Tag:Michigan State
Posted on: October 19, 2010 4:29 am
Edited on: October 19, 2010 5:30 am
 

Midseason Report: Big Ten

Posted by Adam Jacobi

We're halfway through the regular season, so it's time for the Midseason Report. Who the real contenders are in the Big Ten is pretty clear. Who'll actually win the conference, however, is a little more muddled. This certainly looked like Ohio State's conference to lose seven days ago -- and it still might be -- but Wisconsin's superlative 31-18 upset of the Buckeyes in Madison muddled the picture somewhat. Here's a list of the contenders for the conference crown thus far.

Michigan State (7-0, 3-0): It's generally lazy analysis to assume that a current front-runner -- especially one without any recent history of success -- will maintain its place atop the conference. And yet, Michigan State has, essentially, a two-game schedule to sew up a trip to Pasadena. After all, of the Big Ten teams with one conference loss or fewer, Michigan State has already beaten one (Wisconsin), won't face another (Ohio State), and gets another at home (Purdue, who, yeah). The only games left are visits to Northwestern and Iowa in the next two weeks. If the Spartans win these, they'll have the tie-breaker over everyone in the conference. Add a loss anywhere, and the prospects get a little dicey -- especially since if it comes down to Michigan State and Ohio State both at 11-1. More on that in a bit.

Iowa (5-1, 2-0): If the Spartans are the new frontrunners to the Big Ten title, then the Hawkeyes are the gatekeepers. Iowa has three home games remaining, and they're against the other three teams on this list: Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Will the Hawkeyes beat all three of these teams? That'll depend on the leadership of Ricky Stanzi, the senior quarterback who's playing at a level few would have expected after last season. The Hawkeyes' defense, anchored by Adrian Clayborn and the rest of the line, is still their strong spot. But if Stanzi malfunctions like he did on occasion in 2008 and '09, the Hawkeyes could take a very damaging loss and (probably) watch their Big Ten title hopes evaporate.

Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1): Which Wisconsin team will show up in Iowa City on Saturday? The high-octane world-beaters that ran Ohio State out of the stadium last weekend? Or the semi-suspect squad that looked sluggish against plainly inferior non-conference competition and got outgained by 150 yards in a 10-point loss to the Spartans? Granted, 2009 Iowa demonstrated the folly of reading too much into low margins of victory against putative cupcakes, but Iowa won the majority of their games against upper-level Big Ten competition, and Wisconsin hasn't reached that plateau quite yet. A win in Iowa City changes that outlook substantially. Still, when the Badger rush offense is struggling, QB Scott Tolzien's track record isn't promising. It's probably wise to expect one more loss from the Badgers before the season's said and done. 

Ohio State (6-1, 2-1): Ever thought you'd see the day when a 6-1 Ohio State had arguably the fourth-best chance to win the Big Ten crown? Here we are, though; for as good as Michigan State's prospects look, the Buckeyes' seem to be on the other end of the spectrum. Of the contenders, they've already lost to one (Wisconsin), they play another on the road (Iowa), and the last they miss entirely (Michigan State), which means OSU can't take matters into their own hands and put a loss in the Spartans' column. Essentially, to win the conference, Ohio State needs every other team to lose at least once -- and the Buckeyes only play Iowa in the second half of the season. That's a lot of help needed. The Buckeyes have the talent to keep up their own end of the bargain, of course; that defense is still stellar across all 11 positions, and OSU's offensive line will keep their offense humming. But for all his otherworldly physical talent, Terrelle Pryor still isn't taking over games at the level that, let's say, Cam Newton is. Further, this is Pryor's third year in Tressel's offense. It's Newton's first with Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Either this trend gets corrected, or Pryor's collegiate career becomes a relative disappointment; it's not as if OSU's a seven-win team without Pryor at the helm, is it? 

Any of these four teams could go to the Rose Bowl without any surprises; Wisconsin's an underdog at Iowa, but not prohibitively so. Yes, technically, Northwestern and Purdue are in the mix for now too, but they're definitely longshots next to these four teams. My prediction is that Iowa effectively eliminates the Badgers from the discussion by beating them this weekend, while MSU handles Northwestern. Iowa then hands Michigan State their first conference loss in Iowa City, all while Ohio State keeps winning. Then, Ohio State knocks off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. All three teams win out otherwise, and there's a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings at 7-1. Tiebreaker time!

