The collective sigh you heard from East Lansing last week, was from the Spartans imposing their will on the visiting Hoosiers and showing that this is not the same MSU team as in years past. This team showed they will not fold like a tent after two tough losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Now comes the real test - Ohio State was bumped up to Number One after both LSU and Cal lost last week.
Without being too much of a slappy, I believeMSU has a shot at the Buckeyes. Sure it happened nine years ago. There has been no shortage of stories about that game this week.
But I believe MSU has a shot because the coaching staff learned its lesson after the Northwestern game and it showed last week. They will win games this season by running the ball, running it again and then running it some more. Last week, MSU ran the ball, Javon Ringer had over 200 yards as the Spartans kept the ball for over 40 minutes.,
The OSU defense is solid, no doubt about it, but MSU needs to pound the ball again and again to slow the game down, move the chains and keep the Buckeye offense off the field.
I have been correct with the vast majority of my predictions this season, this one may be the wildest.
It's homecoming in East Lansing, and its a night game. That should lead to a Michigan State victory tonight against the Indiana Hoosiers - and Michigan State needs it badly.
Tonight is the night the Spartans have to prove they are different from the teams of the past few years when they imploded under John L. Smith. They blew their first opportunity to prove that last week against lowly Northwestern.
I expect Coach Dantonio to run the ball and continue running the ball, even if the game gets tight. Indiana leads the nation in sacks, so the Spartans can avoid that issue altogether be handing the ball to Javon Ringer and JehuuCaulcrick time and time again. Last week, in overtime, MSU chose to throw the ball four straight times despite Ringer running all over the Wildcats. It didn't work, and I believe the coaching staff will have learned its lesson.
The MSU secondary will have to play MUCH better than it did last week as well to control the IU passing attack led by Kellen Lewis and James Hardy. Lewis will also run the ball, they have plenty of options to go to.
However, when it is all said and done, MSU will learn from its mistakes from a week ago. They will be able to run the ball and the defense will tackle better and the Spartans will earn their first Big Ten win.
Alright, so I did not offer any predictions prior to last weeks game against Northwestern. If I would have done so, I would have been absolutely incorrect, because the idea of a debacle like that did not cross my mind once as I was thinking about that game.
So this is it. It is the seventh game of the Mark Dantonio era and the team has hit a crossroads. All of the talk leading into the Northwestern game was about how this team was different than teams of the past. It was about how they would not fold up like a lawn chair after the tough loss at Wisconsin.
They folded. They gave up 600+ yards to a Northwestern team which lost to Duke earlier in the year.
This is where Dantonio has to make his mark. It is Homecoming. It is a night game. It is a game the Spartans need to win if they have hopes of making a bowl and getting the critics off their back.
The last five games of this season are not as winnable as the first seven have been. This is a must win.
In the biggest conference game of the weekend, MSU (4-0) travels to Wisconsin (4-0) to take on the Badgers.
These two teams have not met since 2004 when MSU waxed 4th-ranked Wisconsin 49-14. Wisconsin came into that game 9-0 while MSU was only 4-5. Overall, Michigan State leads the series 26-19, but Wisconsin has taken seven of the last 10 meetings.
This game will be an old-school smashmouth Big Ten game as both teams will focus on the run, counting on their quarterback to manage the game and not make too many mistakes. P.J. Hill leads the Badger rushing attack with 512 yards and seven TDs on the season so far.
MSU, of course, features Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer in the backfield.
This is will a big test for the Spartans in a what will be a low scoring affair. Things have gone well so far, but I am not sure if they can handle that atmosphere and running attack.
The Spartans kept the streak going and are the only team in history to have won six consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium. Also, Coach Dantonio has become the only coach in MSU history to begin his coaching career with the Spartans 4-0.
The Big Ten season starts on Saturday at Wisconsin. We'll see how "for real" the Spartans are on that road trip.
My oh my, how things have changed. The Spartans are undefeated and are nearly a two-touchdown favorite against the winless Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Let's face it, this is the kind of game that should have MSU fans shaking in their boots. In the past, the Spartans have not handles success very well. Last year, after a 3-0 start, they blew a seemingly insurmountable 19-point fourth quarter lead against the Irish. They then went on to lose six of their next seven games to stay home during bowl season for the third straight year and sent coach John L. Smith packing.
So far, Coach Dantonio has been saying the right things. He has spoken about earning the respect of the fans once again. The team has lost so much respect over recent years that they have yet to sell out a home game in 2007.
