Michigan State 30, Northwestern 6; Spartans are 10-1, 7-0 in the B1G and Champs of the Legends Division.

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Winning over the Wildcats makes it official: The Michigan State Spartans are the Champions of the Legends Division. Congrats to Ohio State as Leaders Division Champs. We will see you in Indy in two weeks, green pants and all.

Thinking back to the first four weeks, I am amazed at what this Spartan squad has accomplished and how they have over-delivered. Excellent coaching and very talented players that strive to improve and play together as a team. It’s really been quite a journey, and it’s not over yet.

This is not a surprise win as the Wildcats have been struggling ever since Ohio State’s comeback win. They are not a bad team, but they are injured and seem to have less will to win than is needed to be competitive in-conference. Perhaps we are seeing the groundwork for an outstanding Northwestern squad in 2014 ala the 2012 Spartans? Anyway, the Wildcats came out with some zest but it fizzled as the day went on and the Spartans momentum grew.

Let’s start with the offense this time. 464 total yards with 293 in the air and 171 on the ground. Not as balanced as Coach D likes but healthy numbers none the less. The Spartans went 4-12 on third down conversions which is too low for this team which excels at moving the chains. Zero turnovers is beautiful.

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Connor Cook continues to impress and even though he started slow, he ended up 16 for 23 with two TDs and 12.7 yard average. And once again he spread the ball around hitting eight different targets. Bennie Fowler reeled in a beauty going 87 yards for the TD and ended up with two for 99 on the day. Then there was Tony Lippett with three for 64, Josiah Price with three for 35 and a TD, Jeremy Langford had two for 35 and Aaron Burbridge had two for 22. With one exception, these guys hauled in everything that was catchable and several that were questionable.

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On the ground it was all Jeremy Langford again. Langford had his sixth consecutive game with over 1o0 yards rushing as he had 25 carries for 150 yards and two TDs. This guy has been all over the field for MSU over the years but he has really found his calling. He is sort of a mash-up of several great Spartan running backs as he has power, has speed, has the cuts and jukes, etc. but probably not the best at any one of those, just really solid at all of them. And he can catch and block. I love this guy.

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On defense, the SpartanDawgs once again held their opponent to zero TDs. The goal-line stands were solid. The pass-protection was genuine No Fly Zone. And frankly, the run game got shut down pretty early as well. Northwestern was held to 319 total yards with 239 passing and only 80 rushing. The Wildcats could move the ball, they just couldn’t find a way to string it all together to get down the field and score. The Spartan defense played very hard-hitting football on this 5-degree wind chill day in Evanston and I can’t imagine it felt good to be wearing purple and taking those hits. Somewhere in the third quarter, the spirit seemed to leave the body.

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The Wildcats played three QBs and ended up wtih three picks; two from Siemian and one from Oliver (his only pass attempt). Kurtis Drummond had a great game with two of the picks and Darqueze Denard had the other.

On special teams, Mike Sadler had a not-great day but I think it was mostly due to the 45mph winds and bitter cold. He kept most punts low averaging on 41 yards and only one was downed inside the 20. Wind and cold won’t be problems inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Oh, and enough with the blocked extra points by the way. They never seem to show the replay so I can’t tell if Michael Geiger is kicking low or if the line is letting too much pressure through. Once is a fluke, but twice is the beginning of a trend. Let’s end that trend right here and now before it becomes a factor in a close one.

Great win this week Spartans and congrats on winning the Legends division. That’s twice in three years!

Now, let’s stay in the present. Minnesota is coming to East Lansing next week and they are dangerous. If the Spartans start looking ahead to Ohio State and the B1G Championship game, they could find themselves dropping this last one and going in to Indy with no momentum. Let’s stay focused and keep our eye on the task at hand which is a great Senior Day win at home over the Gophers. Then it’s Ohio State!



MSU 55, Indiana 3. Spartans go to 9-2, 6-1 in the B1G clinching the Legends Division.

What a great day for the Michigan State Spartans, Champions of the B1G Legends division. That just feels good to say. I wouldn’t have ever been bold enough to predict it back in September, and I’m excited as hell about it now. Way to go Spartans!

Yes, we blew out the Hoosiers 55-3, we kept the Old Brass Spittoon, and that is good news. Cheers to that!

