Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MSU-Wisconsin Film Review: Round One, Quarter Three

This is part two of the original MSU-Wisconsin Game, Film Review. You can check out part one over here and part two over here. The score is 23-14 MSU and State is rolling.

The Unstoppable Force Meets the Immovable Object
Did you expect it to yield anything else?

This quarter was fairly unremarkable. Neither team caught the other napping with some gimmicky crap. Wisconsin quit that line-rolling business they were doing in the first quarter and at the end of the quarter only three points were scored. If you needed to catch a nap, this was the time to do it.

The Roushar(H/T to Chris Vannini)

I honestly cannot recall having seen this formation before, ever. Follower Supernosh said it's called a broken wishbone. I have no reason not to believe him, but this is just goofy.

 Even stranger yet is that when the play starts Linthicum who is the "fullback" here, just stands still.
 He waits for Foreman and France to clear him a three dude wide hole and then he takes off above.
Linthicum is the streak at the center of your screen. Weirdly instead of running for the sticks he moves out into the the flat, or maybe the "flat-north", they end up picking up nine, which is great for 3rd and 8 or less. I don't know what the hell that formation was or if it was just an accident, but it was an interesting play call all the same.

The SpartyCat

 Musberger calls this a Wildcat which IIRC is wrong. This is a direct snap to LeVeon Bell who has the option to hand off to Martin on a Jet Sweep. It would be a wildcat if Bell had Baker next to him and could hand off to either Baker or Martin or keep it himself.
 In any case, Bell keeps it himself. I'm not sure what his key is to tell him to make this decision, but it is what he does.
 One of my complaints when I did picture pages of the ND game and the unbalanced line was not that it didn't work because it was stupid. It didn't work because our OL didn't know who to block and because of that we started running to the weak side. Which kind of negates the point. I bring this up because all three dudes with the red arrow running over their head were blocking one guy out of the play. Bell tries to cut it up the hole. If he had handed off to Keshawn this play might have gone for 7-8 yards, but not much more because the spartan at the top of the screen is Kirk Cousins and he's not gonna run block anyone out of the way for you. Which begs the question, why run to his side at all, but I digress.

A Few Narrative Observations

- None others really. When Bell is in the game our running is better. It's simply not deniable.

- Cousins continues to have an excellent game.

Big Ten Title Game: Ticket Giveaway(Go to the Game!)

In case you haven't heard, the Big Ten Title Game is this weekend. In case you also haven't heard, Wisconsin isn't showing up. Their fans are all butthurt because they won't be playing for the National Title and they haven't sold out their ticket allotment. The secondary ticket market is going through the floor with nosebleed seats going for 10 dollars. Ten dollars. Think about how much money ten dollars actually is.

For example, I went to Qdoba the other day, a burrito, chips, salsa and a pop is like 9.50.  You can see our team play for a chance to go to the Rose Bowl for the cost of Qdoba. Chipotle should feel lucky I didn't use them as an example or it would Get Two Tickets to the Big Ten Title Game for the cost of Chipotle!

Do you really want Lucas Oil to look like this when we win our chance to go to the Rose Bowl?

If you want to sit in the middle tier of seats, those are going for like 30-50 bucks. Unless you are hell bent on sitting on the 50 in the lower bowl there are tickets available for under 100 dollars. These prices couldn't be any better.

How many shitty games have you sat through waiting for next year? Notre Dame in 2006, I was there. I stayed up until 4 in the morning watching the Hawaii game where we got jobbed. The whole John L. Smith/Bobby Williams era. It was terrible, but this, this is good.

I had no idea the tickets would be so accessible, so here it is. I've bought two, and I'm giving them away to the person who leaves the best comment as to how they can cheer loudest for MSU on Saturday. They are in Section 446 in the middle tier. And they're yours, free. You have to be able to meet me to pick them up on Friday in Lansing and you have to go to the game. No other obligations. All entries need to be submitted by 8 am on Friday.

Besides, if this happens again....

MSU - Wisconsin Film Review: Round One, Quarter Two

This is part two of the original MSU-Wisconsin Game, Film Review. You can check out part one over here. The score is 14-0 Wisconsin, but MSU has stopped the bleeding and is getting some life in them.

Overpursue Much?

The reason this double end around worked so well is that the Badgers were overpursuing like mad cows. They all go to kill Cunningham on the end around and he simply hands off to Martin. Martin goes the other way and there are five people waiting to kill Aaron Henry. Poor Aaron Henry.

Cousins Continues to Ball Out

 Five Badgers, none close, but a bit of a scary throw.

The touch on both of these throws is outstanding. He has to jimmy it into the hole in the zone and he and Linthicum do a great job working together to find it.

 Here's the Cunningham TD on 4th and 2. That's the window Cousins threw it into. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.

The Amazing Russell Wilson

If Russell Wilson wasn't a quarterback, he'd be doing something else amazing. This stiff arm of Johnny Adams was vicious.

Punt Block
 Here's the Punt Formation.

This play worked because four dudes broke through Wisconsin's line 1 and it forced the dude on the right side of Wisconsin's line 2 to have to pick between Elsworth and I think it was Fowler. It isn't the guys in line 2 that allowed the punt block, it was the guys from line 1.

