner in crime Ty from the Lions in Winter. Check out his blogified 3-0 hot start here.

Hosting Today's Session

1.) Is Jim Tressel Der Sätanhitlër?

Jim Tressel is a "tragic hero" and by that I mean Der Sätanhitlër. He couldn't stop lying even after he got fired. I read somewhere he wouldn't take another job until he read 100 books. 93 days later he gets hired by the Colts for some crap position doing some crappy thing, probably telling people Payton Manning will be under center next quarter. I'd like to point out that's 1.075 books per day, I know if I had been the Godfather at a place like OSU for 10 years I'd have some stuff to do that had nothing to do with reading books. Like seeing family. So Imma go ahead and call Shenanigans. No way he read 100 books before taking that job.

Stop lying Jim Tressel, the world is a safe place.

Jim Tressel is black of heart and false of tongue, but it’s getting increasingly hard to believe he’s any worse than the majority of DI colleagues. Most AQ conference programs that have achieved year-over-year success in the last decade have been sanctioned, or are under investigation, or are technically following rules that very badly need to be changed (like 237 Alabama signees finishing their degrees at Too Bad You Aren’t Good Enough To Start at Alabama Technical Institute).

It seems like NCAA football has become NASCAR: If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.

2.)You think this is the game Keshawn Martin does this thing?

I think this is the game where Keshawn Martin will do more of his thing. He's gone out of a couple games hurt now which leads me to believe he's a bit dinged up and spent very little time making people miss. Still, I don't think that running will come easy to us and the best way to help that out are with bubble and short screens to Keshawn. We're really missing a second receiving option right now to free Keshawn up to Keshawn his way across the field for the Make Glorious Keshawn!

I have a sneaking suspicion it is. Keshawn has a way of uncorking the huge return or the ridiculous reverse right when things are bleakest. Maybe it’s because Dantonio typically calls his number most when things are bleakest—but either way, I have to believe that if Keshawn is physically able to have a statement game, he has it Saturday.

3.) Should the Spartans try to stop the run, or attack the pass?

They should commit to stopping the run, I don't think Miller can beat us with his arm. If we can get up a score or two Fickell will have to think about Bauserman and I am all for creating the QB platoon of doom.

The Spartans unit that is the most better than the OSU equivalent is the downfield passing game. If the defense can rattle Miller early, and the Spartans can get a lead, I like our secondary to snag a couple picks in the second half—which should be an enormous advantage.

4.) How much more do we see of the unbalanced line?

I don't think we'll wheel it out again like we just found how damn awesome Tickle-Me-Elmo is and everyone's like dude that's so 1996. However, I rewatched bits of the ND game and was looking for the unbalanced line plays in particular. We ran four plays that I saw, there were probably a few more, but in the four I saw:

- 3 were run to the weakside. On two of the three McDonald the LG and he was functionally the tackle. He got beat at the point of attack and if he wins the point of attack on either of those runs Baker goes for like 9 instead of 1.5. On the run to the strongside the five left of the center go out to murder Notre Dame lambs.

So far, so good

The Weakside DE comes free, I mean not even slowed down.

Which ends up in TFL

So, I guess the long and the short of it is. It's not like the Unbalanced line is schematically broken. Had an OL gone back to seal off the backside that play maybe gets sprung for a few more yards. The formation has potential, and I think we see it again.

Out there on those things they call the Interwebs is a site called Smart Football, and it is about how smart people coach football teams smart. There’s an awful lot of reading material on Smart Football about unbalanced lines, and how smart coaches use them. The thing is, Mark Dantonio does not usually coach “Smart Football,” at least not by that site’s way of measuring.

Using an unbalanced line to get as many big bodies in front of Edwin Baker as possible isn’t just Smart Football, it’s smart football. Maybe Dantonio and his staff are too inexperienced in coaching it. Maybe they have a bunch of offensive linemen who were playing defense until recently and they’re having a hard time picking it up. Either way, I want MSU to keep using the unbalanced line, because when it clicks it’s going to be a powerful weapon.

5.) Do you hate Ohio State for costing us the Rose Bowl?

The Jim Tressel answer is no. But the truth is yes. The last time we played in a Rose Bowl was 1988. I was 8. Jim Tressel is one of Mark Dantonio's dearest friends. So dear in fact that Jim Tressel agreed to suspend his guys for the first five games of 2011 so that way he could to a BCS Bowl in 2010. This was of course based on the idea that he or Pryor would BE around this year.

I wrote the game preview a bit sheepishly yesterday, but I was driving home and I was thinking to myself this year's slogan is P4RB- Prepare for Rose Bowl, but the damnedable misery of it is that the slogan should be GB2RB- Go Back 2 Rose Bowl. When Dantonio came to town his first commit in the 2008 class was a young man named Charles Burrell. He told Charles that Charles would play in a Rose Bowl if he came to Michigan State. I remember specifically the mocking from various Wolverine sites on the matter. Dantonio held up his end of the bargain and Jim Tressel went out of his way to make sure that OSU got it's BCS spot.

We owe them an asskicking, whether we give it to them or not. So to answer your question, I don't hate Ohio State. I have some choice words about Jim Tressel though.

YES. Forget everything I said before. He is Der Sätanhitlër.

Final Prediction from yesterday stands: OSU 21 MSU 20. I want to believe, but I need to see first.

Oh you doubting Thomas. MSU 27 OSU 23. Last week, I correctly predicted a defensive score. This week, I see two second-half interceptions.

OSU: Friday Morning Youtubin'!

This is super awesome and worth a listen even if you can't watch:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

OSU: Game Preview

So here we are. Getting ready to play our rival in Columbus this weekend.

So here we are. Getting ready to play our rival in Columbus this weekend.

If we win, it might totally get our season back on track. If we lose, it might throw us into a bit of a tailspin.

If we win, it might totally get our season back on track. If we lose, it might throw us into a bit of a tailspin.

Our offense has been anemic at times this year, but I our defense has been there to cover our butts when we really need it. Despite the problems we've been having, I think we can overcome them and still have a good season.

Our offense has been anemic at times this year, but I our defense has been there to cover our butts when we really need it. Despite the problems we've been having, I think we can overcome them and still have a good season.

What are you doing? Stop copying me!

What are you doing? Stop copying me!

Since Mark Dantonio came to MSU we have gone a major identity shift. We're no longer a band of JLS Merry Fools who manage to choke away games we've led for the first 58 minutes. Nor are we Bobby Williams types who underachieve both on and off the field. We play football to minimize mistakes, capitalize on the mistakes of others and keep ourselves in every game right until the end. Where did we learn this? Why from our old friend Papa Sweatervest. In fact, when Dantonio came to town he immediately started drawing comparisons to Michigan and how we can measure up to Michigan, but I think the more apt description of who we are and who he wanted us to be is Ohio State or at least Papa Sweatervest's Ohio State.

So, a few years later, Papa Sweatervest done knew about some bad things and tell the truth about it on multiple occasions. Papa Sweatervest was shown the door, and what a door it was. He was rumored to have received a 10 Million dollar retirement package, although the googles is coming up thin on details so who knows whether that's true or not. Now MSU has blueprinted major pieces of it's program based off of the work of a man whose moral credit is shaky.* However, his on-the-field record is sound and he has a national title to his name. Why wouldn't you want to blueprint yourself schematically off of Ohio State.

* - Disclaimer: I think a lot of NCAA rules are crap as do most people with common sense. So claiming his moral credit is shaky is within the framework of the NCAA rules.

So this game in a way represents a bit more than a rivalry game or even two programs looking to hold the ship steady for this season. I think this game represents who is going to play the finest Tresselball with the ghost of Jim Tressel haunting the shoe. I give the edge to OSU in personnel, but the edge goes to MSU in coaching. Anyway, I done introduced this enough.

MSU's Passing Attack vs OSU's Pass Defense

The only way you can really talk about this is to divide it into 3 sections. "Kirk Cousins" vs. "Dogg, Dion Sims was in double coverage behind both dudes", "Kirk Cousins" vs. "Dan France played Defensive Tackle last year, Micajah Reynolds was playing it last week", finally "Kirk Cousins" vs. "You Know, The OSU Pass Defense And Stuff".