MSU, including first-year coaches, has had a tremendous amount of success against Notre Dame. MSU has won seven of the last ten matchups, including five in a row in South Bend. No other team can claim such a streak in that stadium.
Luckily, this year's Notre Dame team is just that bad. They rank dead last in the nation in most offensive categories. Over they games they have yet to score an offensive touchdown. But everyone has heard those numbers in the media this week.
Here is the deal - The Spartans will face some adversity in this game. It is their first road trip of the year against a team desperate not to fall to 0-4 for the first time in their storied history. MSU should be able to run the ball at will and the Spartan defensive line should be able to keep Jimmy Clausen on his back for most of the day. MSU will run for over 200 yards in this game and register at least five sacks.
Well it wasn't always pretty, but Michigan State got the job done, defeating Bowling Green 28-17 in Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans could not get the running game on track and the passing game had its hits and missed as quarterback Brian Hoyer connected on 17-of-29 passed for 250 yards. Junior wide receiver Devin Thomas broke the 100-yards mark for the second game in a row, catching four passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.
MSU (2-0) rushed for 164 yards in the game, led by Javon Ringers 94 yards on 22 carries. Jehuu Caulcrick totaled 55 yards and scored a touchdown. That touchdown moved Ringer into the all-time MSU rushing TD list.
The thing to take away from this game is that the defense stepped when it needed to, causing a few key turnovers - including one which would have resulted in a touchdown if the officials were not so quick on the whistle.
The defense surrendered 47 yards on the ground and 295 through the air to Bowling Green (1-1). Safety Nehemiah Warrick was injured in the first half, so that will be key going forward.
More analysis when we get to sift through the stats and other events from Saturday.
This game should be 28-14, but its not thanks to a terrible call on a BGSU fumble that MSU would have returned for a score if not for an "inadvertent whistle" and a bad interception by Brian Hoyer towards the end of the first half.
For some reason, the MSU running attack is not on track like it should be, only rushing for 59 yards in the half (led by Javon Ringer's 46 yards). The Spartans really need to have the running game fired up to be successful in this game. With the running game, MSU will wear down the smaller Falcons.
As expected the MSU secondary is being tested by the BGSU passing game, led by Tyler Sheehan's 214 yards, one TD and one interception.
Look for the defense to continue to play well and MSU to pound the ball more to wear down Bowling Green.
After last week's debacle in Ann Arbor, coaches around the country are warning their teams not to overlook their lesser opponents.
While Bowling Green comes to East Lansing from the Mid-American Conference, they took down Big Ten rival Minnesota in Minnesota last week, 32-31. Let's hope Coach Dantonio has the troops ready for the Falcons, we all know the Spartans have not handled success well in the past.
Things to look for:
- MSU's running game: BGSU gave up 246 rushing yards to the Gophers last week. The running game is the strength of MSU, so look for Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer to get the ball early and often.
- MSU's secondary: They will be tested againt Bowling Green's air attack, which rang up 412 yards through the air against Minnesota.Look for Nehemiah Warrick and Otis Wiley to step up their game at the safety position while Kendall Davis-Clark and Ross Weaver will have to play big at the corners.
As much as it didn't hurt Michigan State fans' feelings that their cousins from down the road in Ann Arbor suffered the biggest upset defeat in college football history last week, one has to admit the game has been a little overblown.
Yes, the loss by Michigan to Appalachian State was the first time a ranked 1A team lost to a 1AA team. And yes, the game really was not as close as the score indicated (Michigan actually had to rally to beat the Mountaineers, after Appy State missed a field goal and dropped a wide-open touchdown).
But to have stories in national papers even into Wednesday and Thursday of this week is a little bit too much. How about we take a look at the games that are going to take place this weekend, not the shocker from last weekend. I can understand papers like the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press covering the fallout, but not national publications.
The biggest joke of this week it the fact that the Associated Press has decided to make 1AA teams eligible for its weekly poll. Really? They do realize that this is the first time a ranked 1A team has lost to a 1AA team, right? I don't think it is common enough for 1AA teams to be considered for a vote in the AP poll. If there is a sportswriter out there who believes Appalachian State deserves one vote in the AP poll, he or she should have his or her credentials revoked immediately.
That said, it was a shocker and as much as MSU fans basked in the Mountaineers glory (because it immediately replaced the Spartans' losses to Central Michigan in 1991 and 1992 as the most embarrassing losses on the state's history), it was a bit of an embarrassment for the Big Ten.
