Michigan State 17, TCU 16. Spartans win BWW bowl, end season 7-6.

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Congrats to Coach Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans for their win in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. That’s six bowls in a row for Coach D. and back-to-back post-season wins. 2012 was a tough year for the Spartans (and Spartan fans), but it’s certainly nice to go out on a bowl win.

I must admit that I didn’t watch the game live because it kicked-off at 10:15pm and I had to get up early to drive 850 miles the next morning. I got up before dawn, checked the score and boy was I happy. I went to bed hoping for the best but fearing the worst. And it was only fitting that it was a one point win. Of course it was.

When I got home I watched the game on WatchESPN (awesome app, btw) and I’m kind of glad I knew the outcome while I watched otherwise I would have been going nuts with the lack of offense throughout most of the game. So, let’s talk about the offense.

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Le’Veon Bell! What a beast. He pounded away in the first half but seemed to only be able to pick up scraps and bit here and there. I will say this for TCU, they have a great defense and they know how to tackle. Bell said he was going to run the ball down their throat and that is exactly what he did. He just kept coming and in the second half it started to pay off. Bell had 32 carries for 145 yards and a TD, two receptions for 13 yards and, holy shit, a pass for 29 yards. I was waiting for him to kick a field-goal or PAT! I love this guy and I’m saddened by the fact that his true breakout season was a year when MSU’s offense was well below average. I hope he comes back for his senior year but I fear he’s off to the pros.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell splitting time at QB. Maxwell has simply not been as effective as we had hoped, and he certainly has not filled the void left by Kirk Cousins. And when Maxwell couldn’t seem to get the Spartans moving (at all), why not try something new? And although neither of their stats were awesome, Cook seemed to move the Spartans forward. He seemed to foster some momentum and he was able to make things happen. Maxwell seemed to get chased around mostly.

Maxwell went 6-15 for 28 yards. There was a streak there where he was almost picked off on three of his throws, and then that was was followed by Maxwell getting sacked or pressured in to throwing it away. Cook went 4-11 for 47 yards and a TD. Add in Bell’s 29 yard toss and you have a total of 104 yards in the air. Pretty terrible. Again, a lot of credit to TCU’s defense, they applied a lot of pressure on the QB and had excellent coverage. State needs massive improvement in this area moving in to 2013 and I’m starting to think that maybe Connor Cook is the guy to lead the way.

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Special teams had a great day. Hey Dan Conroy, thank you. You made every PAT this season but you missed a bunch of mid-length FGs which was especially painful when you teams average loss in B1G play was less than three points. But you made the game winner in your final game as a Spartan and that goes a long way towards forgetting those misses.

Oh, and Mike Sadler, with one exception, your punting was awesome. You punted 11 times! Who’s ever heard of a team that punts 11 times and wins? Ten of those punts were high, long and glorious, especially the one that the Horned Frogs muffed which led to the second Spartan TD. And I think we have you for two more years!

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For all of the offensive struggles this year, the Spartan defense has been outstanding. A top ten unit all season long, they played as well as any team in the NCAA. This defense is the only reason the 2012 Spartans didn’t have an awful season. Hat’s off to William Gholston for four solo tackles, five assists and one sack. Gholston brought pressure and intensity throughout the game. The defense overall looked really, really good with excellent play by many players. And how about Isaiah Lewis‘ interception? Loved that.

The game was very evenly matched with both teams in it right up until the clock ran out. The first half was a bit of a slog for the Spartan faithful, but the second half saw greater intensity, better execution and a flat-out will to win. I’m really happy that Michigan State won this game. As I said, it was a tough year and ending it on a bowl loss would have been bad.

This team is very good, there is just something very wrong with the offense that the coaching staff needs to figure out and fix for 2013. Maybe it’s Maxwell? Maybe it’s the receivers? Maybe it’s the play calling? More likely, it’s a bit of everything. We will likely not have Le’Veon Bell to save our bacon next year, so we need to get it sorted out. The Spartans will not be ranked in the pre-season, and they will be underdogs in most games, and that’s just the way I like it.

Enjoy the winter Spartans and Spartan Nation, and let’s get fired up for the spring when we get our next dose of college football.

Go Green!

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B1G Bowl Picks.

