Ramblings & Rankings – Week #5.

I knew we were do for a punch to the gut, but I was hoping that Michigan State would cling to the bottom of the AP Top 25. Nope. The Spartans are sitting at #30. Quite a tumble after the one-point loss to Ohio State. We now join the ranks of Wisconsin and Michigan in terms of B1G squads that have fallen out of the Top 25. I hope we end up hanging out with Nebraska in the drop-out-and-then-drop-back-in club. We’ll see.

In terms of the rest of the B1G…

Ohio State moved up from #14 to #12 as they get back to where they stood in Week #2.

Nebraska scooted up one notch to #21 following their come-from-behind win over Wisconsin.

Northwestern finally sneaks in to the Top 25 taking the #24 spot. Welcome Wildcats.

As I mentioned earlier, Michigan State got 43 votes (#30), and Michigan got 38 votes (#32).

With this post, I’m ready to put Week #5 behind me and start looking forward. This week kind of sucked, and it could have been very different with just a little more effort or a little more luck. Anyway, see you later Week #5 and hello Week #6. And as I always say…

GO GREEN!

Week #5 is in the books.

Conference play has begun and ten B1G teams faced off against each other in a very exciting day of football. Two teams remain perfect and one team has a losing record as we look ahead October and the meat of the schedule. Anyway, I am 33-8 coming out of Week #4, so let’s see how I did this week…

Indiana @ Northwestern – I picked Northwestern by a score and it looked like a mega-blowout until the Hoosiers scored 29 in the second half. Even with that effort, the Wildcats won by 15. 34-8.

Penn State @ Illinois – I feel like the Lions are rolling now and I picked them to beat the Illini by 14. They doubled that and won by 28. 35-8.

Minnesota @ Iowa – I figured it would be close, but for the Floyd of Rosedale I believed the Gophers could carry the day. I was wrong, Iowa won by 18. 35-9.

Marshall @ Purdue – Marshall can pass like nobodies business, but they are far from a complete team. I picked the Boilermakers by 17. Purdue won by 10 in a shootout. 36-9.

Wisconsin @ Nebraska – The Huskers were looking for payback and their at home, so I took them over the sputtering offense of Wisconsin by 10. It took a fairly major come-from-behind effort but the Nebraska won by 3. 37-9.

37-9 is not too bad with four good calls and one bad this week. I’m still running at 80% on the season. Week #6 will be interesting with Michigan at Purdue and Nebraska at Ohio State, but I’ve got a few days to think on it. I’m looking forward to next week just so I can put this Ohio State business behind me. Great job this week B1G and for next week I offer a hearty…

GO GREEN!

#14 Ohio State 17, #20 Michigan State 16. Spartans go to 3-2, 0-1 in the B1G.

Just to get it off my chest, I’m going to vent for a moment and then be done with it. Here we go… Do you know what I hate?

  • I hate losing to Ohio State by one point
  • I hate missing a 42-yard field-goal (again)
  • I hate ineligible man downfield penalties
  • I hate dropped passes that should have been caught
  • I hate it when a ref wrongly whistles the play dead on a fumble recovery that would have gone for a TD
  • I hate losing

Okay, I’ve vented. Do I feel better? Nope. Not yet at least. Yes, there was a bad call on the fumble and it cost us six. And maybe there was some Urban Meyer SEC-style douche-bag shenanigans with the video editing. None of that matters now. What is true and factual is that the Buckeyes beat the Spartans on Saturday. Everything else is just sour grapes and crying.

Andrew Maxwell looked more comfortable, more in-charge and more on the money for much of the game. Credit goes to the o-line for their pass blocking and giving A-Max some time before the pressure came. Maxwell went 22-42 for 269 yards and a TD. Of the 20 incomplete passes, I’d say more than half of them were catchable and many were very catchable. Even with 20 incomplete passes, the Spartans out-passed the Buckeyes by 90 yards. Le’Veon Bell actually had the most receptions grabbing eight for 58 yards. Keith Mumphery had five for 79 and a TD, and what an awesome effort that was. Keith clawed and fought his way to then end-zone breaking tackles from about eight Buckeyes. I loved it. I want to see more from Mumphery.

Rushing was another story, a horror story. MSU rushed for 34 net yards and no TD. Ouch. Bell had 17 carries for 45 yards. The rest of the Spartan ball carriers netted a combined -11 yards. Where the Buckeyes really that good at stopping what is considered a power running game? Yes. But the play-calling was predictable too. If the defense is stacking the box, why continue to run up the middle on most every running play? Is George Perles calling in plays?