The Seniors got to play their last game in East Lansing in triumphant fashion; they won big. And they looked and played great. This Senior class is the winningest in Michigan State history. Many of these guys were in the first class that Coach Dantonio recruited back in 2007 with the rest from 2008, so these are all Coach D’s guys. These guys are a special group. I think I’ll hold off on call them out individually until this season is over, but hats off to the Seniors!

So let’s look at the game.

I think everyone got in on the 174 yard ground attack, even Joel Foreman had three yards. This was the typical Spartan team rushing effort with Bell for 68 yards, Rock for 34 and two TDs, Hill for 30, K-Mart for 18 and a TD and Caper for 16.

And the story isn’t much different in the 296 yard air attack. Cousins went 16-23 for 272 yards and three TDs. Maxwell was able to take some B1G snaps and went 4-7 for 22 yards. On the receiving end, K-Mart had eight catches for 99 yards and a TD, Cunningham had six catches for 132 yards and two TDs, and Linthicum, Bell, Celek, Nichol, Sontag and Palazeti all recorded catches as well.

The defense was all over Indiana allowing only 94 yards rushing and 142 yards passing. State had three sacks and two picks, one for an 86-yards TD by Johnny Adams.

Overall, just a great day of football for the Spartans and a great way to finish up at home. And down in the locker room the team was presented with B1G Legends Division Champions hats and a trophy. It’s cool to know MSU is and will always be the first Legends Division Champion.

Typically I’d say something like “one more to go, let’s focus on next week…”, but now we know for sure there are three more to go. We only know who were playing next week with our match-up against Northwestern, but we know were playing either Penn State or replaying Wisconsin the week after that for the B1G Championship. That third game, a bowl game, will be determined by the outcome in Indy. Very exciting. I’m loving every minute of it. Let’s get fired up for the Wildcats next week and then we’ll take it from there.

And, as always, Go Green!

MSU 3, Nebraska 24. Spartans go to 6-2, 3-1 in the B1G.

Nobody likes to lose. I certainly don’t. But a hard-fought game that ultimately becomes a loss is an easier pill to swallow than 60-minutes of disfunction. And yesterday’s Spartan-Husker game was a very bitter pill. Taste’s like Iowa 2010.

The Spartan stats don’t lie.

On offense, 101 total yards rushing averaging 3.4 yards per carry. 86 yards passing with Cousins going 11-27 with one interception. Zero receptions for B.J. Cunningham. Cousins was sacked like 45 times (or so it seems). Total offense was 187 yards with no TDs and one FG. Credit to the Nebraska defense (they finally received their notorious black shirts after the game), no doubt about that, but boy were the Spartans off. Just not there at all.

Defense was a better but not spectacular. Burkhead ran for 130 of Nebraska’s 190 rushing yards, but they averaged only 3.3 yards per carry.

“T-Magic” had 80 yards in the air, which after seeing the mechanics of his throw is remarkably good – he throws the ball like a 7th grader. Martinez went 7-13 also with one pick.

With a few exceptions, the Cornhuskers were running the show. They were doing their thing and MSU was reacting. In a nutshell, Nebraska was totally up for this game and Michigan State was not.

So, the Spartans head back home. Re-group and re-load. We’ve got Minnesota at home next week. The good news is that the “October From Hell” is finally over. We played Ohio State in the Shoe, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska in Lincoln, and we came away 3-1. In September I was just hoping and praying that we would be 2-2 in that stretch, so I should be pleased. And I guess that I am. But that damn bitter taste just won’t go away.

All the B1G teams played yesterday, and it was an interesting day. I’m 14-4 on the conference season going in to this week. Here’s how it played out…

Northwestern beat Indiana – I picked NW by two TDs, and they did a little better than that in their 59-38 score-fest.

#18 Michigan beat Purdue – Shoelace & co. took it to Purdue 36-14. Purdue maintains their perfect alternating win / loss pattern. I picked U-M because I thought they would be rested and highly motivated to prove they are not the 2009 or 2010 Wolverines. So far, it looks like they are not, but they have some tougher match-up still in front of them.

Minnesota beat Iowa – Yep. Who’d of thunk it. I guess when Floyd of Rosedale is on the line, the Gophers can get it done. I missed on this one.

#19 Penn State beat Illinois – I picked the Lions because they were playing in Happy Valley, and I believe they are the better team. They waited until the fourth quarter to prove it, but they got it done in the snow.