"Kirk Cousins" vs. "Dogg, Dion Sims was in double coverage behind both dudes"

Kirk Cousins is a career 65 percent passer with a 46 TD's and 22 INT's. Against top 25 competition he is a 64 percent passer with 7 TD's and 10 INT's. (Note: This is calculated against top 25 at the time of play, not end of season).
So he completes roughly the same number of passes, but is more likely to throw a pick and less likely to throw a touchdown. In fact 10/22 of his career picks have come in just these seven games against top 25 competition. In his 3 wins against top 25 competition he threw 4 TD's and 4 INT's. In his four losses, he threw 3 TD's and 6 INT's.

Key to Success: Keep the TD to INT ratio at 1:1 or better.

"Kirk Cousins" vs. "Dan France played Defensive Tackle last year, Micajah Reynolds was playing it last week"

Well, if nothing else the injuries to our Offensive Line certainly have been well-documented. That said, great programs do find a way to overcome, great programs find ways to win tough road games and if that's what Michigan State wants to be, the Offensive Line needs to play better than it has so far this year. The reciprocation of course is that Cousins is going to have to trust his line and not take 3 yards on 3rd and 8 because he is fearing for his life. Quite a game of tightrope there.

Key To Success: For both Cousins and the Offensive Line to establish how well the Offensive Line is going to do early on so they can adjust appropriately.

"Kirk Cousins" vs. "You Know, The OSU Pass Defense And Stuff"

OSU is currently ranked 21st is passing yards defensed, tied for 28th in interceptions, 24th in passing efficiency defense, 32nd in sacks and 18th in 3rd down conversions. So I think you can pretty accurately say they have a top 25ish pass defense. They seem to be better than the rest of their averages at stopping people on 3rd down so keeping our down and distance manageable for Cousins is going to be critical, especially given the "more likely to throw a pick, less likely to throw a touchdown" thing previously discussed.

Like us OSU's primary strength on defense appears to be on it's defensive line. While they will likely be without star pass rusher Nathan Williams, OSU is deep on the defensive line. If the OSU pass rush can decimate our Offensive Line to "four turnstiles and Joel Foreman" (H/T to JustCoverBlog) expect them to have their way with us.

Key To Success: MSU slowing down OSU's Offensive Line adequately to give time for Cousins to make passes that move the chains. Cunningham continues his ridiculous knack for getting open even though he is double covered or more. If Cunningham has another Cunningham game(8 catches for 91 yards and a TD) look out!

Advantage: OSU
Reason: The combination of Cousins' nerves and an unproven, unsettled Offensive Line will be too much against a top 25 pass defense.

MSU's Rushing Attack vs OSU's Rush Defense

Ohio State ranks 29th in total rushing yardage allowed, 66th in total fumbles recovered(kind of a useless stat, but more relevant to rushing than passing) and 83rd in red zone defense. Michigan State conversely is 65th in total rushing yardage, 87th in red zone offense, 24th in fumbles lost, 82nd in 3rd down efficiency.

If we can get into the red zone I like our odds to score honestly. OSU has allowed their opponents into the redzone nine times this year and given up a touchdown on seven of them. I will take a 78 percent chance of a touchdown inside the 20 any day of the week. We have been to the redzone 24 times and scored 18 times. The six misses include two field goal misses and a not-so-surprising fake field goal.

It's getting to the red zone that worries me. MSU is 65th in total rushing yardage(partly buoyed down by that damn ND game), contrasted against OSU's 29th ranked rushing defense AND that our Offensive Line needs to play Big 10 ball before I'll be a believer I have trouble believing that our 1st and 10 runs will be very fruitful. Additionally, we are 82nd in 3rd down conversions contrasted against OSU's 18th ranked 3rd down defense.

This absolutely smacks of a game where we will have trouble moving the ball, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Luckily, we've not yet seen a lot of screens of either the middle or bubble variety. Also, I'll be interested to see if Roushar takes another stab at the unbalanced line, I've been dying to write a post on how that's supposed to work, but there's only so many hours in the day.

Key To Success: Get the ball to the endzone and have a good redzone conversion percentage. We might only need 3 touchdowns to win this.

Reason: They look too good at stopping the run in situations where we need to be successful running the ball.

MSU's Pass Defense vs OSU's Passing Attack

Ohio State ranks 110th in total passing yardage, 75th in 3rd down efficicency and 67th in redzone offense scoring 10 TDs and 4 FGs on 17 trips. Michigan State ranks 1st in passing defense, 3rd in passing efficiency defense and 42nd in redzone defense.

Braxton Miller - AKA Diet Terrelle Pryor. Last week he threw 5 of 13 for 83 yards and had 83 yards rushing against a so-so pass defense. He makes good decisions with the ball having thrown 3 TD's to 1 INT so far this season. It looks like if we get pressure on him, he'll flush out of the pocket and take off with the ball.

Joe Bauserman - The deposed starter. Bauserman was the QB at the start of the season, he played what looked like mop-up duty against Colorado. He's a much better passer than Miller at this point in his career.

Both quarterbacks do not turn the ball over easily combining for a 7 TD to 1 INT ratio on the season. Miller is the starter for this week, but could get yoinked with a poor showing against our defense. The stats seem to favor our pass defense but you have to account for the Fail-A-U where they only got 26 yards passing. Even still, if we can contain their offense early we should be able to bottle up Miller by letting the front four do it's thing and have the linebackers play contain.

Key to Success: The linebackers containing Braxton Miller and not surrendering too many third down conversions. If Bauserman sees significant minutes it becomes the linebackers being able to defend the pass while Bauserman camps in the pocket.

Reason: OSU is without two of it's better wide receivers, DeVeir Posey and likely will be without Philly Brown. It's asking too much of Miller to put this thing on his arm.

OSU Rushing Offense vs MSU Rush Defense

Ohio State ranks 39th in rushing yardage and Michigan State ranks 9th in rushing defense. It sounds like Jordan Hall is really coming on for the Buckeyes and will need to be watched out for. Carlos Hyde is their workhorse back and comes in at 6'1" and 238 lbs. Additionally, if Braxton Miller plays significant minutes expect him to take off Particularly on third down!.

MSU will continue to do what they do and as long as they don't have to blitz lots to stop the pass should be keyed in a good position to stop the run. I think the entire game could come down to this matchup. With a 4.6 ypc average, OSU doesn't seem unstoppable in the run game, but you can bet they are going to try and run the ball down our throats early and often. If they are successful and can keep the pressure off Braxton Miller they will have success moving the ball on us.

Key To Success: Contain Braxton Miller in the passing game and be able to load the box to stop the run. Stop Miller from converting 3rd downs with his feet on 3rd and long.

Advantage: MSU
Reason: MSU will be able to keep the running down to 2-3 ypc forcing Miller into a few 3rd and long situations. He'll convert a few against the Duzzer 3rd and long defense, but won't be able to run down the whole field that way.

Mark Dantonio vs Luke Fickell

Dantonio. Plain and simple. Has more experience. Isn't dealing with an off the field turmoil incident. Isn't missing five of his best players. Won't allow MSU to outthink itself again.

Advantage: MSU


The Shoe. When we win there, it's usually in grandiose fashion. When we lose there, it's usually in grandiose fashion. We have yet to knock off OSU at OSU. Cousins gets a bit nervy in big games. In short, I think the Home Field advantage will be exactly that, but the football gods will not give either team extra speed.

Advantage: OSU

So after 2000 words, these teams are basically equal in every way. MSU has a better quarterback, OSU has a better offensive line, all other position groups are of equal footing in my opinion. Dantonio is a better coach or at least a coach with fewer problems that need dealing at this point. Some of that will be negated by the home field advantage. It kills me to say this after all this writing, but I think neither team has a significant schematic or perceived advantage. Most of the differences wash out in another way.