And I guess we just need to accept the fact that Dan Conroy is going to miss a field-goal in every game. Did his girlfriend break-up with him or something? He’s a great kicker, and he continues to make the tougher, longer kicks. I just don’t understand what’s going on here but it cost us the game this time so it’s really, really not funny anymore.

The Spartan defense fought hard against a tough offense. Ohio State has a lot of weapons, the most dangerous of which is #5. Braxton Miller is tough to catch, tough to get your hands on, and even then he’s tough to bring down. He moves like Shoelace used to and he can actually make good decisions and throw the ball on-target. That’s scary. Miller ran for 145 yards and passed for another 179 yards, and that was with an angry Michigan State defense getting after him on every play. The defense looked very dominant at times and struggled at other times. Overall, I felt the defense really played hard and performed well. When William Gholston went down and appeared to be knocked-out, I was down-right worried about him. I’m thankful he was okay and actually amazed that he was able to continue playing. Scary.

One last thing, actually, a bright spot… Nick Hill was looking great on kick-off returns breaking one away for 34 yards. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hill takes one to the house before the season is over.

This painful experience will become a somewhat less-painful memory. Urban Meyer will always be a SEC-quality douche, and he’ll also continue to win a lot of games. But they are no longer our concern. It’s not like we could possibly see them in the B1G Championship game because, of course, they’re banned. Next week is Indiana on the road so let’s put the loss behind us and get ready to take on the Hoosiers in Bloomington. I’m thinking our pass-completion percentages will continue to improve as we move forward, and maybe the running game will open up a bit. It’s always tough sledding in the B1G, and that’s why the cool kids all scream…

GO GREEN!

B1G Week #5 Picks.

Posting remotely from Orlando this week as I get a little R&R in the Magic Kingdom. Whether I’m in Florida, North Carolina or Michigan, my midwestern heart always beats for the Spartans and for the B1G. And this week we finally kickoff the in-conference games that actual mean something in the race for the B1G Championship. There is a lot of uncertainty in the B1G this year, and I don’t think this week will clear it up but it will start to shape the picture and bring it in to focus.

I’m 33-8 for the season so far, let’s take a look at my picks for Week #5…

#14 Ohio State @ #20 Michigan State – 3:30 on ABC. First thing, WHOOHOOO that ESPN’s College Gameday is back in East Lansing. That’s two years in a row!  I’ll be watching that all morning and trying to maintain an acceptable level of anxiety. I’m concerned about Braxton Miller and the Buckeye defensive line; you got to respect Ohio State. I’m hopeful and optimistic that A-Max can put the ball in the hands of the Spartan receivers corps, and that they can complete the transaction by holding on to it. Lastly, I’ve got nothing but love for Le’Veon Bell and for the Spartan defense. The added impact of the SpartanNation cheering their fully-tailgated asses off will give our Spartans an extra boost. GO GREEN!

Indiana @ Northwestern – Noon on BTN.  The 2-1 Hoosiers are coming off a Bye week and they are looking 100% better than the 2011 squad. The Wilcats are 4-0 and have actually played decent quality teams. The Northwestern defense is the difference in this game. Northwestern by a score.

Penn State @ Illinois – Noon on ESPN.  Both teams are 2-2, but the Nittany Lions have the momentum and they have so much to play for. The Illini just aren’t up for this task. Penn State by 14.

Minnesota @ Iowa – Noon on ESPN-2.  This one is for the Floyd of Rosedale, probably the best-named rivalry trophy in all of sports in my opinion. And Minnesota knows how to win it too. The Gophers are 4-0 and riding high in Coach Kill’s second year at the helm, and I like what I’ve from their defense. The Hawkeyes on the other hand is 2-2 and seems to be in a downward spiral. I’ll take Minnesota in OT by three.

Marshall @ Purdue – 3:15 on BTN.  The only non-con game for the B1G this week and it’s against the #1 passing game in the NCAA. It’s also against one of the worst defenses in the NCAA. Marshall knows how to score and how to be scored upon. Purdue looks good this year and the Boilermaker offense can move the chains too. Unlike Marshall, Purdue has what looks to be a very good defense. Purdue by 17.

Wisconsin @ #22 Nebraska – 8:00 on ABC.  A great primetime matchup in the B1G this week. Both schools are 3-1 going in to this one. The Badgers offense has sputtered but the defense has been their saving grace. The Cornhusker’s offense is legit, especially the ground attack, and their defense is solid. And the game is in Lincoln. Lastly, the Huskers want to erase the memory of the beating they took last year so they should have a little more fire in their bellies going in to this one. I’ll take Nebraska by 10.