These are the last picks for 2012. And these are some tough picks too. The B1G does not have a cakewalk post-season by any means. My goal is to do better than .500 on my picks. Here’s what I’m thinking…

Gophers

Minnesota vs. Texas TechMeineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, 12/28 @9:00pm. The X-Factor in this game is coaching. Tech will have an interim coach at the helm and that could hurt them. But other than that, the Red Raiders are clearly the better team. They’ve got the #2 passing offense in the country and they average 501 yards and 37.8 points per game. If it wasn’t for their crappy defense, they’d probably be in a BCS bowl or better. The Gophers offense is not much of weapon, but I think they will find a way to score. And even though their defense is good (not great), Tech is going to score a bunch more. I don’t think the coaching changes have much of an effect, it’s Texas Tech by 17.

Spartans

Michigan State vs. TCUBuffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 12/29 @ 10:15pm.  What’s with the late start? Good God. At least we’re not playing a Texas team in the Lone Star State like Minnesota! I see this as a pretty even match-up. The Horned Frogs average about 10 more points per game, but the Spartans allow about seven fewer on defense. I believe the Spartans can keep the Frogs below their average, but in order to win, the Spartans need to score above their average. If MSU can put up 28 points, I say they win the game. If they can’t, well bring on 2013!

Wildcats

#20 Northwestern vs. Mississippi StateTaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, 1/1 @ Noon.  This is a pretty good match-up. The Bulldogs are a solid and balanced team and although they aren’t really great in any one category, they are good and they have a very good defense. The Wildcats are a bit less balanced, but they have an exceptional rushing attack that can give you fits. I think the Wildcats can put up the points, so I’ll take Northwestern by a score.

Boilermakers

Purdue vs. Oklahoma StateHeart of Dallas Bowl, 1/1 @ Noon.  The Boilermakers are between coaches for their bowl game and that’s not going to help them against a high-scoring Cowboy offense. The Cowboys average 15 more points per game than the Boilermakers and yet the two defenses are pretty well matched but Purdue is weak against the pass. The only thing in Purdue’s favor is that OSU hasn’t faired well away from home, but I just don’t think that will be enough. Oklahoma State by 17.

Wolverines

#18 Michigan vs. #10 South CarolinaOutback Bowl, 1/1 @ 1:00pm.  God, I hate Michigan, but I’ve got stay objective.  Okay.  The Gamecocks are favored by 5.5 for one simple reason: The are the a great team. And the Wolverines have shat themselves in games against great teams this season (Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State). Put another way, everything the Michigan is good at, South Carolina is better with the exception rushing yards, and even that’s close. My gut says that Michigan will try some crazy shit on offense using Robinson  in a variety of ways, and that is either going to work for a half or not work at all. The Old Ball Coach has seen it all. I’m going South Carolina by three.

Huskers

#16 Nebraska vs. #7 GeorgiaCapitol One Bowl, 1/1 @ 1:00pm.  I’m glad we’re not playing the Dawgs again this year! George is very, very good. Almost (it was so close) National Championship good. Nebraska is good, but not as good. The Huskers are coming off of a 70-31 beat-down in the B1G Championship game and they’re either coming in steaming mad or broken. Keep in mind that Nebraska’s read-option style plays well in the B1G where it is not the norm, but it’s standard fair in the SEC and I don’t think the Bulldogs will have too much of a problem shutting it down. I’m going Georgia by 17.

Badgers

Wisconsin vs. #6 StanfordThe Rose Bowl, 1/1 @ 5:00pm.  Coach Brah is gone and Coach Anderson won’t be on-site so AD Alvarez is putting on the red winbreaker and taking to the sidelines. At least Alvarez has won in Pasadena, so maybe that’s a plus but what about all of the assistants that have already left? I like the Badgers and I think the Badgers can win this game. It seems like a fitting end after their coach bailed on them. It all comes down to what the Badgers can do in terms of scoring and stockpiling a bunch of points. Stanford is methodical and they will comeback to win if you leave the door cracked.  I want the B1G to win the Rose Bowl this year some I’m picking Wisconsin by just one point.

Well I must say that is not a very rosy outlook for the B1G, but it’s probably rosier than anyone in the media would project. I hope the B1G surprises me and everyone else by winning more games than they lose, but don’t bet the farm. This just isn’t our year. Bring on 2013 already. Best of luck to all the B1G teams in their bowls, and I hope everyone enjoys the games.

Merry Christmas and happy new year everyone.

Go B1G!

A Salute To Captain Kirk.

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It great to see our boy Kirk Cousins kicking some ass in the pros. After being drafted behind RG3, it seemed like Cousins was destined to HoyerLand as the guy who comes in when the star takes a lick and needs to recover for a few plays. And that may be the case, but Cousins being Cousins, he is taking every opportunity to show what he’s made. And to good result.