The winner of this game will come down to who takes the best care of the football. Unfortunately, this would point to Ohio State. The Bauserman-Miller beast is keeping a 7-1 TD to INT ratio and as stated earlier on Cousins has had almost half of his picks come against top 25 competition.

Final Prediction: MSU 20, OSU 21

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homecoming: B.J. Cunningham

Prior to 2010, the All-Time Career Reception leader was Matt "Stone Hands" Trannon. You might think it's such a strange thing that "Stone Hands" was the nickname in my house for MSU's all time reception leader, but so it is. His freshman year I think he dropped as many passes as he caught and even in his Senior Year when he wasn't throwing touchdown passes he still occasionally had a drop that was all LOL WUT. So not only did it surprise me, but it pleased me greatly to learn that coming into the season that B.J. Cunningham was only 10 catches away from moving old "Stone Hands" down to number two.

When Mark Dantonio arrived in late 2006 the first order of business was to give all of the JLS assistants their walking papers and then call up all of our current commitments and inform them that their scholarship offers were being re-examined. For obvious keepers like Keith Nichol and Mark Dell this was merely a formality, for guys like this was the end of their courtship with Michigan State. For guys like B.J. Cunningham who were being recruited by Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati, this was the beginning of a new courtship with Michigan State.

In December 2006, Cunningham committed to MSU just a few weeks after Dantonio took over as head coach. He was a three-star prospect according to Rivals and Scout. He and Mark Dell came in as the two WR's in the class of 2007, Dell was the heralded four-star talent and Cunningham the important workmanlike possession receiver. Cunningham described his strength as: "I can go up and get the ball and I am good at running after the catch. I also have no problem going across the middle" Here's a clip of him doing and an interview with the man himself doing all that to displace old "Stone Hands".

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Depth Chart: OSU

Here's the depth chart for OSU. View it unadulterated and lengthy over here.

Not a lot of surprises here. Bennie Fowler and Tyler Hoover are both off the depth chart despite having been listed as available for the CMU game. The twitterz indicated a rib thing for Hoover and nothing really for Fowler. That's too bad, we could use him for OSU.

Other Notables

- Little surprised not to see an OR between Dan France and Micajah Reynolds, yes it was Central, yes there were some second stringers involved on both sides of the ball, but Reynolds looked passable. I don't see us platooning LT's out there, but I have the feeling France's leash won't be real long.

- Likewise, I didn't read the CMU depth chart in honesty, but the idea of putting Henry Conway into action against OSU even at second string 18 months removed from breaking his neck frightens me a bit. I'm sure he's good to go or they wouldn't do it, but jeez, you know?

- Calling Nate Klatt? Bueller? Bueller? Dude was a four star recruit and isn't showing up on the two deeps anywhere when the line is skinnier Keira Knightley after starving herself for a couple weeks. Unless he's hurt and I just somehow missed that, I think the writing might be on the wall for you sir.

- Taiwan Jones is now officially the second string STAR, based on nothing other whimsy I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit the field on a few snaps this weekend with one job. Kill the Quarterback. He's looked great on Special Teams and in mop-up duty.

- Pray for no injuries to the secondary, our starters are solid and Kurtis Drummond is looking great in relief, but secondary might be our next thinnest spot after Offensive Line. Stay healthy my friends!

Monday, September 26, 2011

MSU Closes Player Interviews This Week

MSU has closed player interviews this week in anticipation of not giving OSU bulletin board material. I know a sports writer who gets pretty indignant about this kind of crap, but that aint me. If they think it gives us a strategic advantage no matter how tiny, I'm good with that. Feel free to raid the clip below for quotes if you're missing the players that bad.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Mid-Season Review

With four games in the books, it's time to step back for a minute and see just what we've learned so far this season. The non-conference schedule is tough, not because it is actually tough as in you work really hard at it. It's tough because four games in, it's hard to tell how good you are or aren't.

No Cupcake  Left Behind

This guy never works hard at it.

Four games in we've played a 1-AA team that made us look kind of crappy in the first half, an FAU team that looked kind of like the crappiest team I've ever seen us play, we played crappy at Notre Dame and then polished off the non-conference season by showing the world how crappy CMU is this year. So we can we surmise from all this? Pretty much crap, but we'll give it the old college try.

Donald Rumsfeld once got made fun of for saying: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." I think this might be an apt way to approach dissecting our team's performance so far.

Known Knowns

- Our Offensive Line is going to struggle this year. We've been crushed for years by injuries at the Offensive Tackle position and it's finally caught up with us. They might at some point in the Big 10 season congeal to not be a weak spot for our team, but I think that's the best case scenario.

- Our defense is going to be solid this year. Michigan State is currently tied for eighth in the NCAA scoring defense giving up only 11 ppg. This defense will keep us in some tough games later on this season. They might have only played one good team and three bags of crap, but so have most teams at this point.

- Our rushing offense has underperformed so far this year. We're currently ranked 65th in rushing yardage. A point that came up on the Friday game preview is that the last game we lost where we outrushed our opponent was Minnesota in 2009. Our offense depends on us being able to run the football.

- Our Special Teams are not as Special as last year. Michigan State is still giving up 25 yards a kick return, good for 107th in the nation. Mike Sadler is averaging 39.67 yards a punt (although he had a great game Saturday) which would put him around 57th nationally. We're 69th in punt return coverage. Conroy and Nick Hill have been bright spots. The rest isn't bad, it's a little below average. Last year was outstanding and wonderful and all that Special Teams could be. Last year relatively speaking, was Beamerball.

- BJ Cunningham is a man among boys. He's ranked in the top 20 in all NCAA reception yardage type statistics. He moves the sticks, he gets first downs and then sets up the running backs to punch it in from 3 yards out. We knew he'd be good and he's still been a pleasant surprise.

Known Unknowns

- It concerns me mildly that I have yet to see our defense do it's magic on a mobile quarterback. With Denard "Mr. September Heisman" Robinson and Taylor "I quit the team while having a temper tantrum and then came back" Martinez still on the schedule this is a hole in our defense's sparkling resume.

- It goes almost without saying that we have yet to see how this Offensive Line holds up against a Big Ten defensive line. Ohio State scares me a bit because they traditionally have a very good defense and a good POWER defense at that. We have not had the success to impose our will just running the ball as we like, so a team like OSU might just outPOWER us. Further, a defense like Michigan gives me a bit of the heebie-jeebies. If Mattison can get that blitz home, it's going to give us problems. If not, we'll be fine.

- In order to lighten the load in the passing game, a true second target needs to emerge in the passing game. Nichol seems to be good on the slant routes or a quick curl, but I think we're missing a true second receiver to take the heat off B.J. in the passing game. This will matter more against teams with more disciplined defenses than we have seen so far.

- Will Kirk Cousins continue to have DERP moments at key times in games? I really debated about whether to include this point because I think Cousins has been the steadiest hand we've had at QB since I've been watching MSU football. So picking on him about his occasional DERP moments seems unfair, but, this is supposed to be an MSU football blog and not a "Kirk Cousins boy-crush" blog so, anyway, I digress. When Cousins is pressing from behind he occasionally does things that boggle the mind at critical times. It's not just a Notre Dame thing, it's taking coverage sacks on 3rd and 8 like he did against YSU, or throwing an ill-advised pick on 3rd and 2 against CMU. With a murderer's row of October games coming up, will he be able to risk losing a 3rd down to win the game?

Unknown Unknowns

Obviously this section will be short because if we had any idea what they would be they would tend to be in the category above.

Covered in this category would be the things like Micajah Reynolds showing strong at LT during the CMU game. Skyler Burkland being lost for the year, etc. Not really much to see here.