A Few Other Narrative Observations from the Second Quarter

- I make fun of Bielema because I think he's a bit of a jerk and a meathead. The most compelling reason to make fun of Bielema for me though is that he is a perfect nemesis for a blog like this one. I mention this because it's important to separate the criticism for LOLs from the criticism I'm about to drop.

Montee Ball was plainly concussed after getting hit in the dome by Trenton Robinson. The momentum in this game switched from MSU cowering in the fetal position while being kicked by a bunch of manchildren to MSU hulk-smashing it's way through Wisconsin title hopes. I understand that Bielema knew if he lost this game a National Title berth was probably out the window. That said, putting Ball back in the game at the beginning of the third quarter was inexcusable. Concussions are linked to a bevy of really bad stuff. While I'm sure they are a part of the game, it's unacceptable to me to put Ball back in there.

- Worthy got away with an offsides on the play to set up the Safety. He started pulling out of his stance before the ball is snapped. He's done this all season long and honestly, that's fine with me. It works as often as not. MSU needs him to sit on that razor's edge again on Saturday night. With Wisconsin's all-college center Peter Konz likely out and certainly injured, he needs to disrupt the middle of the line early and often.

- On the blocked Field Goal, Welch Wisconsin's kicker, seemed dawdly to me. It looked like Moorman, their punter, struggled to get the ball down quickly. Nice play by Dennard to streak in there and take advantage of the extra half second.

- Denicos Allen was a machine in the second quarter. He forced the Intentional Grounding/Safety by Russell Wilson as well as sacked him later in the quarter. He was in yo backfield snatching yo people up. More of that in the title game, please.

End of the half, MSU 23 Wisconsin 14. The vaunted Badgers Offense gets zero points and 63 yards. The Badgers Special Teams are playing in a very "Special" way.

MSU-Wisconsin Film Review: Round One, Quarter One

And It Begins....
This is going to be a set of picture pages of things that both MSU and Wisconsin did well in the first match-up of this game. I wanted to do a UFR  a la MGoBlog, but honestly I don't make a dime off this site and it would mean turning away paying work at my day job. So picture pages it is.

Cutback Runs

In the first quarter, Wisconsin killed us to death on the cutback runs. They did this by moving the line one way while having Ball run the other.

 The entire Offensive Line slides right except the Tight End who stays up to deal with Marcus Rush.
 Ball takes the handoff, and the tight end blocks Rush out of the play. Ball doesn't go for the homerun he just runs slightly off the Left Tackle.
This gives Norman a difficult choice to make. Does he try to stop the coming cutback run and risk bouncing Ball to the outside or does he step up and fill the grand canyon size hole in front of him and let Ball cut it back inside. He elects to stop the bounce to the outside and ends up tackling Ball for about four yards.

Cousins Ballin' Out
Cousins down 14-0 on the second play of the game and the first play after the fumble completes a zinger of a 15 yard out.

As much as I have been a bit guilty of ragging on Cousins, this throw is perfect. A foot behind and the DB knocks it away, two feet ahead and Martin goes out of bounds before coming down with the ball. First down.

Bell Does The Little Things

In this instance, number 26 has a great angle to tackle Bell at the MSU 47.
Bell stuttersteps freezing 26.
26 misses the tackle at the MSU 48 which is where he was aiming to hit Bell.
Bell slips past and eventually gets brought down at the Wisconsin 45.  He buys himself an extra 7-8 yards on that stutterstep.

A Few Other Narrative Observations from the First Quarter

- I'm not going to picture snap the Baker fumble. It was sloppy ball security for Baker. Cromartie was out of bounds when he jumped back on the ball, but I don't see how they could overturn that. It's simple, that kind of mistake can't occur on Saturday. Wisconsin is too good for that kind of stuff to happen.

- Montee Ball is VERY slippery. He does a really nice job greasing himself through tiny creases. If there's a gap occupied only by arm tackles there's a great chance he's going to get through there.

- MSU came out using the pass to set up the run after the Baker fumble. The first three plays were pass plays that were Keshawn +14 yards, Cousins Sack - 8, Cunningham + 20. After that MSU ran left, then right for a total of -4. Since this game LeVeon Bell has taken over as the starting running back and I firmly believe that in these two plays Bell would have picked up a few yards. Baker was looking for the homerun, not to get 2-3 yards. So it's 3rd and 14 instead of 3rd and 7. Cousins goes on to throw only 3 yards to Keshawn Martin, but 3rd and 14 is rough.

- James White is a significant the drop off from Montee Ball. I mean very VERY significant. Ball's combination of vision and slipperiness is what was making those cutback runs work. White just doesn't have that same vision. If MSU can force Wisconsin to start rotating White in, they can divert a significant amount of attention to Russell Wilson.

- After the first two series Wisconsin kind of got away from the Offensive Line sliding they were doing. I'm not really sure why. I'd think by forcing people into a position to side tackle that ball security becomes a bit of an issue? This was working well for them.

- On the Robinson interception, Nick Toon didn't look for the ball as he should have. This wasn't on Wilson at least not completely.