I said before the season started that teams like U-M and OSU should not be playing teams out of Division 1AA. I would be embarrassed if MSU had a team like that on its schedule. Of course it just gets worse when you lose to them.
U-M has some work to do to make this season anything close to a success, but it is up to the rest of the Big Ten to help restore the glory of the conference.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Michigan State's 1987 Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship season, we will look back at the games of that magical season week by week. This week, we'll take a look at the second game as the Spartans took on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
After taking the season opener against USC in East Lansing, the game on September 19 in South Bend started off on the wrong "foot" and didn't get any better.
As MSU running back Blake Ezor fielded the opening kickoff, his foot hit the back line of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Irish lead. The Irish never looked back. After two punt returns for touchdowns by the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Brown, Notre Dame had a 19-0 first quarter lead. Following another safety and field goal, the Irish took a 24-0 halftime lead.
The Irish barely had the advantage in total yards for the game (252-229) but MSU (1-1) could only gain 21 yards on the ground. Lorenzo White gained a season-low 51 rushing yards, but MSU lost 59 yards on eight Notre Dame sacks.
By scoring six touchdowns on their first six possessions, the Mark Dantonio era in East Lansing started off on the right foot as MSU (1-0) crushed the undersized and undermanned Blazers from UAB (0-1).
Who said the Spartans needed the wacky John L. Smith offense to score points? MSU put up nearly 600 yards of offense on the day. And talk about balance, MSU totalled 298 yards on the ground and 295 yards through the air. See the full stats and box score here.
Senior captain Jehuu Caulcrick led the effort on the ground with 93 yards on 10 carries and four touchdowns. Brian Hoyer connected on 14 out of 17 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Devin Thomas was the leading receiver with five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.
The offense was also 6-for-6 in the red zone and the team committed just four penalties, both of which were problems during the last regime. The defense held the Blazers to just 12 yards rushing.
11:58 a.m. – Just watched the tribute at Virginia Tech. People in tears. Pretty awesome to see all the fans with signs thanking other universities for their help and thoughts after the shootings last April.
11:59 – Two brats, some chips and a beer in front of me waiting for the MSU coverage to start. Feels good to have the season starting again, let’s hope we don’t have to give up hope after three games again.
Noon – Here is it. Spartan Stadium looks great as usual. What a great day for kickoff.
12:03 p.m. – Not a good start for the Blazers with the kickoff going out of bounds. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come
12:04 – A pass on first down? Thought we got rid of John L.
12:04 – Caulcrick bruising through the line for 14 yards. I like the way that sounds
12:06 – Ringer looking good so far. Has some power but can still outrun people after that injury
12:07 – TOUCHDOWN MSU! 7-0 lead for the Spartans. With 12:45 left in the quarter Caulcrick takes it in for the score from two yards out. UAB will not be able to hang with MSU’s offensive line. Drive – 6 plays for 65 yards
12:09 – Quick check of the Big Ten Network… I LOVE that I can see all the other Big Ten games. But I thought it was supposed to be in HD. Didn’t appear to be.
12:13 - Defense gives up a third and 14 conversion… Not what we wanted to see
12:19 – Thornhill with a near interception on third down during a 10 play UAB drive. Would have been nice to get the turnover, but the Blazers are held and need to punt. They have one of those crazy punters when they roll out to punt the ball. MSU will block one before the day is through.
12:22 – Another check of the Big Ten Network. U-M and Appalachian State are tied at seven? Seriously?
12:28 – With 4:46 left in the quarter, Caulcrick takes it in for another touchdown and a 14-0 MSU lead. Hoyer showed some arm strength too, with a rifle to Devin Thomas on the previous play. So far so good.
12:36 – Just as I was thinking how nice it is to see a traditional offense with a fullback, the run an end around with Devin Thomas for 22 yards. I like where this is going so far.
12:38 – ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN FOR CAULCRICK! 21-0 MSU with 1:41 left in the first. Nice blocking as the big guy tip-toed down the sideline. He needed five TDs to crack the all-time TD list at MSU and he might get that today. Terry Love, who was in the Dantonio Doghouse for a while took out two players with one block to spring Jehuu down the sideline. Good to see some heart.
12:47 – 21-0 MSU at the end of the first quarter. I am still trying to find out why I don’t have the BTN in HD.
It is finally here, the dawning of a new era of MSU football - again. Coach Mark Dantonio will lead his Spartans on the field in East Lansing to face the Blazers of the University of Alabama - Birmingham.