Overall Thoughts

Coming into the season, I thought this would be a 9-3 or 8-4 type team and I see nothing that changes any of that. I think that comparatively speaking we're a little behind where we were at this point last year. Our offense seems to move a bit more in fits and starts, our rushing attack is not as reliable, our special teams are not quite as crisp. Plus there's the October schedule. I think this year will go on to prove one thing though, Mark Dantonio in spite of the Angry Offensive Line Hating God and in spite of one of the nastiest schedules I've MSU ever play has prepared this team to be an 8-4 or 9-3 type team. That's a breath of fresh air around these parts and I'm excited.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Game Preview: CMU

So in case you haven't yet heard, the sky is falling. Maybe it has even fallen. Maybe this is the beginning of hell on earth with the the cold approaching and the stock market in shambles and an offensive line made out of all of the dudes in East Lansing that are taller than 6'4" and more than 300 lbs. If in spite of all that you feel the need to carry on this blog post is for you.


Perhaps you saw us make some mistakes in South Bend last week which assisted in creating a pretty lop-sided score of 31-13. Further the Irish front seven is the biggest we'll play this whole season, which made them perfectly suited to captialize on our decimated Offensive Line. Perhaps you still see 9-3 or 8-4 as a possibility for this year. If so this blog post is for you.

The bad part for me is that these people both live inside my head regarding Spartan Football and that's what makes games like this one Saturday kind of frightening to me. Michigan State's season is far from over, but it sure felt that way for a bit on Saturday. The Chips flatly frighten me a bit, they've won three out of seven in our series thus far. Our protected rival Indiana has a worse winning percentage against us than Central by ALMOST 20 PERCENT. So despite the fact that Central is a bit down in the mouth this year, if you sleep on Central, they will kill you.

Central Passing Defense vs MSU Passing Offense

As with anything offense-related, until further notice this is dependent on the Offensive Line. This will be a good time for our Offensive Line to spend sometime trying to gel its reincarnation into something purposeful and passable. The Offensive Line will be featuring two new starters, Travis Jackson, who impressed strongly in the offseason and Fou Fonoti who first set foot on campus in July. We're currently an injury away from calling TJ Duckett and asking him to come back and play Offensive Line for us.

Alex Carder, the greatest quarterback in the history of Michigan-based football took Central to the woodshed last week putting up 355 yards and 3 Touchdowns. Cousins will not have this kind of a day passing on CMU because we are not looking to wax our rivals like Western was AND Dantonio has stated that he is committed to establishing the run, which of course means not teeing off on Central for 355 yards and 3 TDs.

Provided we don't have more Offensive Line injury and/or magnificent Offensive Line failure expect to see Cousins go like 17 of 22 for 200 and a TD.

Advantage: MSU(but not by a lot).

Central Rushing Defense vs MSU Rushing Offense

Now all that said, I'm less concerned about our Offensive Line in this arena. McDonald and Foreman have proven themselves to be good pulling guards and effective against the run. Todd Anderson is mean, I'm pretty sure he's like the bunny who ate broken glass. These individuals can help bolster running to one side or the other of the field. Oh yeah, our tailbacks are none too shabby either.

I expect to see MSU go back to running like Spartan Stadium's on fire to re-establish it's offensive identity. Given the decided weight advantage on our side of the line and the fact that Le'Veon Bell is bigger than every single linebacker wearing a Central Michigan uniform, I expect us to rack up lots of rushing yards and touchdowns.

Advantage: MSU(by quite a bit)

CMU Passing Offense vs MSU Passing Defense

MSU is currently ranked 15th in Total Passing Efficiency Defense and CMU is ranked 62nd in Passing Offense. Although these numbers are unnaturally low since FAU didn't even generate 50 yards of offense in the 44-0 pasting of two very long weeks ago. Yesterday, Mike from The Chip Report indicated that Radcliff has had trouble with his reads and is not getting the ball downfield well.

For as unhealthy as our offense has been the defense has been thus far quite lucky in their injuries. Look for MSU to play their usual bend, don't break defense against Central. Give up yardage between the 20s, but not a lot of points. Unless Central comes out and gets the jump on us, expect Radcliff to be playing from behind most of the game, that means risky throws and interceptions. Need evidence? Watch the Notre Dame game from six days ago.

Advantage: MSU

CMU Rushing Offense vs MSU Rushing Defense

Tim Phillips will be replacing Zurlon Tipton. At 5'5" and 162 lbs, I think the biggest problem for MSU's defense will be seeing Phillips. I remember a few years ago when Jerry Seymour ran all over MSU because he was little and MSU had problems with that. That was a much crappier defense coached by Cowboys and vicious facepalms.

Our run Defense is pretty stout and just held two very talened running backs to a reasonable amount of yardage in a game Notre Dame was trying to salt away. This should be a good opportunity for MSU's linebackers to get an opportunity playing a scatback that can move.

Advantage: MSU


What do you say about a MAC team that has come in and cleaned your clock three times in your house. God likes them or at least prefers them to you when forced to pick. Or Satan...?

Advantage: CMU

5 Burning Questions

We're taking the five key things series started last week and weaving it in with the Devil's Advocate series we did last year. Co-Authoring this segment will be my partner in crime Ty from the Lions in Winter. Check out his blogified Ndamukong madness here.

5 Burning Questions

1.) How does MSU set to work gelling it's O-Line this upcoming week against Central?

Last week I neglected this question in our five burning questions because I was honestly sick of talking about it. That said, it's definitely news this week as our Offensive Line continues to get thinner. New starters Fou Fonoti and Travis Jackson figure to see plenty of playing time and will be in for as many reps as possible before the tipping point of injury to positive reps swings towards injury. If we struggle to move the ball, expect to see this group in the whole game.

At this point, the only way the offensive line will gel is with the addition of Xanthan Gum, a biopolymer used as a thickening agent in salad dressings and avant-garde molecular gastronomy. Whether the O-line plays like the motley crew of ragtag backup position-switchers they are or the 1998 Denver Broncos, I would want the starters to go the distance. At this point, will another injury make much difference? The Spartans need as much cohesion as they can muster heading into Columbus.

2.) How does Dan Roushar improve for his questionable playcalling in the Notre Dame game and re-establish the MSU offensive identity this week while preparing for Ohio State?

Pound, Green, Pound. The last game Michigan State lost when outrushing it's opponent was against Minnesota in 2009. That is Dantonio's offensive philosophy, keep CHIPping the rock. See what I did there?!? Like it or not, this is how our team plays football, we run to set up the pass. Expect lots of running for exactly that purpose.

I am aghast at the deftness of your pun, and the degree to which we agree. The Spartans have to assert their dominance at the point of attack, and reestablish Baker and Bell as forces to be reckoned with.

3.) Dion Sims moved from being a backup to an OR in this week's depth chart. Is this the beginning of the Dion Sims era?

I think so. Sims is not the strongest pass blocker, otherwise at 6'5" and 280 he might be one of the dudes sliding over to a tackle spot. Sims has absolutely freakish ability. At the beginning of his recruitment he was listed as a WR and has just continued to gain weight while retaining most of his speed. He is a redshirt sophmore after sitting out last year due to some legal issues. While he is not a member of the "Glenn Winston League of Extraordinary Dumbasses" he committed a crime and was punished for it. Until his passblocking improves, do not expect him to be an every down TE but expect to see plenty of him this weekend.

This is exactly the situation you want to deploy Sims in. Against an opponent who won’t kill you with the blitz, who doesn’t have anyone who can hope to match up with Sims physically, you get all the upside of sending him out there to catch passes without all the downside of exposing Captain Kirk to the Klingon hordes.

4.) If Spartan Stadium isn't Dan Enos's Little Big Horn, it's a trailhead en route. If Enos gets the ziggy at any point before 2012 spring ball, do the Spartans bring him back to solidify their offensive coaching staff—and redouble Detroit PSL recruiting efforts?

This seems unlikely to me. I don't see Dantonio kicking out any of the members of our current offensive staff and I don't think any are on the hot track out of here, with apologies to Staten maybe. It seems unlikely that he'd take over on the defensive side of the ball. So it's not that we don't want him, it's that I don't know if we have room for him.

Secondly, this would not be Enos' first time trying to rejoin Dantonio after a failed attempt to move on to bigger and better things. Enos was the running back's coach here in 2006 in the final year of John L Smith, after leaving Dantonio in Cincinnati. He was the only member of staff retained when Dantonio came in late 2006. While he was fantastic at recruiting the PSL, I don't know if you bump a current staff member to make room for someone who's left you, twice.

