Friday, August 31, 2007

Official Big Ten Predictions

Here they are, the official predictions.. Lock them down, write them down and remember to look back in November.

1. U-M 11-1 (7-1)

Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)

3. Penn State 10-2 (6-2)

Iowa 10-2 (6-2)

5. Ohio State 9-3 (5-3)

6. MSU 7-5 (3-5)

Indiana 7-5 (3-5)

8. Purdue 6-6 (3-5)

Illinois 6-6 (2-6)

10. Minnesota 5-7 (1-7)

11. N'western 4-8 (1-7)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

1987 Game One - MSU 27, USC 13

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.

1987 Big Ten Champs - 20 Year Anniversary

It has been 20 years since the Michigan State Spartans made it to the Rose Bowl. It is hard to believe it has been that long.

However, as we go through this season, we will take a look back at that season, game by game, highlighting the players who made that season such a success.

Strap yourselves into your time machines and enjoy the look back.

Game One - UAB at MSU

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.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Spartans Choose 2007 Captains

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.

They are: running back Jehuu Caulcrick; offensive tackle Pete Clifford; strong safety Travis Key, and; linebacker Kaleb Thornhill.

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.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Big Ten Champs?

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.

Big Ten Scheduling Ripped on Gameday

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.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Score "300" for Creativity

If you give Spartan football fans credit for one thing, it has to be for creativity.

Thanks to our friends at, 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.

Tough Schedule? Don't Believe the Hype

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.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Returning for (another) new era

And we are back!

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.