End of the 1st, Wisconsin 14 MSU 0.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Big Ten Honors

Big Ten honors were bequeathed tonight to the football players who best represented the finest traditions of Big Ten football. Michigan State took home awards for the following players.

Joel Foreman (Offensive Guard) - First Team Big Ten
Jerel Worthy (Defensive Tackle) - First Team Big Ten (Coaches)
Johnny Adams (Cornerback) - First Team Big Ten
Trenton Robinson (Safety) - First Team Big Ten(Media)

If you want to be First Team Big Ten, your first name needs to start with J. I have my eye on you Jairus Jones, with a J in the first and last name position I expect great things from you.

Second Team Big Ten

Kirk Cousins (Future Senator) - Second Team Big Ten (Coaches)
B.J. Cunningham (Wide Receiver) - Second Team Big Ten (Both)
Brian Linthicum (Tight End) - Second Team Big Ten (Coaches)
Will Gholston (Defensive End) - Second Team Big Ten (Both)
Max Bullough (Mike) - Second Team Big Ten (Both)
Denicos Allen (Star) - Second Team Big Ten (Media)
Isaiah Lewis (Safety) - Second Team Big Ten(Both)

Wow, that's a lot of MSU football players in the spot of All Big Ten Second Team. If you have to get the split vote, I'd rather it be from the Coaches than the media. Sorry Denicos, please don't sneak into my house and sack me in my sleep tonight.  All defensive players are sophmores. Haha 2012 opponents.

Honorable Mention

Dan Conroy (Kicker)
Darqueze Dennard (Corner)
Chris McDonald (Offensive Guard)
Chris Norman (Will)
Kevin Pickelman (Defensive Tackle)
Marcus Rush (Defensive End)

So, in case you were curious, all of the Big Ten coaches wouldn't mind coaching our defensive players. Bielema doesn't want to have our defensive players, but that's only because his IQ is less than his shoe size. In 2012, we return everyone but Pickelman, Trenton Robinson and probably Worthy. So our defense is plainly something to be feared unless of course they play Russell Wilson and the Merry Band of National Title Also-Rans.

Congrats to these Spartans on all of their accolades. May they serve you well on Saturday.

The Alternative Bowl Picture For Michigan State

I had originally intended to sit down and draw up the alternate Bowl scenarios for Michigan State should they lose this weekend in the Big Ten Title Game this weekend. I had a careful comparison planned to describe what happens to teams who lose their championship game and which bowl they typically fall in as it relates to their conference tie-ins. I was even going to go on and dissect that by what happens if each conference gets two BCS teams in vs. one. I still could, it'd only take forty-five minutes to write up.

But you know what? Screw that.

Michigan State football sucked from 2000 until about 2006 and if we're being completely honest it was pretty damn tepid from 1990 to 2000 with one very good year in 1999. This means up until the arrival of Mark Dantonio, MSU fans were treated to a steady diet of beating teams they shouldn't dream of beating and losing to just godawful teams and having their hearts ripped out after losing games in the last three minutes.

Yesterday, was Mark Dantonio's fifth anniversary with Michigan State. That's been lost in all the hubbub this week. When he came to East Lansing, he talked about toughness, execution and winning. When he teed off on Mike Hart after losing to Michigan, he came across as a sore loser and a bit of a jerk. Honestly, he still comes off as a bit of a jerk sometimes. And I'm ok with that. Leading is a lonely task. It's thankless, tiring and never complete. A team can always improve and so can the leaders. Sometimes to be an effective leader, you have to be a bit of a jerk.

That's why I'm going to say, I don't care what the alternative bowl picture is for Michigan State. They've gone 21-3 in their last 24 regular season games. That's more games than John L Smith won in his four years at MSU. Mark Dantonio's gone 14-2 in his last two Big Ten seasons, that ties the number of regular season wins Bobby Williams had. For Mark Dantonio, this is about going to and winning the Rose Bowl. You get the sense listening to him that this is the goal because that's what college football coaches are paid to do, go to important bowl games.

I assure you Mark Dantonio does not give a damn about what happens if we lose on Saturday. After what he's done for this program in five short years, I choose to honor that attitude. Our road to the Rose Bowl goes through Indianapolis this Saturday. An outcome other than winning has probably not crossed Dantonio's mind, I don't intend to let it cross mine either.

A Brief Fictional History of Bret Bielema Pt. 2

This is a continuation of the apparently-not-so-brief and certainly fictitous history of Bret Cornelius Bielema. You can read Part One over here if you've not yet done so. As with the last one, there's some cursing in this one. So don't read if you're sensitive to that stuff.

Bielema shuffled down the hallway ready to receive the torch as the head football coach of Wisconsin. What was the first thing he'd need? A whistle certainly, old Mr. Scrotumsack used to beat Bielema in high school with one when he screwed up, but that wasn't quite what he was looking for. He stepped out into the cool night air and it hit him like a gentle fall breeze. He'll need a windbreaker, certainly every coach worth being someone could be identified by his trademark wear. Bielema selected the windbreaker. Playing UNLV when it's 96 degrees outside, WINDBREAKER!