Sometimes, things make too much sense not to happen. Dan Enos starts taking a lot of heat the same week Dan Roushar does, and I have a hard time not connecting the dots. Obviously, last week would have to be the beginning of a strongly negative trend for Roushar to be axed, and I hope and pray that doesn’t happen. But, if it does, I think the Spartans miss Enos more than they expected—and if he’s free and they have an opening, why not? I’d just hope he wouldn’t become our very own Mike DeBord.

5.) How likely is it that we see a repeat of 2009?

Unlikely. CMU is down this year and so is MSU a bit. We lost the 2009 game because LeFevour was an excellent QB, Antonio Brown is playing for the Steelers now and their running back was pretty darn good too. Additionally, Cousins and Nichol were platooning in at QB and it kept MSU's offense from establishing a rhythm. We couldn't put them away, they converted an onside kick AND then got two tries to make a 47 and then a 42 yarder. There were several moments that CMU had to convert perfectly and they did and won. They would need that game and more this year and I don't think they have it in them.

I have pinned that loss on the Spartans trying to defend Butch Jones’s ‘Diet Spread n’Shred’ with the a base 4-3. I theorized at the time that Narduzzi didn’t want to show his RichRod-stopping cards. The Spartans let CMU have six yards whenever they wanted it, and they paid for it in the end. Even with all that, AND the silly Quarterback by Committee, it STILL took that crazy chain of events. I can’t see Dantonio risking a slide to 2-2 this time around.

Jim's Prediction:MSU 28 CMU 10

Ty’s Prediction: MSU 33 CMU 17 (one of the MSU scores is defensive. Don’t ask why)

Friday Morning Youtubin'!

I could only find one highlight reel for Friday Morning Youtubin'!. I'll let you guess which one it is.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Walk A Mile In Another Fan's Shoes: CMU

We recently were lucky enough to have Mike from The Chip Report agree to sit down with us for a few questions about the 2011 Chippewas. We of course returned the courtesy and answered a few questions over at his site. Go check it out, after you read the intel below.

Dan Enos enters his second season at Central. After a 3-9 record his first year and a 1-2 start in 2011 including a pretty stout
spanking by Western last weekend, what is the sentiment regarding Dan Enos as coach thus far?

To say people are annoyed with losing is a bit of an understatement.
This program has enjoyed as much success as you can in the
MAC--multiple conference titles, wins over the big ten, bowl victories
and a trip to the top 25. This was the standard set by the program
and not by any one coach. The majority of fans are calling for Dan
Enos' head right now but all that can be fixed with a few victories.

Ryan Radcliff appears to be improving at taking care of the ball having thrown no interceptions despite being down big to Western. Tim Phillips appears to have played well in relief of Zurlon Tipton(Best Bond name since Zoltan Mesko). How do you anticipate the offense playing this upcoming Saturday and are there other playmakers who could give the Spartan's trouble?

Most fans were expecting Ryan Radcliff and company to pick up right
where they left off last season with strong showings against bowl
teams but the Chippewas offense has really struggled out of the gates
in 2011. Some of this can be attributed to a tough schedule and
playing some solid defenses but a lot of the blame has to fall on
Radcliff's shoulders.

He has struggled to work through his route progressions and becomes
enamored with matchups at the line or even off the play sheet. There
are receivers open deep and everyone knows Radcliff can make the
throws, it's just a matter of him feeling comfortable with his
offensive line.

Jerry Harris, Cedric Frasier and true freshman Titus Davis are among
those that can slash a defensive deep. Keep an eye on junior, slot
receiver, Cody Wilson. Wilson is Radcliff's favorite target and
although he isn't the fastest or largest wide out on the field, he
runs great routes and always seems to be open.

Central led Kentucky until well into the third quarter then gave up 21 unanswered points. Is it correct to infer that CMU mostly ran out of gas as the game went on, or was this one much closer than it seemed?

It was a matter of a couple questionable calls on 4th down and huge
plays for Kentucky. The game was really CMU's to lose and they simply
did not execute or were not given the opportunities by their coaches.
Also, Kentucky appears to be just a name this season as they have lost
a ton on offense and have already had some close games with less than
stellar teams.

On defense, Mike Petrucci has 7 Solo tackles and 16 Assisted Tackles including 4 Tackles for Loss(TFLs), Taylor Bradley has 11 Solo Tackles and 3 Assisted Tackles. Who else on defense is poised to give MSU fits? Any other playmakers who might give State a headache?

Both players are key for the Chippewas and unfortunately for us,
Taylor Bradley was lost for the season last weekend with an ACL
injury. Another player to keep an eye on is Jahleel Addae. Addae
flies around the field and makes a huge impact in stopping the run.
If the Spartans try and pound it down the Chippewas throat with the
run game, Jahleel could really help in stuff that game plan.

In 2009 Central was the best team in Michigan. In 1990, 1991 and 2009 Central brought the pain and hurt and a loss to Spartan Stadium. Michigan State is reeling from a pretty stout spanking of it's own. What are the chances of pulling the upset this year at Spartan Stadium in your estimation?

The Chip's defense lines up well with MSU's pro style running attack
and although this is not the biggest game for the Spartans, this is
CMU's super bowl.

With 7 total contests (all games being played in East Lansing) and CMU
only trailing the all time series by a game, this game is a big one
for Central especially considering MSU must travel to Mt. Pleasant
next year.

Before last week's beat down against the Western Michigan Broncos, I
felt like the Chippewas had a decent chance of pulling off the upset.
But there are some big problems with the Chippewas defense and
offensive play calling. This is not the same team that beat MSU in

Mike's Prediction: MSU 38 - CMU 17

We'll be going through our Game Preview tomorrow, although I bet if you wanted to find the early prediction it is somewhere on the internets.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Conference Realignment: FAIL

I know we just lost our Right Tackle for the year, but I already wrote about the circumstances that led directly to us losing our only highly rated tackle in the rotation in this article. Our best wishes for the recovery of Skyler Burkland and you can read more about it and get some blogpolling over at the Only Colors. Plus conference realignment really for some reason brings out my inner idealist.

I've started this post a few times. First, I've written about my feelings on conference realignment twice and so I don't want to rehash things I've already written.

Second, I think it was Stewart Mandel wrote this morning: Bloggers are acting like superconferences would cause the earth to spin off it's axis and that's not true. I agree with that statement. I love college football, there is nothing else like it. Whether or not we're in a division with Texas Tech will probably have no impact on whether I want to watch College Football or not, just the likelihood that I'll go to away game.

Third, I haven't yet gotten around to reading the article in the Atlantic. Mostly because with an article titled "The Shame of College Sports" that sounds like reading an article I'd feel a bit unclean after reading. Or uncleaner in the King's English. I believe that the stated goal of the NCAA in producing athlete-students is not congruent with their current business or academic processes. The excuse for College Football Playoffs being off the table has much less to do with the academics of the students and a lot more to do with leaving all that bowl money on the table.

So instead I'm going to take a different angle and talk about the irony of the Big Ten's role in this whole thing. I know that this set of events has been in motion for a long time, probably since the BCS came to be, probably even longer ago than that. When dinosaurs roamed the earth as it were. But for me, this all started in 2007 with the launch of the Big Ten Network. Sure, prior to that the ACC stole Miami, Va Tech and Boston College from the Big East and sure there were Conference Title games, but none of that impacted the number of conferences, only the arrangement of such.

Then in 2007 Jim Delaney launched the Big Ten Network. This was the money grab that set the others in motion. The Big Ten Network, ESECPN,the Pac-12 network and finally and most grossly the Longhorn Network. Now, the logical extension of those money grabs is to expand the conferences.

How the expansion and realignment works out, we can't know or at least everything is kind of in flux. At the time of this writing both OU and UT are behind closed doors to discuss. With the defections of Pitt and the Cuse to the ACC and the implosion of the Big 12 a forgone conclusion, it stands to reason that the Big East and Big 12 will cease to be. (Think Monty Python if you aren't already.)