Iowa will be the first team to be eliminated from consideration, as the Hawkeyes will be 10-2 while OSU and Michigan State are 11-1. Now, a few years ago, the Big Ten had a Rose Bowl tiebreaker after head-to-head competition and overall record that gave the bid to the team that hadn't been to Pasadena in the longest amount of time. This would obviously be Michigan State. But! That tiebreaker was ditched a few years ago and replaced with a Big XII-style stipulation that the highest BCS ranking is awarded the bid. So here we go again. Ohio State, having been ranked ahead of Michigan State when both were undefeated and having an earlier loss than the Spartans, is likely ranked higher at the end of the regular season and sent to Pasadena. Spartan faithful cry foul, but they're rewarded with an Orange Bowl bid in consolation. Iowa represents the conference in the Capital One Bowl, and Wisconsin goes to the Outback for the third time in the last seven years.

Of course, watch Northwestern beat Michigan State this Saturday and render this entire prediction worthless.

Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 9:19 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 16)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's anybody's conference. With Wisconsin putting the finishing touches on a stunning 31-18 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes, here are the teams that are at least tied with OSU in the Big Ten standings: Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Purdue is probably not going to contend for the Big Ten title, but the other three teams mentioned certainly will. Michigan State, of all the teams, must be the most ecstatic about the result in Madison; the Spartans are undefeated, the only Big Ten team who's 3-0 in the conference, and they miss Ohio State this year. But Iowa's at 2-0 in conference play, and the Spartans have to visit Iowa City in two weeks. Who would have thought back in August that MSU at Iowa could be the most pivotal contest of the Big Ten season?

2. Denard Robinson is most certainly mortal. It's not as Denard Robinson was a non-factor against the Iowa Hawkeyes today: Robinson racked up 204 yards of total offense in about 35 minutes of work. But for the third time this season, Shoelace left a game with an injury, and for the second time, that injury shelved him for the rest of the game. One of the most remarkable things about Robinson's production thus far is the sheer heft of Robinson's workload. Yes, he can't lead the nation in rushing and throw for over 200 yards without either throwing or rushing on the vast majority of Michigan's snaps. But that's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and now we're seeing some evidence that it's just not sustainable -- especially now that Robinson's not facing cupcake defenses like Massachusetts or Notre Dame (I kid, ND, I kid). Thanks to a bye week, Robinson has two weeks to recover before his next start, at Penn State. Does Tate Forcier still gets some snaps in relief at Beaver Stadium? Should he?

3. Wisconsin's rushing game is alive and well. Coming into today, John Clay was having a pretty good season, but considering Wisconsin's opposition, Clay wasn't looking dominant. That changed this week, when the big junior running back was running untouched through giant rushing lanes against Ohio State. That's not entirely surprising, but if Iowa doesn't have the best defensive line in the conference, then Ohio State surely must, and that Buckeye front four was absolutely gouged today. So if the Badgers can run all over Ohio State, they can probably run all over everybody left on their schedule. Again, the only remaining great defensive line on Wisconsin's schedule is Iowa, and that game's coming up this week. That should be just a little fun to watch. 

4. Congratulations to Penn State, who did not lose this week. Technically, it didn't play, but any iota of good news is welcome in Happy Valley these days.

5. Don't be that surprised if Illinois runs the table from here on out. It would be foolish to look at Illinois and see just another .500 team. Illinois' three losses are to still-undefeated Missouri, still-undefeated Michigan State, and only-recently-defeated Ohio State. In every one of those games, Illinois was competitive into the fourth quarter. And guess what: Illinois doesn't have any games against ranked competition left. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel LeShoure are growing as a QB-RB tandem week to week, and the toughest opponent left on the Illini schedule is, oh, let's say Northwestern. Illinois may be 3-3 today, but it may be 8-4 (or even better) before you know it.

6. The Tim Brewster farewell tour's going to be hard to watch. Fans of comedy in college football are going to lose an important ally this season, as Minnesota informed the world that Tim Brewster's not coming back next season. It's a shame, really, but it's only surprising insofar as Brewster hasn't been asked to clean out his office right now instead. Minnesota's got some decent athleticism, especially on the edges, so if that talent gets in the hands of a decent coach (MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH DO ITTTTTTT), that program up north might wake up and make some noise next season. But only if Minnesota hires Leach.

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Posted on: October 16, 2010 12:54 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:16 pm
 

Game day weather updates, Week 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. It's another gorgeous day across the country, but it's starting to get just a little bit chilly. You should still bring the sunscreen. All times are Eastern.