Playing PSU when it's 35 and raining, WINDBREAKER! As the fall of 2006 approached and Wisconsin prepared for their first game with Bowling Green, Bielema got the feeling he was in over his head. One August night he sat in his new house, the bulk of his things still unpacked and in moving boxes. He draped his windbreaker over him for comfort because a warm summer Wisconsin evening is still cold by the standards of 90 percent of the world. He contemplated the task at hand and realized he can't do it alone. He quietly said out loud "I need the power of the devil."


What the hell are you whining about? You're fourteen years old and in charge of a team that doesn't have any real competition in it's own state or any of it's neighboring states except for Iowa. All you have to do to win in the Big Ten is show up on Saturday and not make coaching mistakes. You can't do that?

Well, the problem is that winning in the Big Ten is really hard. Like REALLY hard. I've even had to learn to read and shit. I had to quit drinking PBR because I didn't want my gut to look like that fat bastard Alvarez. Can you imagine a lifetime of drinking Bud Light? That's almost not worth being the head coach for, would you drink Bud Light for all of eternity?

No, I can't imagine that Bret and let me tell you why. Because I'm the damned devil. I don't have to take any shit off of anyone and I invented AfterShock with drops of my own sweat. I tell you what, I can see you're in over your head and I'm going to offer you a deal you simply cannot say no to. How would you like me to guarantee your success at Wisconsin and you can drink all the PBR you want?

You have my attention. Sooey! That sounds hot. What do I have to do?

Well Bret, it's well documented that I am an Ohio State fan. I really love that Jim Tressel guy I just think he's great. But I certainly can enjoy and be happy for other teams. So I will make you this deal, I will guarantee you success at Wisconsin, but in return, you will never have a more than .500 winning percentage on the road in the Big Ten. You are allowed to finish over .500 for a season, but when you retire or are fired, your Big Ten Road Winning Percentage will be at or below .500. I will deliver players to you who should win Heisman's and you will still stay at .500 or below.

Yeah, yeah fuck all that, what about the PBR?

Hm, for the PBR.... What to do. The Windbreaker. You may never take it off again. EVER. There will come a day where you will be tempted and you will want to remove it. You may not do so. If you do, I shall wrest any national title hopes from your hands, forevermore. In 2011, you will have a running back who would win the Heisman were he in the SEC and a QB who will smash the passing efficiency record. That will be insufficient to win the national title and you will lose to my godforsaken Buckeyes who will go on to finish the season 6-6.

Alright you drive a hard bargain, but I'll do it.

The years passed and the prophecy was as foretold. In 2011 over Memorial Day weekend, Bielema was chillaxin' at the Dells when he got into a drinking contest with some kids from UW-Stout. The penalty for losing this drinking contest was that you had to streak through the Quad.


OSU: An Urban Legend

If you're reading this article, it means that Urban Meyer has been announced as the coach at Ohio State. I wrote it pre-emptively on November 23rd, in anticipation of the LEGEND of Urban being hired over Thanksgiving day weekend.

Urban Meyer is a great hire not only for OSU, but the Big Ten. He is without question in the cream of the crop in terms of college coaches and will make the Big Ten better. With all of the "O'Doyle Rules" about the SEC, don't you want the Big Ten to be better? I do.

Short Term

- If he brings his Spread Option, he already has a great QB for the Spread Option in Braxton Miller. Give Miller a year to learn the system, then watch out.
- While I wouldn't worry about Ohio recruits jumping ship from other Big Ten schools yet, I'd certainly make sure to give them a bit of extra love.

Medium Term 

- This might actually increase MSU's chances with the pro-iest Pro Style recruits. A dropback passer is not a person who will do well in Meyer's preferred offense, nor are beefy linebackers.
- Odds are Meyer will have a lot of initial success recruiting nationally, this means more regional prospects should be available to MSU in Ohio. Think Johnny Adams, BJ Cunningham, Marcus Rush types. This is a backhanded positive for MSU.

Long Term

- I'm not quite sure if Meyer will be as successful as he was in the SEC. This may sound dickish, but he never stayed anywhere long enough to have "Long Term" Success. His longest HC stop was in Florida where he won the two titles in four years. I think he'll be able to whip a talented OSU team into shape pretty quickly, but Long Term Success is far from a given, but definitely projected.

- He will however, make OSU better in a couple of years and that is long enough term for me. He has succeeded everywhere he's gone and unless OSU is different because he's taking care of his health instead of working 278 hours a week, that will be true here too.

When Mark Dantonio was hired in 2006, Jim Tressel was quoted as saying, "The neighborhood just got tougher." That's also true here, the neighborhood just got tougher with the hiring of Urban Legend. I'm excited. Tougher football is better football.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hate Week: A Brief Fictional History of Bret Bielema Pt. 1

It's time for us to know our enemy in a more serious sense. It's no secret I think Bret Bielema is the biggest chunderdick in Big Ten football, which puts him high in the running worldwide. My assessment of why I don't like him can be sumarized quickly and fairly in his habit of crushing cupcakes with his meaty, hairy fists and the fact he's a pretty average road coach. 12-12 in the Big Ten which is exactly average to be precise. "If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril." says Sun Tzu, so let us sit down and learn the history of Bret Cornelius Bielema.