Michigan – Bye week.

Best of luck to all the B1G teams this week. I’ll be rooting my ass off for the Spartans and enjoying a great day of college football. If you’re going to go, you might as well…

GO GREEN!

Rankings & Ramblings – Week #4

I didn’t really expect the win over Eastern Michigan to boost the Michigan State Spartans in the rankings. In fact, from watching the game, I was worried that the Spartans might lose a tick or two. But nope, MSU moves up one to #20 following their win on Saturday.

Let’s take a look at how the B1G is holding up in the rankings…

Ohio State moves from #16 to #14 after a win over UAB. That is more or less the vacuum effect at work.

Nebraska re-entered the rankings last week and this week they move from #25 to #22. From a scheduling standpoint, that game is an embarrassment to the Cornhuskers and to the B1G, but I guess a win is a win in the eyes of the Associated Press. At least they kicked the shit out of them.

And then there is Michigan. I’ve been saying “over-hyped” and “over-ranked” since the pre-season, but I’m “over-biased” against the Wolverines. They shit the bed against Notre Dame and tumbled from #18 to un-ranked. They might sneak back at some point, the media loves Robinson and they historically love Michigan.

Just outside the Top 25 is Northwestern at #26 with 89 votes, just three behind #25 Baylor. Also receiving votes were Michigan (44), Wisconsin (13) and Purdue (5). I guess I’m a little surprised that Minnesota at 4-0 can’t muster a single vote.

Conference play begins next week and the Michigan State – Ohio State game will have implications in terms of rankings, but isn’t that important in terms of making it to Indy for the B1G Championship game. No matter, I’m pulling for the Spartans to field a fired-up, angry, aggressive, and productive team against the Buckeyes. Say it loud, say it proud…

GO GREEN!

ESPN College GameDay coming to East Lansing Again!

It was just announced that ESPN will host it’s College GameDay program from East Lansing this Saturday when Michigan State takes on Ohio State at 3:30 pm. This will be GameDay’s sixth visit to East Lansing in it’s 26 year run. The Spartans are 2-3 when GameDay comes to town, including last year’s Hail Mary TD against Wisconsin.

I love the exposure for MSU and for the B1G. I can already predict what Herbie and Desmond will pick. Herbie went to Ohio State and Desmond hates MSU. But I don’t care, they’re good guys and the show is really fun. So you know what I always say…

GO GREEN!

Week #4 is history.

Week #4 felt pretty much like week #3. Most everyone played at home and most everyone won. Notre Dame beat a team from the state of Michigan and three teams remain undefeated. Not quite Ground Hog day, but close.  Anyway, at the end of last week I was 28-5 on my B1G picks, let’s see how I’m holding up…

Ohio State vs. UAB – I predicted that OSU would take UAB out behind the middle school at get them pregnant. They won, but it wasn’t a total stroll in the park. 29-5.

Wisconsin vs. UTEP – I predicted that the Bandger’s offense would start to gain traction and they would beat the Miners by 17. Had Montee Ball not gone out early I might have been right on the money. Wisconsin by 11. 30-5.

Iowa vs. Central Michigan – I knew the Chips could play, but I didn’t they could hang with the B1G so I picked the Hawks by 17. Oops. Iowa loses by one. 30-6.

Northwestern vs. South Dakota – I’m thinking the Wildcats are legit B1G contenders which is way i picked them by 28. They won by 31. 31-6.

Nebraska vs. Idaho State – I took the Huskers by a “bunch”. They won by 64, so I think I nailed that one. 31-6.

Penn State vs. Temple – The Lions are dealing with more this year than most teams deal with over a decade, and they’re handling it well and starting to play some good football. I picked Ficken to make them all and Penn State to win by seven. Ficken went 1/1 for FGs and 3/3 for PATs. Bam. The Lions won by 11. 32-6.

Michigan @ Notre Dame – I said the Irish would shut down Robinson and his big-play ability, and boy was I right. Michigan turned the ball over six times including four Robinson picks and a Robinson fumble. OUCH! I picked Notre Dame by 10 and it was Notre Dame by seven. 33-6.

Minnesota vs. Syracuse – I turned by back on the Gophers and, frankly, I was wrong. They beat the Orange by seven. 33-7.

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech – I bet on the Illini defense to slow LT down. That didn’t happen at all. Tech by 28. 33-8.