Noon kickoffs

Boston College at No. 16 Florida State , 12:00, Tallahassee, FL: Low 70s, clear

Illinois at No. 13 Michigan State, 12:00 , East Lansing, MI: Mid 50s, partly cloudy

Missouri at No. 21 Texas A&M, 12:00 , College Station, TX: Low 70s, clear

Afternoon kickoffs

No. 15 Iowa at Michigan , 3:30, Ann Arbor, MI: Low 60s, partly cloudy

No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn , 3:30, Auburn, AL: Low 70s, clear

Texas at No. 5 Nebraska , 3:30, Lincoln, NE: Low 70s, clear

Evening kickoffs

No. 10 South Carolina at Kentucky , 6:00, Lexington, KY: Low 60s, clear

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin , 7:00, Madison, WI: Mid 50s, partly cloudy

Mississippi State at No. 22 Florida , 7:00, Gainesville, FL: Low 60s, clear

Late night kickoffs

Ole Miss at No. 8 Alabama , 9:00, Tuscaloosa, AL: Low 50s, clear

No. 24 Oregon State at Washington , 10:15, Seattle, WA: Mid 40s, partly cloudy


Posted on: October 15, 2010 3:51 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 7

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Breakfast


Main Course - #13 Michigan State vs. Illinois - Noon - Big Ten Network


Yes, the morning menu is still incredibly light this week.  You'd think I'd be beyond complaining about it at this point since it's been this way all season, but I assure you, I am not above complaining about anything .  Though this Michigan State and Illinois game isn't as unfulfilling as it may seem at first glance.

Michigan State is 6-0, after all, and coming off of a very big win against Michigan.   Illinois has also played well lately, with a win not many saw coming on the road against Penn State last week.  Also, let's not forget that the Illini gave Ohio State a very tough time in Champaign a few weeks ago.

There's enough cause to believe that another upset may be in the works this weekend.  First of all, Michigan State is coming off that Michigan win, and there could be a letdown this weekend.  Second, it is Michigan State.  Completely unexpected losses at home against teams they should beat after getting off to a good start to the season wouldn't exactly be a new phenomenon for the Spartans. 

Side Orders: If you don't get the Big Ten Network, and don't have the choice of watching Michigan State and Illinois between Ro-Tel and Velveeta commercials, there are other options.  Florida State and Boston College square off in Tallahassee,  or you could tune in to what could be Tim Brewster's last game when Minnesota takes on Purdue.   Of course, if you want to watch that game I'd suggest spending three hours talking to some sort of counselor instead.  Maybe you should watch Syracuse and Pitt instead, just to see if you should actually take this Syracuse team seriously.

Lunch


Main Course - #7 Auburn vs. #12 Arkansas - 3:30pn - CBS


Now that Alabama has lost, it leaves the door open to a couple of teams in the SEC West.  Auburn is one of them. Arkansas, who has already lost to Alabama, has an outside chance, but to make the most of it, a win over Auburn is a must have.

Of course, even if there wasn't so much on the line for both teams in this game, I'd recommend tuning in just to watch Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett face off.  In other words, expect a lot of points, and what could turn out to be a very exciting, back and forth affair.

Auburn's pass defense left a bit to be desired against Kentucky last week, and don't think that Bobby Petrino didn't pick up on a few things when watching the game tape.  The Auburn defense is going to need to play very well if the Tigers want to leave this one with their perfect record still intact.

Side Orders: There are a couple of other dishes available in the afternoon, including the one that's often best-served cold, which Nebraska is hoping to give Texas tomorrow afternoon.  There's also Michigan and Iowa in the Big House, which will be a defining game for the Wolverines.  We find out if Michigan is either a good team that lost a tough game against a rival last week, or it's still the same old Michigan we've grown accustomed to the last few years.

Dinner


Main Course - #18 Wisconsin vs. #1 Ohio State - 7pm - ESPN


It's been a while since the Buckeyes found themselves ranked as the best team in the country, but if they're not careful, it's not going to last long.  The Buckeyes have gotten off to a 6-0 start this season, but this is the first real test they'll have faced.  Yes, Miami was a tough game, but that was at home and Miami has proven to be pretty average this season.

This is the road, at night, at Camp Randall Stadium.  Ohio State's defense hasn't faced a punishing ground game like it'll be seeing against Wisconsin with John Clay and company.  Ohio State has only ventured outside of Columbus once this season, and that was what turned out to be their worst game of the season against Illinois.

And trust me, it's a lot easier to win in Champaign than it is in Madison.

Side Orders: Kentucky nearly knocked off Auburn at home last week, and it will try to do this same this week when it hosts South Carolina.   The Gamecocks are coming off their biggest win ever, so a let down could be in order.  There's also Florida looking to end its two-game losing streak taking on Mississippi State and old friend Dan Mullen, and the Crimson Tide look to take out their frustrations from last week against Ole Miss and its new mascot.