Bret Bielema was born in Prophetsville, Illinois(this is not made up) with the name Michael "Meathead" Stivic(this is made up). Forgoing the local life of drinking and panhandling for corn at the local grist mill, he was recruited to play football at the University of Iowa. As a defensive lineman he was able to educate his fellow lineman about drinking and cornholing. I trust the reader can discern which kind of cornholing I'm referring to. At the University of Iowa he received the lifelong emblem of his time there. His Tiger Hawk Tattoo.

Armed with knowledge imparted on him by Hayden Fry and a hatred of all things weaker than he is, he set out into the world to play Arena League Football. He was signed to the Milwaukee Mustangs for a meager salary of as much PBR as he could drink. He was cut before he was able to bankrupt the team through his PBR consumption but the debt he left behind could never be fully repaid and eventually forced the Milwaukee Mustangs to fold in 2001.

One night after Bielema killed a 30 pack of PBR while watching reruns of All in the Family and passing in and out all night long, he called up Hayden Fry at Iowa and asked him how things were going and did he like you know want to go get coffee or something sometime? Fry asked him to call back during daytime, but Bielema started sobbing softly into the phone. Bielema hung up while yelling "I GOT TRAMPSTAMPED FOR YOU".  Fry woke up the next morning wondering if he had dreamed the whole thing, but *69ed the call and sure enough Bret answered by vomiting into the phone. Fry offered him an assistant coaching position immediately.

Bielema coached at Iowa from 1993-2001. When Hayden Fry retired in 1998, Bielema interviewed for the job as the Head Cheese at Iowa. He lost out to Kirk Ferentz in the "Grand Contest of All Things Dooshy" for the job. He and Ferentz were put to a septathlon of events including Dodgeball at an Elementary School, Cheating at the Bingo Hall, Cow Tipping, Rhabdomyolysis-Inducing HGH Injections, Lighting Bags of Dog Crap On Fire and leaving it on Mary Sue Coleman's doorstep, How Many Times Could You Do the Century Club in a Week? and The Championship of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Bielema beat Ferentz at the Century Club thing while driving around smashing mailboxes and doing donuts on Mary Sue Coleman's lawn while rolling garbage bags full of flaming dogshit on her front porch. Eventually he crashed into the Bingo Hall and stole all of the bingo cards and writing "O-Doyle Rules!" on each of them. Normally this would have given him a Bielema-like smashing victory over his opponents, but he was disqualified on the grounds that he left the cow-tipping undone.

So the job went to Ferentz and after a couple years Bielema left for the bright lights of Manhattan.... Kansas to serve as the Co-Defensive Coordinator for Kansas State. Upon arrival in Manhattan....Kansas, he realized something was off, about three weeks later after spending six hours looking for the Empire State building he realized he was not in Manhattan New York. He immediately requested to leave because who the shit WANTS to coach for KSU? However, once handed his contract with the Bielema mark on it, he was sure he had seen this document before even if he could not read it.

In late 2003, he was contacted by Papa Barry Alvarez to interview for the Defensive Coordinator position at Wisconsin. The only requirements laid out by Alvarez were the ability to recognize a running vs. passing play and a working knowledge of the letters X and O. Bielema asked "You mean like hugs and kisses?" To which Alvarez replied, "No dude. That's wrong.". Bielema was hired and took the total Wisconsin Scoring defense from 43rd in 2003 to 9th in 2004.

Upon the close of the season, Bielema marched directly into Alvarez's office to apologize for making the ranking of the defense smaller. Alvarez told Bielema to sit down and that he had something to talk to him about. Alvarez said, "Bret, there comes a time in a man's life where he needs to start thinking about something other than football." Bret said, "You mean, drinkin'?" Alvarez said, "How would you like to be the next football coach at Wisconsin?" Bielema said, "Yessir, I surely would." Alvarez says, "Great, you start next year." Bret got up and started to walk out of the room, Alvarez said "Oh, and Bret, sometimes, smaller is better." Bret looked down at the floor, maaaaaaaybe at his pants, but definitely at the floor and smiled. A smile that was in danger of splitting his cheeks, but the brightest smile in Madison in 2004.

Bret Bielema had just become a man.

Big Ten Division Champs Season Statistical Review

In case you haven't heard MSU plays Wisconsin in the first Big Ten title game next Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Before we really delve into Hate Week over the next few days let's step back and look at the stats for the season. The stats are going to be important because the storyline of this game is reading as MSU stole the game from Wisconsin in October. So this is the post where we step back and look at the aggregate for the season and see just how hot the water will be on Saturday.

Season Records At A Glance

Well that's pretty even Steven. We lost an extra game to a ranked opponent but we also played an extra ranked team. So in short, swap out Notre Dame for a Bielema cuppycake and we're 2-1 against ranked opponents too.