Stay tuned for a game blog updated throughout today's contest.
Things to look for:
- Look for MSU to run the ball - a lot - with Javon Ringer and JehuuCaulcrick. Ringer has the moves and speed to break a long run at any time, while Caulcrick is the bruiser with speed in his own right. UAB is lacking some experience on the defensive line, so the Spartans should be able to run the ball at will.
- UAB will be platooning quarterbacks today. They will be flipping between senior Sam Hunt and sophomore Joseph Webb to lead the passing attach. It could be a good opportunity for the MSU secondary to get some experience playing together befare facing some of the monsters coming up on the schedule.
Twenty years ago, Michigan State began its march to the Rose Bowl..... the last Rose Bowl the Spartans played in. Ironically, their season began against which it ended - the University of Southern California Trojans.
In the first night game ever played in Spartan Stadium, MSU ended USC's 17-game winning streak against Big Ten teams with a 27-13 win over the 19th-ranked Trojans. Lorenzo White lead the ground attack, piling up 111 yards and two touchdowns, which quarterback Bobby McAllister accounted for 163 total yards including a 9-yard touchdown run.
The game, billed as the "Great American Football Celebration" was Michigan State's first prime time appearance.
It is finally time for the changing of the guard to be complete and have Coach Dantonio lead the 2007 version of the Spartans onto the field for the first time at noon on Saturday to take on the Blazers of the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Last season opener against Idaho, while a win, should have served notice to Spartan fans as to what kind of season to expect from MSU. MSU defeated Idaho 27-17, but the game was certainly much closer than that.
In this game, I would look for the Spartans to pound the ball with Ringer and Caulcrick early behind an offensive line which outweighs the UAB defensive line by 35 pounds per man.
With that, the first depth chart of the season was released and I think there are a few things worth noting: - Senior wideout Terry Love is listed as a backup to junior Devin Thomas. Thomas started one game last season, but played in 10 catching just six passes for 90 yards in those games. Love on the other hand played in 12 games and caught 18 balls for 234 yards in 2006. Love, who had some academic issues he needed to work out before joining the team for fall practice, still looks like he needs to earn his time from Coach Dantonio. - The other wide receiver slot will be filled by true freshman Mark Dell out of Farmington Harrison. Dell will be backed up by junior Deon Curry who has played in seven games in his one-year MSU career, but only has one catch for seven yards. Another reason MSU will be a running team this season. - Senior linebacker SirDarean Adams is listed as a backup behind redshirt freshman Jon Misch. Misch is undersized for the Big Ten, but has a big heart and plays over his head according to reports. SirDarean had played the famous "bandit" position under former coach John L. Smith and can certainly hit. Have to keep a look out to see how long he stays behind Misch. - Dantonio has not decided on a backup to junior quarterback Brian Hoyer. The battle has been between redshirt freshman Connor Dixon and true freshman Nick Foles. Let's hope Hoyer is durable this season.
For the record: - MSU and UAB have never faced each other in football - MSU is 4-1 against current members of Conference USA, defeating Marshall (9/00), Memphis (9/97), Rice (9/02) and SMU while losing to Houston (9/67). - MSU has won nine of its last 10 home openers, including eight in a row. The Spartans' last loss in a home opener came in 1998 when MSU lost to Colorado State, 23-16.
Experience was the name of the game as the Spartans players and coaches chose the team's 2007 captains. Four seniors will assume the title of captain as MSU heads into the first game week of the season.
All four players started a number of games last year and had signifiact roles with the 2006 version of the Spartans.
Caulcrick scored six touchdowns in '06 and needs just five this season to claim a spot in the Top Ten touchdown leaders in MSU history. Clifford had nine starts in 2006 and consistently graded out as one of the team's top lineman. Key's biggest play of the year was his first career interception which led to the game-winning field goal against Northwestern capping the biggest comeback in NCAA history. Thornhill, a name well-known in MSU circles, ranked third on the team in tackles in 2006. His father, Charlie, played on MSU's back-to-back Big Ten and National Championship teams.
One week to go before the Spartans take the field and as we have seen in years past, leadership plays a key role, especially if this team runs into some adversity.
The season preview on ESPN's "College Gameday" just wrapped up and all four "experts" picked their Heisman Trophy winners and the champions of the major conferences.