Late Night Snack


Oregon State may have had some troubles with non-conference foes like TCU and Boise State, but it's off to a nice start in conference play.  They look to improve to 3-0 in the Pac-10 when they head to Washington to take on the Huskies Saturday night on ESPN.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 1:33 pm
 

RichRod feels your hate

Posted by Tom Fornelli

For the first five weeks of the season, Rich Rodriguez was feeling pretty good.  His team was off to a 5-0 start, ranked on both the AP and Coaches polls, and the voices calling for his head had quieted down a bit.  Though that doesn't mean that those voices were totally silent, something Rodriguez has been aware of all season, and now that Michigan is coming off its third straight loss to "little brother' Michigan State, they're getting loud again.

"We lost to Michigan State, what, you wanna take me and hang me off the building now?" Rodriguez asked during his weekly press conference. "I mean, there might be a few people who want to do that, but it's the same people that probably wanted to do that after the first five games, too, they just weren't saying it publicly."

While it seems ridiculous on the surface that some fans would want Rodriguez gone after he's matched his 2009 win total in only six games, it's not completely unwarranted.  After all, the Wolverines were 4-0 last season before they lost to Michigan State and lost six of the next seven games to finish 5-7 and miss out on a bowl game for the second straight year.

Fans are just a bit nervous it can happen again, and I can't blame them.

While Michigan has improved this season, it's because of one player playing out of his mind, Denard Robinson.   As the Spartans proved last weekend, if you can keep things from getting too Denarded, Michigan is very beatable.  The Michigan defense is allowing 26.8 points per game, and unless that unit improves, odds are that Michigan's record within the Big Ten isn't going to be very good.

There's also that whole NCAA investigation hanging over Rodriguez's head.  The NCAA is expected to make its decision about Rodriguez and his failure to "promote an atmosphere of compliance" before the end of the regular season, and if the NCAA decides to hand down a major punishment while the Wolverines are in the midst of a losing streak, then those dissenting voices will grow louder than ever.

While I don't think they'll hang Rodriguez from any buildings in Ann Arbor, they'd gladly kick him out of town.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 3:24 pm
 

Spartans DB Rucker suspended one game

Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Saturday Chris Rucker was on the field for one of the biggest wins in recent Michigan State history -- certainly since Mark Dantonio took over the program -- even intercepting a pass from the great Denard Robinson.   I hope Rucker enjoyed the victory because on Sunday he was suspended for this Michigan State's next game against Illinois.

Citing a violation of team rules, Mark Dantonio said that Rucker would be suspended this week, though he would not go into specifics as to what rules Rucker broke.  When asked if Rucker will miss any more time following this week, Dantonio said "we'll see."

This is not the first time Rucker has gotten into trouble in East Lansing, as he was one of many Spartans suspended last season following an incident at Rather Hall -- a dorm on the Michigan State campus.  Several Michigan State players allegedly attacked a student following a team banquet and were suspended for the Alamo Bowl.

Rucker has started 30 games for the Spartans so his absence will be felt by the entire defense, but the timing may not be that terrible.  Illinois is a team that is built on running the ball, so losing a starting corner doesn't hurt nearly as much.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 3:38 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 9)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Perhaps Denard Robinson's competition matters. Hey, we'll be the first ones to admit to falling in love with Denard Robinson's early-season performance. Sure, Michigan's opposition wasn't very good (at all), but lots of other teams were playing cupcake schedules at the same time, and nobody -- except maybe for Cam Newton -- was doing what Shoelace was doing. But Michigan State provided a pretty easy blueprint for containing Robinson: have a decent defense and don't do anything stupid with them. The Spartan defense, led as always by All-American linebacker Greg Jones, played disciplined defense against the explosive sophomore and forced him into three interceptions -- two of which came in Michigan State's end zone. Sure, Robinson ended up accounting for 301 yards (215 passing, 86 rushing), and those are good numbers, but remember: he's basically their entire offense. So while giving up 301 yards of offense to one guy isn't ideal, holding the entire team to 377 yards is much more palatable, and that's exactly what the Michigan State defense did. Next up for the Wolverines: Iowa -- and 60 more minutes of that defensive intensity.