Rushing Stats At A Glance

Wisconsin is clearly a better rushing team than MSU. This should be no surprise either. Montee Ball would have already won the Heisman if he played in the SEC. He is on pace to break Barry Sanders single season rushing touchdown records. In losses, both teams fall relatively apart in the rushing game. In a loss Wisconsin goes from averaging 4 rushing touchdowns a game to 1.5 and from averaging 5.81 yards per carry to 4.41. In losses, MSU goes from averaging 3.92 yards per carry to 2.45 and has scored zero rushing touchdowns.
Passing Stats At A Glance

The passing game of Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson are not really comparable in terms of the stat sheet. Wilson has a 28-3 TD to Int ratio with his last interception being thrown to Isaiah Lewis in the second half of the MSU-Wisconsin game. Since then he's had a totally clean sheet. Wilson is on pace to shatter the NCAA record for passing efficiency set by Colt Brennan of Hawaii at 180.6. Wilson's rating of 192.9 looks like he is a lock to win that record. Wilson averages out to 2.33 TDs and .25 picks per game while Cousins averages out to 1.75 TDs and .5 picks per game. In short, both quarterbacks take excellent care of the ball.
Defensive Stats At A Glance

Well, this also shouldn't come as a surprise. While Michigan State and Wisconsin only have a difference of .25 ppg in total scoring defense. MSU is far more dominant in the passing game defense accumulating an additional 15 sacks, 21 QB hurries and 2 interceptions. (BTW, did you know MSU picked off Russell Wilson twice?). Despite all that, Wisconsin has yielded only 9 passing touchdowns this year. The two teams look pretty evenly matched in running defense, MSU yields fewer yards per game, but Wisconsin edges out MSU in the other rushing defense categories. In short I think MSU's passing defense is slightly better than Wisconsin's and the rushing defense is more or less equal.

So how David and Goliath is this match-up? Think of it like this. If MSU's Offense is a 6, Wisconsin's is a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. If MSU's defense is a 9, Wisconsin's is an 8. Given the season so far.  Some remarkable factors as it relates to the MSU-Wisky Round One game. Wisconsin yielded 1/3 of their TOTAL passing touchdowns for the year in that game. Russell Wilson threw 2/3rds of his interceptions for the year in that game.  MSU certainly has it's work cut out for it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hate Week: O'Doyle Rules!

I'd say today was a pretty significant step forward in the evolution of the MSU football program, but I don't think that's true. The Seniors compiled a 24-8 Win-Loss record in the Big Ten over the last four years. They did that by winning games against middle-tier Big Ten teams, which is what Northwestern is. What made today special is that we have received recognition for winning our division and the opportunity to play for the Big Ten Championship outright. Props to Kirk Cousins for getting the career touchdown record. An 'attaboy to Baker who looked solid as the change of pace back in conditions that should have emphasized his fumbly fingers. B.J. Cunningham looked great and if Andre Rison is the sort to get anxious about his yardage record getting broken, he best start making his peace with that. Defense looked averagely amazing, six sacks, bent but didn't break. Great job to the MSU football team on going 10-2 and winning their division in a year where I thought 9-3 was their ceiling.

Sleep well, Spartans. Tomorrow morning, you begin preparing to play Wisconsin a second time. Wisconsin would admit to disrespecting Michigan State football if their cerebellum could incorporate the concept of respect. They just don't know what respect is. It's not their fault, they're from Wisconsin. The video below is actual footage of their drive back to the hotel tonight.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Northwestern: Game Preview

Northwestern makes me crazy. Their quarterbacks have a weird knack for completing ridiculous percentages of their passes. Then on 3rd and 8, they'll scramble for 10 yards. This year's Northwestern squad will be no different. I will need my foam bricks to throw at the TV and my beer foam for this game. For MSU, this game really only holds any postseason value in terms of determining a consolation bowl if they lose the Big Ten Title Game. Should they lose both this week and in the BTCG, it's no better than Outback for us, if they win this week and lose the BTCG we could land the Capital One Bowl, but it might still be the BTCG.

Northwestern on the other hand has a bit more to play for. At 6-5 they're already bowl eligible, but they're currently in a 3 way tie with Ohio State(6-5) and Purdue(5-6) for seventh in the Big Ten at 3-4 in-conference.  With eight bowl tie-ins, things get a lot more comfortable for Northwestern if they win on Saturday even if comfort is the Pizza Pizza Bowl.

MSU's Passing Defense vs NW's Passing Attack

Dan Persa blew up his Achilles tendon at the conclusion of last year's MSU/NW game, he's since PersaStrong'ed his way back as the starter, but he's still playing as a percentage of what he was last year prior to injury. Filling in for him admirably this year has been Kain Colter. Colter leads Northwestern in Rushing on the season.  Last week Persa tossed up 216 yards and 2TD's to Minnesota who is all of a sudden not as bad as their record looks.

Obviously, they'll be playing against our pass defense, which is pretty damn solid. We'll get dinged on Wheel Routes, Drag Routes and TE Throwbacks whenever the pass rush doesn't get home in time. Denicos Allen will have a good day against the more mobile QBs as he usually does. I think a healthy Persa gives MSU fits, but a still ailing Persa will struggle against MSU's Pass D even with the things Northwestern does that make me nuts.

Advantage: MSU

MSU's Rushing Defense vs NW's Rushing Attack

Northwestern's rushing offense ranks 5th in the Big Ten thanks to the fact that when Colter is in the game they run a lot. Their Yards Per Carry has been 4.01 which is higher only than MSU and Indiana which is sad. MSU by comparison has been holding their opponents 80 yards below their season average in Big Ten play. Will 100 rushing yards be enough for Northwestern to win this game. Not very likely.