Not only did Lou Holtz pick Michigan's Chad Henne to win the Heisman, but none of them picked Michigan or Ohio State to win the conference. Here is how they broke it down: Lee Corso - Penn State Mark May - Wisconsin Lou Holtz - Iowa Kirk Herbstreit - Penn State
I can't say I agree with them, but we'll see how it turns out as we head into the season.
You know it is almost game week when you turn on ESPN and you see Reese, Lee and Kirk and hear the familiar "College Gameday" theme song.
As I sit hear watching the "College Gameday" season preview, there is not much discussion of the Spartans, but there is much discussion of the Big Ten. The Big Ten just got ripped for some of the scheduled going on this season - Michigan playing Division I-AA Appalachian State; Ohio State playing Youngstown State, and; Wisconsin playing The Citadel - and I could not agree more.
As much as MSU fans dislike Michigan and other programs in the Big Ten, you have to respect them for what they do year in and year out. And it is an absolute shame to see these top tier programs playing I-AA teams.
That is why I believe strength of schedule must play a role in determining who plays in the BCS Championship game. When Auburn was left out of the mix a few years ago, I had no problem with it because they played a terrible out-of-conference schedule. These schedules are determined years in advance, so some of it is the luck of the draw as to which teams are stronger during the year you play them, but Michigan and Ohio State should never scheduled I-AA teams. I would much rather see the Big Ten teams schedule MAC teams from their states or region than I-AA teams.
We all should be Big Ten fans, but that doesn't mean building bloated records against teams my high school could beat.
If you give Spartan football fans credit for one thing, it has to be for creativity.
Thanks to our friends at SpartanTailgate.com, there is a "300"-themed wallpaper for your computer floating around out there, featuring the Spartan army trouncing some Wolverines, Nittany Lions, Fighting Irish and Hoosiers while some other opponents flee.
Of course, it would be better for Spartan fans if dominance like that takes place on the field instead of in the parking lot on the south side of the stadium.
Fans all around Spartan Country - and even those on surrounding communities - have mentioned one thing when discussing MSU's 2007 schedule. They all talk about how tough it is and how difficult it will be for MSU to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2003.
Isn't the schedule always tough? Last I checked, MSU was a member of the Big Ten and plays teams like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State consistently, not to mention the out-of-conference battle with Notre Dame every year (actually MSU wins that one more often than it takes care of the Nittany Lions, Buckeyes or Wolverines).
Also, the Spartans are not lucky enough to play themselves each year either. You can be sure, especially with MSU's lack of success of the past six or seven years, every team in the conference is looking at the MSU game as a very winnable contest for their program. Remember last year? MSU gave Illinois its first Big Ten win in years - at Spartan Stadium. Indiana manhandled MSU. Of course we don't have to mention what happened in the games against U-M, OSU and PSU.
The bottom line is, MSU needs to start looking at itself and how it can improve into a consistent and winning program not how tough the schedule is, because the schedule will never get easier - not should it.
I suppose its a good thing we took the end last season off. I mean, the team did, so why can't we, right?
When I last joined you, our Spartans were in the process of melting down. They had just lost to lowly Illinois at home after blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead against Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium the week before.
After that Illinois game, MSU went 1-6 t finish the year - the only win being the largest comeback in NCAA football history against Northwestern. It was indeed another lost season. It also signaled the end of Drew Stanton's career. He played in only one bowl game during his stay at MSU and that was on special teams and led to a knee injury which still haunts him to this day with the Detroit Lions.
So, as we all hoped, John L. Smith was fired after the season. He was.
Enter Mark Dantonio. Dantonio compiled an 18-17 record while serving as the head coach at the University of Cincinnati, taking the Bearcats to bowl games in his final two seasons.
While the 18-17 record at UC may not be all that impressive, Dantonio certainly has the pedigree for him to be successful, including a history at MSU. Prior to coaching at UC, he worked under Jim Tressel as defensive coordinator - including for the 2002 national championship team. He also was the defensive secondary coach associate head coach under Nick Saban at MSU - including during MSU's most successful season in years, the 10-2 run in 1999.
He has a no-nonsense style and will look to taking MSU football back to its roots of a powerful running game and a defense which hits people in the mouth. Luckily for Spartan fans, the offensive line and stable of running backs are the most talented and experienced units on the team.
After going 9-14 over the last two years, MSU fans should expect - demand - improvement this season. I think Dantonio will deliver thanks to his straightforward approach. It may take some time to bring MSU back towards the top of the conference, but we should certainly see some signs this year.