So here's where this gets fascinating to me, has Jim Delaney accidently set the ball in motion to shoot himself in the foot?

For starters, which colleges could Jim Delaney invite that are already BCS schools that are in or near the borders of the already existing Big Ten?

Notre Dame and Pitt.

Which colleges border the Big Ten that we could bring in that are already BCS schools?

Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Rutgers, Syracuse, West Virginny.

We can throw out the following schools for certain because they are all members of the future ACC. The ACC locked down their schools by bumping the buyout from 10 to 20 million dollars this weekend. That renders the following schools as non-factors: Maryland, Pitt and Syracuse.

Kentucky is part of the SEC. So no. Unless Mike Slive wanted A&M so he could give Kentucky or Vandy the boot. Which, wait a second, is just slimy enough it might work. But again, there have been no rumors or interest or anything. That's just me openly saying that if it were a Bond Villian's plan, it just might work.

So who does that leave? The remnants of the exploded and dead Big 12 and Big East. Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Rutgers, West Virginny and Notre Dame. It goes without saying that I want Notre Dame whether it's 14 or 16 teams(again, if we must expand), the other caveat is that they have to share revenue equally. I'd rather not expand than give Notre Dame a bigger share.

Who else looks good with Notre Dame? Notre Dame and Missouri, eh, I could get behind that. Notre Dame and Rutgers? Meh. Any other pairing that doesn't include Notre Dame? Missouri and West Virginny. Too much Deliverance. Kansas and Kansas State. All we are is dust in the wind? I just don't see a pairing that works.

So it stands, Jim Delany might have shot himself in the foot. If the Big 10 decides to go to 14 or 16 teams he's backed himself into a corner where he HAS to bring in Notre Dame for it to all work. Otherwise, we're a 12 team conference in a superconference world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Notre Dame: Five Key Things Revisited

Well here's where we pick apart the five questions Ty and I dissected on Friday afternoon. Bonus observations at the bottom as we obviously missed a few things that were key factors in the game. I'm going to try and keep the gnashing and wailing of teeth to a minimum, after all just Monday I posted about how this was still an 8-4 or 9-3 type to me.

This week's five burning questions.

1.) Will our defensive line be able to get penetration on an Offensive Line that is not comprised of high schoolers and ne'er do wells?

One sack by Pickelman to force a fumble. Nine tackles for loss. We only surrendered 275 yards of offense. That's far more consistent with 17 points(which is what the offense scored and wasn't gifted) than 31 points. The 31 points contained a Kickoff return* for a touchdown and a drive that started on the MSU 12.

How much of this is due to the defensive line? Eh, it's hard to say without film review. 4.5 of the TFLs came from D-Lineman which is pretty decent. You cannot pin this loss on the defensive line and the play of the defense is what kept us in the game at all.

*- More on this in a bit.

2.) Will Captain Kirk avenge the 2009 Kobayashi Maru at Notre Dame?

No. It wasn't even close. Two problems here. 1.) Our offensive playcalling did not put our players in a position to win. It's been a while since I've felt that way certainly not in 2010 probably not since the Cousins/Nichol merry-go-round of 2009. 2.)I don't think that Cousins trusts his line, I haven't had a chance to rewatch the game, but if I had a nickel for every time he checked down to the flat I would be rich.

3.) Who's gonna throw their beef around more BJ Cunningham or Michael Floyd?

If you would have told me prior to the game we'd hold Michael Floyd to 84 yards and no touchdowns AND BJ Cunningham would have 12 catches for 158 yards and also no touchdowns and that we lost convincingly. I would have tried hard to make a bet with you that would have involved money, humiliation and perhaps some real estate.

BJ Cunningham may not be better than Michael Floyd, but there's no way you can tell me they don't belong in the same conversation. Cunningham was getting double teamed just the same as Floyd and won the duel. He just lost the game.

4.) Brian Kelly: Can a person cause their own head to pop?

I don't know. Notre Dame came out and kicked us in the nuts. We responded by not kicking them in the nuts back. Then we changed our strategy to running trick plays that didn't work. Then we played catch-up the whole game. I'm not really sure what if anything Kelly had to be worried about.

5.) Do the Fighting Irish begin their season 0-3?

No they didn't.

Bonus Observations

- Kick return coverage this year really needs to improve. Even minus the kick return for a touchdown the Spartans are averaging 84th in NCAA in kick return yardage allowed. I made a note of this during the FAU game but wanted to see how we did against a team that was all growed up. How we did is we gave up a Kick Return for a touchdown.

- Well. Our offensive line. It sucks. With Burkland out, it's probably going to suck even more. I didn't want to ask about it in the five questions because I thought I had spent too much time nitpicking it already. Apparently, trying not to nitpick something because I'm bored of it, doesn't mean that it's not an issue. I'll be rewatching the game this week and will be paying close attention to this.

- I do not need to rewatch the game to say I was disppointed with the MSU playcalling. The Fake Field Goal was neither successful or fake. I'm not a strong X's and O's guy although, I'm working on it. A shovel pass up the middle seems a risky proposition to me. If they fan out to defend the fake you might catch them napping up the middle, but if they're honestly defending the field goal isn't the middle of the line where all the BEEF is coming through? If you want to go for it on fourth and 3 on the 3, just line up and go for it. That would have made more sense to me.

- Further, Roushar said several times he wanted the offense to be MORE unpredictable. If he wanted to be more unpredictable by running the same plays over and over to the point where the Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator said: "He cannot possibly be running again on First Down!", Roushar succeeded.

Overall Assessment

It's important to remember for me that Roushar hasn't been in this spot as a coach since 2004 and that he's entitled to a few goofs too. That said, games like this make me crazy. I don't like losing, but I despise losing when I feel like we could have won. We got punched in the mouth early and responded by trying to outsmart the opposition by taking unnecessary and long chances.

I'm looking forward to Central next week and a chance to get healthy and work on some of our weak spots. I don't suspect we'll see another Central special, but we'll be talking more this week with Mike from The Chip Report on that later this week.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Notre Dame: The Humble Pie Edition

Well, that happened. Coming into the game, I felt very good about things. We had dismantled FAU as completely as a team could be taken apart. FAU's 3-4 was similar to ND's schematically with players who were just less talented. Our defense capitalized well on FAU's mistakes holding them to 48 total yards.

Then there was the other side of the coin. Notre Dame choked the game away against Michigan and had a problem even making a game against University of South Florida. They had the highest turnover margin in the nation. Brian Kelly had no faith in either of his quarterbacks. So naturally that all adds up to the prediction of a victory and....

Five key things revisited tomorrow. For tonight I only want to type things I won't want to take back tomorrow or do more research on, perhaps even both.

- B.J. Cunningham had an outstanding game. 12 catches for 158 yards and a long of 25 yards. That's simply put, outstanding.

- Nick Hill looked great on kick returns. I'm excited to see him grow in this position.

- The defense played a decent game I thought, sure we kinda got punked in the first quarter. But it's hard to get on the D for giving up what essentially amounted to 17 points. 7 off the total for the kick return for a touchdown, 7 off the total for ND getting the ball on the MSU 10 with 7 minutes to go or whatever.

- Bummer about Skyler Burkland, that looked moderately high ankle sprain-ish. I'll be interested to see what information if any we get.

- I think Mark Dantonio might have made a joke: "To begin with, I thought to come down to Notre Dame and play well we had to do a number of things: We had to travel as a team. I thought we did well in that area."

That's all I feel comfortable parting ways with observationally today. I'd like to weigh the "what went wrong" a bit more carefully. Well played, the Dame, well played.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Notre Dame: The Devil's Five Key Things

We're taking the five key things series started last week and weaving it in with the Devil's Advocate series we did last year. Co-Authoring this segment will be my partner in crime Ty from the Lions in Winter. Check out his blogified Ndamukong madness here.