Advantage: MSU

MSU's Passing Attack vs NW's Passing Defense

Kirk Cousins stats against Northwestern in 2009 and 2010? 5 TD's, no picks, 68 percent passing completion and 612 yards. You know, Playstation numbers. Couple that with playing the Big Ten's 10th rated Passing Defense and well.

Cousins Uber Alles.

Advantage: MSU

MSU's Rushing Defense vs NW's Rushing Attack

Our run game has looked much healthier in recent weeks. The only team who has held Northwestern to under 24 points this year? Army. Army runs the triple option and had a Time of Possession of 40 minutes! in their game earlier this year. MSU will not control the clock for 40 minutes and this is the one area where NW has bested us.

Advantage: NW


MSU goes to the BTCG either way, this is an away game over thanksgiving weekend with virtually no consequence for losing for MSU and a Pizza Pizza bowl berth for NW if they lose. What does this spell? Trap game.

Advantage: NW


The Wildcats make me crazy because they're feisty. They're not always better than you, but they can get the better of you with their trickeration and majesty. This MSU squad is too talented and NW too tired. MSU wins this one and prepares for the winner of PSU-Wisconsin.


MSU 34 NW 21

NW: Friday Morning Youtubin'!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An MSU Related Thanksgiving

I sat down to write up this post about how we should all be thankful for Michigan State sports being successful this year. MSU Basketball and more importantly Tom Izzo Basketball feels back. MSU hockey looks rejuvenated after a long period of mediocrity, the Women's hoops team won a Big Ten title last year. MSU football will be playing for the Big Ten title with the toughest road schedule I can remember. Even with all that, it doesn't feel right.

For me, each football Saturday is a bit of a thanksgiving. Both in a manner of speaking and in actual damn speaking. Family? Check. Football? Check. Feasting? Check. Boozeahol? Check. Napping? Sometimes. The only thing that's missing is a turkey and in 2010 we even had that. BTW, deep-fried turkey on a gameday is pretty much as good as it gets.  

I think back on what makes going to these games fun for me. Nine times out of ten, it's the people I'm going with and not the games themselves. This isn't to downplay the joy of going to the game, but what I remember about taking my oldest daughter to her first game was that she slept through most of her first game against Iowa in 2008, but jumped to life like we all did when MSU stopped Shonn Greene on 4th and 2. I remember jumping up and down and hugging everyone we came with when Keith Nichol caught that Hail Mary last year or how my wife had contractions right after Little Giants and the very personable and drunk student sitting next to us would have run with my pregnant wife on his back to the hospital if I had only asked.(They were warm-up contractions for a few weeks later.) The joy of watching a game with a sleeping kid during an away game. Tailgating before the game, our friends know where to find us even if we haven't seen them in a few years.

So, while I'm grateful at being a part of the MSU sports heyday going on right now. That would be like being thankful for the icing on the cake. What makes the cake is sharing all of these things with the people that matter. Enjoy your thanksgiving, wherever you are and whoever you're with.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Indiana: The Takeaway

A few months ago, I wrote a pretty hearty rant about Bret Bielema. In that rant I got after him for beating Indiana 83-20 in 2010. After watching yesterday's game, I honestly wondered how Wisconsin A) managed to give up 20 and B) when going to run up the score only scored 83. Coming into this week Jamie Mac from the Just Cover Blog tweeted that Michigan State was 19-5 against the spread in it's last two Senior Days and 0-2 in it's last two. I figured we would not cover this week because we would run early and often against Indiana. I simply did not expect Michigan State to come out and dominate the way that it did.

Once Michigan State took it's commanding lead, that allowed the opportunity to allow the Seniors to all be taken off the field one by one. Cousins saluted the Spartan Helmet at midfield as he trotted to the sidelines for the last time. Joel Foreman got to take an end around for three yards. He was a block away from getting four or five more! Martin got a moment, Nichol got a moment. Celek and Linthicum got taken off together. It was very nice to be ahead comfortably enough to allow the Seniors to all have their moment.

There's not much statistically to be extracted from yesterday's game. We're a very good football team and Indiana is a very poor football team.  At this point in the season you're what your record says you are(I'm going to contradict this mildly later in the article). We are 9-2 and the highest ranked two loss team in the land.

I sincerely hope for Indiana that their program improves under first year coach Kevin Wilson. As fans there is nothing more frustrating than supporting a team that is terrible. The future is bright in that 30 of the players who saw playing time this year were true or redshirt freshman. These days of Senior day being a funeral send-off for us are over now and that feels amazing.

The Rest

MSU became the inaugural winner of the Legends Division yesterday. We got a helping hand from our friends down the road in Ann Arbor, which was nice and a bit ingratiating. When asked if he was appreciative of UM's helping hand he said, "I play for Michigan State. We mow our own grass." Who do we play in the Big Ten title game? The winner of next weekend's PSU/Wisconsin game at Camp Randall. This puts the odds in Wisconsin's favor, but as the cliche goes "That's why they play the game."