Ohio State beat #15 Wisconsin – I underestimated the Buckeyes and I overestimated the fury that the Badgers would bring after a crushing defeat last week. What a second half. Braxton Miller may be the real deal.

I’m now 17-6 for conference games. Pretty good, I think. For the Lucky Strike Extra, Notre Dame blew out Navy. I called that too.

I think the Spartans will feel this one for a while. But Dantonio will use it to get them focused and fired-up for the Gophers and beyond. Unfortunately, the B1G race just got a lot more interesting. Bring on November!

Go Green!

B1G GameDay!

I already miss the ruckus and spectacle of College GameDay being in East Lansing, but it was fun while it lasted.

This week it’s #11 Michigan State vs. #14 Nebraska in Lincoln. Both teams are 6-1 overall with MSU 3-0 and NU 2-1 in the B1G. This game is important as it is the match-up of two schools likely to be at the top of the Legends at the end of the year, and winning this game could decide a tie-breaker down the line. Not to mention it’s two really good football teams squaring off for the first time in-conference. The game is set for a Noon kickoff on ESPN / ESPN3.

Elsewhere in the B1G, here’s who’s playing and my predictions:

Northwestern at Indiana – Noon on BTN.  The Wildcats are the best bad team in the B1G. They’ve played some good teams and payed the price. Indiana is just not good. The only thing worse than their offense is their defense. I pick NW by two scores in Bloomington today.

Purdue at #18 Michigan – Noon on ESPN2/ESPN3.  The Boilermakers are 4-3 and they have alternated win / loss all season (they’re up for L based on that pattern). Their running game is solid and their defense isn’t bad either. But then there is the Wolverines. Who can tell what they’ll do now that they have a loss. We know what happened in the past, but I think things are different in Ann Arbor. I’m not saying U-M will be a one loss team at the end of the season, or anything like that. But at home today, after a bye week, I pick Michigan over Purdue.

Iowa at Minnesota – 3:30pm on BTN – Hawk. Eyes.

Illinois at #19 Penn State – 3:30pm on ABC / ESPN2 / ESPN3.  The Illini are 6-2 after starting 4-0. Penn State is 7-1 with their only loss coming from Alabama. This is the (once) overrated vs. the (not for long) underrated, and the Nittany Lion defense is the deciding factor. JoePa gets win #675,921 today at home.

#15 Wisconsin at Ohio State – 8:00pm on ESPN / ESPN3.  The Badgers are mad. And they’re damn good. The Buckeyes are a shadow of their former self. Wisconsin wins in the Shoe decisively.

No byes this week, everybody plays.

Lucky Strike Extra: Navy at Notre Dame – 3:30pm on NBC.  The Midshipmen are sinking fast even with an offense that averages 325 yards on the ground per game. Navy’s defense leaky and their passing game is one of the worst in college football. The Irish strung four solid wins together only to totally collapse against arch-rival USC. I think Notre Dame wins today, but I just don’t know what to think about Coach Kelly and the Fighting Irish these days. Get it together already.

It’s mighty chilly out there, so throw a pot of Chili on the stove, bundle up and hunker down for some B1G football. And lest we forget, Go Green!

Ranks and Rants.

Top Ten? Almost. So close.

The latest BCS rankings have Michigan State at #11, up from #16 after the win over Wisconsin. We are now the highest ranked B1G school. Other MSU rankings: AP #9, USA Today & ESPN: #10.  A nice improvement over 15, 13 and 14 respectively last week. As with last week, this feels pretty good to me.

Other B1G schools…

Nebraska – BCS: #14, AP / USA Today: #13, ESPN: #14.  About the same from last week after dusting Minnesota.

Wisconsin – BCS: #15, AP / ESPN: #12, USA Today: #11. Dropped nine spots are losing to Michigan State.

Michigan – BCS: #18, AP / USA Today / ESPN: #17. No change after a bye week.

Penn State – BCS: #19, AP / ESPN: #21, USA Today: #19.  Up a couple after beating Northwestern.

Illinois – No longer ranked after a loss to Purdue.

Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State and Indiana continue to be unranked.

In terms of B1G standings, MSU leads the Legends and Penn State is starting to pull away in the Leaders:

Five more weeks to go. Anything can happen as we finish out Oct0ber this week and look towards November. It’s gonna get cold! It’s gonna get rough! It’s gonna be B1G!

Go Green!