I’m 33-8 after four weeks of kickin’ ass and pickin’ games, and that’s 80% accuracy. And after the non-sched season we’ve had, I think that’s pretty darn good. Next week we start conference games so the number of picks get’s cut in half but the stakes are more than doubled. It all gets real next week and the race to the B1G championship game really starts now. Best of luck to all the B1G brethren, and never forget…

GO GREEN!

Michigan State 23, Eastern Michigan 7. Spartans go to 3-1.

I didn’t expect much from the Eagles. I underestimated them completely. I’m not saying they’re amazing or anything, but they came to play and they played to win. And they hung for three quarters. Three frustrating, uncomfortable, quiet quarters. And then in the fourth quarter, the beast awoke and starting doing what I know this Spartan football team is capable of doing. They completed passes, They converted on third down. They blocked well. They ran hard. It all started clicking. And Michigan State ‘s defense remained stout and kept Eastern Michigan in check.

How about Le’Veon Bell‘s 253 yards rushing? Yes, I said 253 yards. Awesome. He is a bull! He runs hard; right at you and right through you if you’re trying to tackle him alone. Bell had 36 carries for 253 yards and a TD. He averaged seven yards per carry. My hat is off to Le’Veon Bell as he vowed he would do whatever it takes to win following the crushing defeat by Notre Dame, and he showed that yesterday. He flat-out pounded the ball yesterday. He was even returning punts!

I miss Kurt and B.J. and Keshawn and… can’t do that. Can’t look back. Andrew Maxwell and his receivers are coming along, but I’m realizing that I don’t really expect a pass to be caught any more. Not even one right on the numbers. I’m holding my breath every time. That’s no way to live. But in the fourth quarter the passing game gelled and it felt a bit more like old times. AndyMax went 16-29 for 159 yards, one TD and no picks. Not terrible stats, but of those 15 incomplete passes, half were catchable. Very catchable. But the decision making is improving, the poise in the pocket, and the touch on the ball. Good progress from Maxwell, for sure.

And who would of thought that tight end Dion Sims would become our go-to pass catcher? Sims is a huge guys with soft hands and he can get open and make plays. He had six receptions for 112 yards and a TD. The rest of the boy’s numbers are pretty forgettable: Bennie Fowler four for 19 yards, Keith Mumphery three for 21 yards, and Tony Lippett two for 15 yards. Come on guys, we need you to get open and haul ’em in.

Dan Conroy looked better. Not perfect, but better. He hit three of four for 35, 44 and 35. He missed his first attempt and then made the next three, so I like how this is trending. We need solid place-kicking this year, so I’m happy to see improvement.

And lastly, the defense. The Spartan defense is what’s keeping them in games. The defense held the Eagles to 46 yards rushing in 29 attempts. That’s a 1.6 yard per carry average. That’s awesome. In the air, they allowed EMU to go 13-26 for 137 yards. That’s respectable. The two things I see is that we’re not getting turn-overs like we did last year, and we’re allowing a few big plays.

Interceptions and fumble recoveries are key to taking momentum away and eroding the confidence of the opposing offense. We’ve had many almost picks, but we need those to become actual picks. And maybe a pick-six once in a while too!

I worry about the big-play making ability of some of the teams we have coming up.

So good job Spartans. You hung in there and kept fighting and in the fourth quarter it started clicking. Let’s see more of that kind of play. Ohio State is up next as Urban Meyer and his undefeated Buckeyes visit East Lansing and the B1G season gets underway. I hope the home crowd is fired-up and going crazy supporting the Spartans in what will surely prove to be a challenging match-up.

Like I was standing in the student section at Spartan Stadium, I say…

GO GREEN!

B1G Week #4 Picks.

The non-con road ends here. It’s been a crazy, unpredictable and not-great non-conference season for the B1G, but things settled down (for the most part) last week and this week is looking to remain fairly stable as well. Every team plays at home this week except for Michigan, btw. And even though the B1G has been unpredictable, I’ve done a fairly good job at predicting the games. I’m 28-5 on the season so far which is like batting .848. Let’s make some picks and then watch some football and see how it all shakes out.

#21 Michigan State vs. Eastern Michigan – 3:30 on BTN.  The Spartans need to work out some issues and today is the day to make progress. I don’t pick the MSU games because I would never pick the Spartans to lose, so it would be pointless. And it just seems like bad ju-ju.  But I will say this… GO GREEN!

#16 Ohio State vs. UAB – Noon on BTN.  Cake. Bucknuts by about as many as they want. Yawn.

Wisconsin vs. UTEP – Noon on ESPN-2.  I can’t recall a worse Badger offense. Just not good. But many of the elements are there so I do think that they may be able to pull it together and create some kind of cohesive unit. At least the defense is solid. The Miners are simply not good. Wisconsin by 17.