It's that time again, time to go over a few key things before our game this weekend. In case you have been living under a Spartan Sports rock, we are playing our rivals this weekend, Notre Dame. The game where we played Notre Dame in Fall of 1998 was my true awakening as a Spartan Football fan. I liked them before that, but it was on like Donkey Kong after that.

It was the first weekend I spent the whole weekend in my dorm, and I was watching the game. As we scored our first touchdown I realized most of my floor was watching it and as we scored a second and a third people all started piling into the kid's room who had the biggest TV and by halftime with the score 42-3 we were all watching as one drunken happy family.

This week's five burning questions.

1.) Will our defensive line be able to get penetration on an Offensive Line that is not comprised of high schoolers and ne'er do wells?

A principal concern of mine throughout the off-season has been the lauding of how great our Defensive Line has been. Well, who they are playing against has been a principal concern of mine too. Like it's easy to look great rushing the pass when you're playing against a backup or third string Offensive Tackle in McGaha and a converted Defensive Tackle in Dan France during Spring ball.

In the fall, we got little in the way of pass rush against Youngstown State because they were letting go of their passes so quick. FAU's Offensive Line was a train wreck so hideous it can only be represented by a picture.

And you will know us by the trail of dead...

So this is the first REAL test of how much our Defensive Line has improved. I expect to see a performance much closer to YSU than FAU. As much as I've picked on Brian Kelly in the past few days. His Offensive line will be prepared to play and I expect our front four to need some help generating pressure.


Ty: I think the defensive line’s well aware of their reputation, and I think they want to uphold it. Maybe it’s false hope, but I think we haven’t seen these guys’ top gear yet. The level of talent on the other side of the field is an order of magnitude better, but the stakes are an order of magnitude higher. I think the D-line shows us much more in this game than they have to date—but I also think Narduzzi will keep an uncapped bottle of linebacker hot sauce in hand, just in case.

2.) Will Captain Kirk avenge the 2009 Kobayashi Maru at Notre Dame?

This depends more on the defense than the offense unfortunately for Captain Kirk. In 2009, the offense moved in fits and starts because of the quarterback platooning. That said, we scored 30 in 2009 and 34 in 2010(I'll refrain the Little Giants drop for the first time this week.)

If we can drop 35 on them again, I do not think they have the tools to keep up in a shootout like that though. So I guess my answer to the question is really more was it ever really a Kobayashi Maru to begin with? If your offense scores 30 points, it did it's job.

Yeah, ND can score, but if it becomes a track meet I like our quarterback and receivers to outlast theirs. The Spartans have more targets, and Rees is more prone to turn it over than Cousins. SILLY PREDICTION: the game turns on a third-quarter Rees interception.

3.) Who's gonna throw their beef around more BJ Cunningham or Michael Floyd?

Well, Floyd outweighs Cunningham by 10 lbs, has 100 receiving yards more and an extra touchdown already in a two game season. Of course the Tommy Rees decision making tree for who to throw the ball to reads like this. *

1.) Michael Floyd.
2.) Michael Floyd.
3.) Throw it away.
4.) Michael Floyd.

In case you haven't heard BJ Cunningham became the all-time reception leader at Michigan State last week. Last year we held Michael Floyd to 81 yards by giving up Theo Riddick and containing Kyle Rudolph. This year, the replacement for Rudolph is nowhere near as good yet.

In short, I think we concede yardage to Riddick to lockdown Floyd and BJ Cunningham continues his career as MSU's most reliable target. Cunningham wins this duel.

* - As I reread this article one more time, I thought this was too close to the FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD of MGoBlog to not provide a link. So link provided. Doesn't change the fact that Rees has no idea what option two is.

I’m a big Floyd fan.


Wait what? Oh, MICHAEL Floyd. Yeah, the kid can ball. I expect him to do some damage, even with constant attention from the MSU secondary and Rees’s decision tree that doesn’t branch. I’m not sure I like Cunningham in a pure statistical duel because, again, Cousins has more targets and is better at finding them.

4.) Brian Kelly: Can a person cause their own head to pop?

Stay tuned to find out after this 2.5 hour NBC Commercial Break

You know, one of these two coaches literally had a heart attack after Little Giants. How was it not this guy?

5.) Do the Fighting Irish begin their season 0-3?

I said it yesterday, I think the Irish have the talent to play ball and even beat us. They have too far to have come since last Saturday to pull it off this Saturday. They COULD beat us, but they have to avoid beating themselves first. They're not ready to do that yet.

MSU 28 ND 17

While watching Notre Dame play Michigan, I couldn’t help but feel that MSU is better than both of them. In fact, it felt exactly like watching last season’s Michigan – Notre Dame game: the drama, the crowd, the hype, the pressure, the huge plays, the terrible football. The level of play was definitely better this season than last, though, and that makes me nervous. The Dame looks better in 2011 than they did in 2010, and I’m not yet positive the same is true of Michigan State. As close as last season’s game was, it’ll have to be for the Spartans to come out on top.

MSU 34 ND 30

P.S. Hate The Dame.

Notre Dame: Friday Morning Youtubin'!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Next!: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish

In this world there are three things I love more than all other things. My family, the Philly at Backyard BBQ and the sad panda look of the fans of our vanquished rivals. I don't always feel that way about Notre Dame fans. Despite how hard I was on Notre Dame's program with the Uncle Rico comparisons I've always found their fans to be a likable sort of people. If you really wanted to go all JK Rowling on the whole thing, Notre Dame is like Hufflepuff, certainly a rival, but at the end of the day not the enemy of all things sacred and good. When Voldemort is comin' to town you can count on them to get your back.

I'm not sayin', oh screw it, I am sayin'

So that's what makes it particularly hard to watch the latest in the string of Saviors of Notre Dame football. The fans of Notre Dame deserve better than Brian Kelly or at least the Brian Kelly I've seen on TV the past two weeks. In just a year they've gone from Brian Kelly lobbying for only 8 minutes of commercial breaks between snaps to Brian Kelly being incapable of sending in a play call with enough time for the QB to do anything other than run the play as given. Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees, Notre Dame Quarterbacks both have not gotten stupider since last year. I have to assume they've stayed the same at reading defenses if not gotten better. So what gives?

Here's a list of what Brian Kelly is not:
- The President of Senegal.
- The Savior of Notre Dame football
- An oompa-loompa
- Unstoppable

Previewing a team like Notre Dame scares the crap out of me, and by scares the crap out of me I mean is difficult to do. There will be a minimum of two games in progress under the view of touchdown Jesus, Notre Dame vs. Michigan State, Notre Dame vs Notre Dame and perhaps even Rees vs Kelly. Kelly won Saturday night's match up of Rees vs. Kelly at the sacrifice of winning the match up of Notre Dame vs. Michigan.

That was the most excitingly terrible game I have ever seen. Neither team could give that game away to the other. A commenter on Twitter said: I know when Michigan plays Notre Dame, you wish both teams could lose. Both teams tried and failed. How do you make a prediction on a team that has yet to play a game where they don't spend more time beating themselves than trying to beat you? Well, who even knows if we'll be close to right, but let's give it the old college try.

Notre Dame Pass Defense against Michigan State Passing Attack

Notre Dame's defense gave up 338 yards to Denard Robinson on Saturday but he only completed 11 passes. Additionally, Michigan never had an offensive drive that went more than five plays. This suggests that Notre Dame might be susceptible to the big play. Further, Cousins is more accurate than any quarterback they've played so far this year and in this regard you can only consider the Irish Pass Defense untested. The Irish held BJ Daniels to 128 yards passing, but it rained like God was starting the great flood in South Bend and USF was just trying to salt away the lead on the ground after that. Plus BJ Daniels is like Denard Robinson lite.

Cousins has been his usual efficient self completing 79 percent of his passes for 3 touchdowns and no picks. He's looked comfortable and in command of the offense as you'd expect. BJ Cunningham is going to be the best wide receiver in South Bend on Saturday, yep, I said that. We should have Bennie Fowler back and always watch out for Keshawn.

Advantage: MSU
Key Matchup: Kirk Cousins vs the missing communication armbands of the ND Secondary.