2. Don't run up the score on Tim Brewster, please. The second-oddest thing about this week of Big Ten play was seeing Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster get into an arguing match with Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema after Wisconsin's 41-23 victory over the Golden Gophers. The oddest thing came about six minutes prior, when Bret Bielema elected to try a two-point conversion after the Badgers scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 41-16. The try failed, because not even Football God hates Minnesota that much, but Brewster certainly took it personally; the Minnesota coach said some very unprintable words to Bielema on the field, and used the word "wrong" to describe Bielema's decision about 15,000 times in his postgame press conference. Bielema said his little when-should-you-go-for-two card dictated that his team attempt the two-point conversion in that scenario. Even assuming Bielema's excuse is true, we have to wonder why Bielema didn't heed his card's advice 5:16 earlier, when his team scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to go up by 25 the first time. After John Clay's third touchdown of the game, Wisconsin led 34-9 with 11:55 to go, and Bielema kicked a harmless extra point then. Maybe, maybe Minnesota could have engineered 27 points in 11:55, but there was no chance of it happening with 6:39 left, so there's really no sense in kicking the extra point the first time but not the second. Bielema doesn't necessarily owe Brewster an apology; he's Bret Bielema, and he's kind of a jerk, and that's what he does. But at the very least, he owes Brewster and the rest of Big Ten fans an actual explanation of what the heck he was thinking going for two.

3. Penn State just isn't very good. Okay, we sort of knew coming into this season that Penn State would be taking some more lumps than usual on account of their true freshman quarterback, Rob Bolden, winning the starting job in Week 1. And sure, their 24-3 losses to Alabama and Iowa were disappointing, but not really shocking; 'Bama and the Hawkeyes are both pretty legit programs with pretty legit defenses. But 21-point losses to top-15 teams are one thing; a 20-point loss to middling Illinois is another altogether. Illinois controlled the action on both sides of the ball Saturday, shredding Penn State's vaunted front seven for 282 yards on the ground. Mikel LeShoure was a workhorse with 119 rushing yards and a 32-yard reception, and Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase was both efficient (15-19, 151 yards, 1 TD) and mobile (eight carries, 61 yards). Meanwhile, Bolden had one of his worst starts of his nascent career, going 8-21 for 142 yards, a score, and a pretty bad pick-six to Nate Bussey that pushed Illinois' lead to 14-3. It was a freshman mistake, of course, and one he probably won't make next season and beyond. But it's that sort of thing, coupled with a general lack of special talent on the rest of the offense, that dooms the Nittany Lions when their defense isn't perfect. The Nittany Lions are 3-3 (0-2) now. Right now, it's pretty hard to guarantee they're going to a bowl this season.

4. Northwestern is also not very good. Going back to 2008, Northwestern's habit of winning games by close margins -- which is to say, playing both up and down to the competition -- has never really come back to haunt them; coming into Saturday's game the Wildcats were 14-4 in one-possession games since '08, a streak that's both remarkable and completely doomed to come back down to earth sooner or later, and that's where we find the Wildcat today. Two special teams disasters in the fourth quarter -- a blocked field goal and a poorly-kicked game-tying attempt with a minute left -- effectively kept six points off the board for the Wildcats, and a Dan Dierking rush from 7 yards out sealed the 20-17 upset for lowly Purdue. It's a bummer of a loss for the Wildcats, but the type of inexplicable upset that besets them pretty much every year. Their benchmark game is likely their next: Michigan State comes to town, and a win would put Northwestern back on the map. But it would take the Wildcats' best performance of the season, and any time the prerequisite for respectability is something a team hasn't yet shown itself to be capable of doing, odds are that the fans will go home disappointed.

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Posted on: October 9, 2010 5:20 pm
 

Spartans up by a touchdown at the half

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Coming into today, Michigan's pass defense was ranked dead last in the FBS, allowing over 300 yards a game through the air. But while the Michigan pass defense has been adequate today, the Michigan State Spartans have used two big rushes to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room at the break.

Edwin Baker ran untouched for a 61-yard score in the second quarter, and on Sparty's next drive, freshman sensation Le'Veon Bell took one to the house from 41 yards out. On both of those plays, Michigan State was able to get Michigan's linebackers moving in the wrong direction, and a hole opened wide for the tailback. And really, tricking the Michigan linebackers into running themselves out of a play has been pretty easy over the last few years.

As for Denard Robinson, he's looked shockingly human so far. Robinson threw an awful interception in the end zone in the first quarter, then overthrew another sure TD later in the first quarter. He's only rushed for 49 yards on 12 carries, and only one of his 11 completions has been for more than 15 yards. Not many big plays here.

But that won't keep up forever, in all likelihood; Robinson's too good of a player to be bottled up for 60 minutes, even against a real defense like Michigan State's. It just remains to be seen if MSU can keep victimizing the Michigan defense well enough to maintain their lead.

 
 
 
 
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