Iowa vs. Central Michigan – Noon on BTN.  Iowa lost to Iowa State and squeaked by Northern Illinois, so this is not a powerhouse Hawkeye squad by any means. The only thing worse than their running game is their passing game, but like the Badgers, the defense is still formidable. The Chippewas are coming off a by week after taking a beating by the Spartans, but I still don’t think then are up to B1G standards this year. Iowa by 21.

Northwestern vs. South Dakota – 3:30 on BTN.  I love that the Wildcats are undefeated AND that they have beat legitimate football squads in Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. The Coyotes should be a sure-thing for the Wildcats, but I just want these boys to be careful and not take anything for granted. I’ll take Northwestern by 28.

#25 Nebraska vs. Idaho State – 3:30 on BTN.  It’s nice to type a number before “Nebraska” again as they re-enter the Top 25 this week. Even though Bo left the game last week with a tummy ache or sunburn or whatever it was, the Huskers offense continues to score well, especially on the ground. T-Mart is as advertised: improved mechanics and decision making and his stats reflect that improvement. The Bengals don’t really have a chance in this one. Nebraska by a bunch.

Penn State vs. Temple – 3:30 on ABC / ESPN-2. Even though I didn’t call it, I’m glad the Lions got a win last week. They are starting to move behind the crisis and all the abandonment issues and pull-together and play some Penn Sate football. That being said, I think they will have their hands full with the Owls this week and they can not give anything less than 100%. Ficken makes them all today and Penn State wins by a score.

#18 Michigan @ #11 Notre Dame – 7:30 on NBC. This is the game of the week for several reasons, but mainly because of how freakin’ nut-balls the game was last year and it appears that both teams are better than last year. Unless the Irish have a post-Spartan victory hangover, I think their defense shuts down Robinson and his big-play ability. Bottom line, the Wolverines are, per usual, over-rated and over-hyped. The hype has died down after getting bitch-slapped by Bama, but experience tells us that Michigan fails against a team with a solid defense. I’m thinking it’s a low-scoring affair and my gut says Shoelace might even get inured or go out for an extended period of time. I’m taking Notre Dame by 10.

Minnesota vs. Syracuse – 8:00 on BTN.  The Golden Gophers are undefeated! Haven’t typed that many times, maybe never. The the Orange is no joke and they can throw the ball better than most. Remember, they put up 41 on Northwestern and 29 on USC, so they can score. The issue is their defense which is simply not very good. The Gophers are well-rounded and they have a sturdy defense, but I just don’t think it’s enough this week. I’m going with Syracuse by three in OT.

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech – 8:00 on BTN. I wish we could have seen the Bulldogs play Texas Tech as that would have given us a really good read on how legit LT really is. They are as lop-sided a team as I’ve ever seen. The are all offense with dangerous running and passing games. They are averaging 56 points! But then there is the defense which ranks 121’s in Points Allowed. Ouch. The Illini hasn’t really put up big yards, but do think they can and will score in this game. The game really comes down to Illinois’ defense and can they slow or stop Tech. I say they can’t stop them, but they can slow them down enough to carry the day. Illinois by three.

Well, that’s my picks. We’ll see in a few hours how things are shaping up. Not much TV coverage today so I’m off to Rudino’s to sit on their roof-top bar and cheer on the Spartans with my B1G brethren. And I’m really looking forward to next week when everything gets real as conference play begins. This season is going to be crazy. Best of to all the B1G this week, and, as always…

GO GREEN!

Rankings & Ramblings – Week #3

It’s still too soon. That game Saturday hurt my soul. Writing my post the next morning was like giving a eulogy for a loved one, you just have to man-up and do it. I did. And I’ve been avoiding the issue ever since.

The rankings came out Sunday and our Michigan State Spartans tumbled from #10 to #21. Gravity is not our friend.

Even though Ohio State and Michigan won their games, they both lost ground as well. The Buckeyes dropped from #12 to #16 and the Wolverines from #17 to #18. Michigan I get. There’s no reward for playing utterly unchallenging squads. But Ohio State played Cal, and apparently just didn’t play them well enough. The Bucknuts do look a little one-dimensional.

And check out Nebraska re-surfacing at #25. Way to go Huskers.

I embrace the Spartans #21 ranking. After last week, I think that’s about right. We’ve got no hype and no expectations any longer. The offense has to move forward or we’ll be a 50/50 team this year. But I think it can happen. We just need to want it to happen.

Go Green!