Notre Dame Rushing Defense vs Michigan State Rushing

In case you haven't heard our running backs are good. Real good. Like "killed a man in Reno, just to watch him die" good. I bring them up because Notre Dame will have to gameplan around our rushing attack good. In an interview with Dan Roushar, our offensive coordinator, he indicated that MSU has kept things pretty vanilla in the run game so far. I don't know if that means as much to the run game as it does to the passing game, but more wrinkles available is always a good thing.

I suspect we'll continue our rotation of Baker and Bell with Caper on 3rd down. Hill could make an appearance as the game goes on. There's something magical about having a 5'6" guy running through a line of people a foot taller than him. You can't find him sometimes.

Notre Dame is tooling itself up to stop the run by playing with lots of beef on it's defense. If they have success early on, look for State to start using the pass to set up the run. They surrendered 126 rushing yards to USF in the aforementioned rain bowl but only like 10 yards to rushers not named Denard Robinson in the Michigan game. That's probably part Notre Dame's Defense and part that Michigan was playing from behind the whole game.

Advantage: MSU(but not by as much as before)
Key Matchup: The MSU Monster Trio vs Notre Dame beefcakey manchildren linebackers.

Notre Dame Passing Attack vs MSU Pass Defense

Tommy Rees stepped in to relieve Dayne Crist halfway through the USF game and is suffering the same sort of turnover problems that Crist did. He's got a pretty respectable 69.9 percent completion percentage for 611 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. He unfortunately has 4 interceptions and 1 lost fumble to his credit at this point. I'd pick on him for half his passing yards being to Michael Floyd, but the same is true of Cousins to Cunningham. Speaking of Michael Floyd, he is definitely among the top two receivers in the stadium on Saturday. Michigan State will need to keep a bead on him at all times.Notre Dame has been effective at moving the ball all season and not being able to close in the redzone. If those problems aren't cured on Saturday, look out.

Michigan State on the other hand has yet to face a quarterback as good as Tommy Rees. Further, they've shown in the Youngstown State game if you want to try and complete passes for four yards, we'll give that to you all day long. Still I like the cut of the jib of our defensive line and think that Worthy will show up to wreak havoc on the ND interior line Saturday. Dennard and Adams will have to do some of their best work to keep tabs on Michael Floyd. They will need help from Lewis and Robinson over the top on deep routes.

If Notre Dame can avoid beating itself:
Advantage: Wash
Key Matchup: Notre Dame not beating itself.

If Notre Dame has Notre Dame fail:
Advantage: MSU
Key Matchup: MSU Defensive Line forcing poor decisions that result in Turnover Walks of Shame.

Notre Dame Rushing Attack vs MSU Rush Defense

I think the combination of Wood and Gray is not as solid a rushing attack as Allen and Wood was last year. The tandem of backs has combined for an average of 160 rushing yards a game against two of the worst defenses they will play this year. In short, I'd say Notre Dame's rushing game is the quality of a middle tier Big 10 opponent, they'll have some success running, but I'd say it'll be capped at 100 yards give or take 25 yards.

Of course there is to consider the Spartans looked devastating in their lopsided victory of FAU by ceding only 22 rushing yards. While it may have only been FAU, they looked like a machine into which you feed men and out comes only bones. Still, this will be higher quality competition than MSU has faced thus far.

Advantage: Wash
Key Matchup: MSU's young linebackers forcing Wood and Gray into the ground.

Special Teams

Notre Dame's Kicker is 1/2 on the Season, Conroy is 2/4 on the Season.
Notre Dame's Punter has an average of about 36, Sadler is averaging 37.8 on the Season.
Advantage: Wash
Key Matchup: Getting one team to stop copying the other team's average special teams play.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rivalry Week: Notre Dame

There are different levels of rivalry in college football. Auburn vs. Alabama, Army vs. Navy, Oklahoma and Texas, as much as it pains me to say it Michigan vs. Ohio State. Then you have a more friendly type of rivalry like the one we have with Notre Dame. I like to think of Notre Dame as our Uncle Rico.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Michigan State Nike Pro Combat Uniforms Not Catastrophically Bad, At Least

For months I’ve been dreading this day: the reveal of the Nike Pro Combat Michigan State football uniforms.

As much as I advocate for advanced statistics, deep analysis, film review, and all-around smarter football, when it comes to football uniforms and iconography I am a corn-fed Big Ten three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust traditionalist.

Look, I appreciate what Nike is doing with fit, fabric, safety, cooling, and all that stuff. I understand that textile technology has improved since the fifties, and just because we used to be limited to solid colors and stripes doesn’t mean we must be stuck with them for ever and ever.

However, just because wicked awesome new dyeing and embroidery technology allows us to move into patterns, gradients and simulated textures doesn’t mean we should start with a Duck mascot, colors of green and orange, and end with this:


I mean, yeah, that looks “cool.” Silver carbon-fiber-look numbers and faux feathers against a white uniform, and neon trim looks awesome in a dramatically-lit still life. But like, what team is this? What colors are these? Can you read these numbers on the TV? From the stands? If you didn’t know to assume it’s Oregon whenever you see an eye-bleeding monstrosity, how would you know it’s the Ducks?

If this seems pedantic, it’s not. College sports are supposed to be about the name on the front of the jersey; the mascot and colors are the whole stinking point. Half the players who cycle in and out of these uniforms are only known to fans for a season or two before they’re gone, yet go to any tailgate lot at any major program and you’ll meet people who’ve been in the same place for decades. It’s supposed be about homecoming and the Alma Mater and  being true to your school; if you abandon all that for a bunch of silver and matte black it doesn’t matter how “awesome” it looks, it’s wrong.

My fear for the Michigan State uniforms was, well, we’d get the worst of this new technology and not the best. The current uniforms are a nice mix of easily-identifiable “Michigan Stateness,” some subtle nods to ancient Sparta (or, if we’re being honest, the movie 300), and some questionable number/wordmark choices I’m willing to overlook.

Look, Oregon’s uniforms were frequently hideous well before Phil Knight commissioned concepts from the 2Fast, 2Furious art direction team. But Michigan State? It’s been green, white, end of story for decades, and stories of our National and Big Ten championships are woven into the fabric of college football.

So what did the Nike design team come up with. Well, this:

Michigan State football's new Nike Pro Combat uniforms

From a design standpoint, I like it. The gold helmet and gold number really pop, and look incredible set against the current dark green. However, I continue to have problems with the predominance of dark gray and “light black” next to such dark green. The black “SPARTANS” wordmark on the front and will completely disappear from any distance, and it’s tough to make out the black trim on the numbers. I hope the wordmark on the back of the jersey is representative of the players’ names, not replicating the brain-dead plastering of “GEORGIA” on the back of every  Bulldogs’ shirt.

From a distance, the muddling of the details will be a blessing. It will look simple and sharp. The green shirt and black pants may blend in a disconcerting way, but if you lean way back from your monitor and squint your eyes a bit, you should have an appreciation for how this’ll look on TV. Dark. Bold. Simple. Strong.

Just not like Michigan State.

The players wearing Michigan State’s uniforms “fight for the only colors, green and white.” There isn’t as much green here as there is gray, black, and gold—and white is completely absent save for a teeeeensy little wordmark in the tramp stamp area.

Look, I know this is “awesome” and stuff. I know high school boys who play football great will be impressed. I know it’ll generate revenue for the school, and for Nike. I know time marches on, and things are different these days, and I need to start telling kids to get off my lawn.

But this ain’t MSU. As some said on Twitter, it’s more Notre Dame, or maybe Baylor. If Michigan State can’t attract recruits or sell merch by wearing green and white and winning Big Ten Championships, then why the hell do we care? Why can I sing the fight song and MSU Shadows by heart? Why did I go Michigan State just like my mother and grandfather, and sit in the stands and cheer just like they did?

It’s not the jerseys or the players or coaches or the administration or, God forbid, the conference TV network we hand down from generation to generation. It’s the school. It’s the tradition. It’s the name on the front of the jersey, and, yes, the colors.