Last week he came off the bench to lead the Redskins to OT after a nice TD pass and then running it in himself for the two-point conversion to tie it up. A field-goal later and they beat the Ravens. Bam!

This week he started and went 26-37 for 308 yards (plus another 35 yards rushing) and two TDs in a 38-21 win over the Browns. Cousines looked a bit nervy at first but he settled in, led the offense and threw the ball really well.

This game brought me back to his last few years at Michigan State and how amazing he was. I think I didn’t fully appreciate what we had in Captain Kirk, but boy is that clear to me now. I’m not saying Andrew Maxwell is terrible, but compared to the veteran captain, he’s still trying to find his way.

Congrats to Kirk Cousins, you represent your team, your school and yourself well.

Rankings & Ramblings – Week #14

The 2012 B1G Championship is over and Wisconsin hoisted the hardware for a second consecutive year. Now, let’s see how the B1G Championship effects the BCS Rankings shall we…

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We have to start with Nebraska as they were our best hope, but after the utter and complete destruction they received, they have fallen from #12 to #16. Michigan popped up one from #19 to #18 and Northwestern climbed from #22 to #20, and both teams accomplished this by sitting on the couch and watching football on TV. It pays to not lose, even if that means not playing.

And now let’s have a look at the AP Top 25 to see how the B1G is doing…

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Without taking one snap this weekend, Ohio State moves up from #4 to #3. The same kind of not playing = not losing vacuum action pulled Michigan up from #21 to #19 and Northwestern from #22 to #21. But not so much for Nebraska which fully tumbled from #14 to #23. The Also-Rans include Penn State at #26 and Wisconsin at #28.

With most of the fussin’ and fightin’ behind us for 2012, it’s now just the bowl games. I’ll do one more of these ranking posts once the dust has cleared. Then we wipre the slate clean and start getting itchy for the pre-season rankings to come out a mere forever from now.

Best of luck to the B1G in the bowls, let’s get it done this year.

Go B1G.

Take the skinheads bowling, take them bowling.

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But instead of skinheads, let’s take the B1G bowling. (My apologies  for this lame intro, especially to Camper Van Beethoven fans.)

Anyway, the bowl invites to the B1G have gone out and the schools have accepted.  Here’s what we’re looking at:

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The Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs. Stanford

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Capitol One Bowl – Nebraska vs. Georgia

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Outback Bowl – Michigan vs. South Carolina

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TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl – Northwestern vs. Mississippi State

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Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – Michigan State vs, TCU

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Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas – Minnesota vs. TBD Texas Tech

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Heart of Dallas Bowl – Purdue vs. Oklahoma State

No at-large BCS bowl this year, but that was to be expected as Nebraska was our only hope there and they got crushed by Wisconsin.

I don’t think anyone has a cakewalk here. The Bulldogs will give the Cornhuskers all they can handle. And unlike last year, the Wolverines have a formidable opponent in the Gamecocks. The Horned Frogs scare me, no kidding. These should be some really good games.

We’re still waiting to see which Big-12 team the Gophers will play. I hope Ohio State and Penn State enjoy watching these games as much as I will (file that under life’s a bitch sometimes.)

Go B1G!

Wisconsin 70, #12 Nebraska 31. Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Again-again.

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Well that’s how you do that. Damn!

I was walking my dogs so I tuned in about two minutes late and the Badgers up 14-0 already. They put the Huskers on their heels and then pushed them off the cliff and laugh-pointed as they fell like Wile E. Coyote after an ACME mispap. Wow, that was a beat-down.

Blackshirts? Not today boy.

I picked Nebraska to win based on their record and the fact that they have played more consistently throughout the season. I also admitted that I wanted Wisconsin to win because I’m more of a Badger fan than a Husker fan. So once again my head was wrong and my gut was right. Doesn’t happen that often.

Way to go Badgers. You’re going to your third straight Rose Bowl (yes, I’m jealous) so let’s try to actually win one, okay? Wisconsin will take on Stanford on New Years Day. Play like you played in the B1G Championship and I don’t think anyone can beat you.

Go B1G!

It’s Stanford.

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We will find out tonight if it’s Nebraska or Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, but the one thing we do know is that Stanford will be representing the Pac-12.

That was a hard-fought game against UCLA with a bunch of momentum swings and big plays. Congrats Stanford. See you on New Years Day.