Back to the two loss team thing real quick. Since 2008 each year I've felt like we were the best or worst of our particular Win-Loss record indicating we'd be either a pretender or contender in a battle of all teams of our record. In 2008, we were the worst 9-3 team in College Football, in 2009 the best 6-6 team, in 2010 the worst 11-1 team. This year we've broken that trend a bit, we're an above average 9-2 team for 9-2 teams. Oregon and USC are probably better than us, TCU, Clemson, Oklahoma and Kansas State are worse. Everyone else is probably an "Any Given Saturday" win on a neutral site. This is actually GREAT news. In the past three years, MSU had a season where it overachieved(2008 and 2010) and then a season where it underachieved. This year our record says 9-2 and we are a 9-2 team.

The Bowl Outlook: Win out and MSU is playing in Pasadena. A loss to Northwestern and a Win in the Big Ten title game and MSU goes to the Rose Bowl. A loss to Northwestern and a loss in the Big Ten title game means probably the Outback Bowl. A win at Northwestern and a loss in the Big Ten title game means most likely a trip to the Capital One Bowl. The Cap One Bowl outcome assumes an MSU loss in the title game and that Michigan wins out.
In short, for me, yesterday felt like a program victory. Five years and one day ago MSU finished it's season 4-8 with a 17-13 loss at Penn State. Yesterday MSU clinched it's path to win Back to Back Big Ten titles. How far things have come in so short a time. It kind of makes you wonder how much farther things can go, doesn't it?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Indiana: A Passionate Fan's Request For You to Use That Ticket

This was a comment received in the Abbreviated Game Preview below. I appreciated and agreed with it so much I'm putting it on the front page. If/when the author gives me permission to link him on Twitter, then I will do so. Update: Congratulate him in the comments section below if you want to.

Michigan State alumni, students, fans, I have one simple, emphatic request for Saturday: if you are at all able, please, please, go to the game.

Why such an urgent plea?

For years I've claimed to my father (also a Spartan) that if we ever got a consistent winner on the football field, watch out: the alumni, East Lansing, and the state would go absolutely nuts, and prove Tom Izzo right that we are a football school ranking with the best of them.

While I'm not ready to go back on my word, the easiest way to measure this sentiment is rear ends in seats. At last year's Purdue home finale, and two weeks ago against Minnesota, there were large, noticeable holes in the student and other sections; just as Joe mentioned recently, I was shocked and disappointed. I fear the first camera shot of the stands on Saturday at 12:05pm against Indiana.

So here we are. Going for two straight undefeated home seasons. Winningest quarterback and class in school history. Chance at two B1G titles in a row. Can you imagine in your wildest dreams saying that a few short years ago?! Bowl reps in the stands. A few major recruits attending, for whom atmosphere and hype are very real factors.

Full disclosure: I graduated in 2004 and have since moved out of state, and can no longer go to games. There are certainly many more like me, and I am therefore part of the problem.

Listen, I know the cost of a game is high, and the economy's rough, and it's noon against Indiana, and we're top 20 in attendance for 50 straight years, all of which is nothing to sneeze at. But (this makes my skin crawl) Michigan puts 110,000 people in the stands for Please don't tell me we need 30 years of sustained success to fill Spartan Stadium every week.

Most of all, go to the game because whether you've been following the team for 5 years or 40, you've been waiting for a consistent winner. Well, here it is. This is supposed to be the payoff for all the pain! For so long, the team didn't deserve the loyalty it got. Now let's make sure we deserve the team we've got.

Finance '04

Indiana: Friday Morning Youtubin'!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abbreviated Game Preview: Indiana

This preview is written in five minutes because the Senior Day Obits took a long time. So here goes.

- Tre Roberson will be fun to watch except for when he gives MSU a headache. Maybe a young Antwaan Randle-El.

- Senior Day should be a lot of fun. Graduating very few dudes on defense. We should be nearly as good next year on D.

- Also, give an extra cheer for Worthy in case this is his last game in the Spartan Green.

- A win Saturday and Nebraska loss clinches the Legend Division. Dantonio isn't rooting for Michigan and neither should you.

- Our Offensive Line sure has improved, haven't they? When was the last time you really heard any serious complaint about those guys? After the ND game, that's when.

- I'd like the trophy to officially be Michigan City. I'd like that better if it were the municipality of Michigan City.

- We'll win this game, but won't cover. I don't see us hanging an extra 28 on Indiana. Closer than you think, farther apart than Minnesota.

MSU 31 Indiana 14

2011 Senior Day Obituaries

Another year has passed and another senior class plays their last game at Spartan Stadium on Saturday. I wanted to find a way to honor the seniors that includes each of them by mention and doesn't rip off MGoBlog's Haikus. So I settled on writing obituaries for each of the players. I had originally wanted to do "Most Likely" awards, but this allows a bit more freedom for exposition. "Most Likely" awards might be included in the actual obit though where helpful.

The 2011 Senior Class

This class is a special class. All the senior classes are special, but this one is more special than others. They're 22-8 in Big Ten play. For perspective's sake, in the final year of the JLS era, the Spartans lost seven games in Big Ten play. They've had boring wins, who could forget that 24-14 win over Illinois in 2009, amirite?!? They've had exciting wins, like these: