Aug 11, 2011

Are the Spartans Cocky or Just Confident?

In the wake of their first Big Ten championship in decades and what ought to have been a trip to the Rose Bowl the Michigan State Spartans are coming into the 2011 season with a swagger. But many are questioning that swagger; are the Spartans on an ego trip or is their attitude deserved?

The 2010 campaign saw Michigan State win a school-record 11 games and advance to their third straight bowl game; their second on New Year's Day.

Michigan State only stumbled twice last season, being blown out by both Iowa and Alabama in Iowa City and the Capital One Bowl respectively. But in between those losses the Spartans stocked their trophy cases with victories over rivals Michigan, Notre Dame, Minnesota and Penn State.

During the 2010 season the Spartans climbed the national rankings, finding a comfortable spot in the Top Ten for several weeks after reaching all the way to No. 5. Michigan State finished the season ranked No. 14 nationally and enter the 2011 season as No. 17.

The attention and respect that Michigan State has long cried for is finally being paid to them; national television programs, newspapers and bloggers are all tabbing the Spartans as threatening for the inaugural Big Ten Title game.

With an overwhelming majority of their players returning this season and replacements for those who left with years of experience under their belt the Spartans look to be a tough team to beat this season. All three of Michigan State's running backs return to the team as well as several of the play-making receivers.

The offensive line took another hit this off-season but has appropriately plugged the holes and will be able to keep QB Kirk Cousins upright this season. One of the most exciting points for this football team is the defensive line; with the likes of Kevin Pickelman, Jerel Worthy and William Gholston all rushing the passer, the Spartans will improve greatly on defense.

With a Big Ten championship ring on their fingers and an impressive team around them, the Spartans have no need to be cocky, they know their good and they're acting as such. Michigan State has it's swagger back.

Do you have an idea for the nickname for the Spartan defensive front-four? Submit it in a comment or tweet one of our writers and if we like it we'll use it for the rest of the season in our articles.

Aug 7, 2011

Dantonio Has Spartan Football's Eyes Set on Rose Bowl

Michigan State has gone to three straight bowl games under Coach Mark Dantonio and won a school-record 11 games last season, but Dantonio isn't resting on his laurels, he's setting his sights even higher. The Rose Bowl.

The Spartans resume last season should have gotten them to Pasadena, but the shoddy BCS system and Wisconsin running up the score against their inferior opponents cost Michigan State their chance to smell roses.

Michigan State instead had to settle for a three-way, eventually two-way, split of the Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Capital One Bowl to face juggernaut Alabama. The Crimson Tide dispatched with the Spartans in Orlando, but Dantonio remained undeterred.

His recruiting class for this season is once again impressive, reeling in yet another top-prospect in the state of Michigan. Lawrence Thomas, LB Renaissance High, Detroit, joins the Spartans this season; and while the true-freshman may simply watch from the sidelines, his addition to the team shows that the green and white have reloaded after losing several of their top players this off-season. 

Last season showed the country what Mark Dantonio was made of; he was a intense, defensive-minded coach who wasn't afraid to make the gutsy call when it needed to be made. From "Little Giants" to "Mouse Trap" Dantonio made sure opposing defensive coordinators could never count his team out.

The year after the Spartans collected all of their rivalry trophies, the head coach has his eyes set on something much different; roses.

Each season the Spartan football team his given a new motto to adhere to and this season the motto reflects the aspirations of the coach. This year's motto is; "P4RB." While that may just seem like text talk to most people, it means much more to Michigan State.

It means, "Prepare for Rose Bowl."

Big talk from the preseason No. 17, but Dantonio has every right to believe he can smell the roses later this year. His team lost linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon but their replacements are on pace to exceed them. Chris Norman, Denicos Allen and Max Bullough all return for the Spartans and with a season playing with the likes of Jones and Gordon under their belts, they'll form a formidable corps.

William Gholston returns, healthy, to the front four along with Jerel Worthy, who has been ranked as one of the top defensive tackles in the country. Add in Tyler Hoover and Kevin Pickelman and the Spartans front four may be worthy of a nickname of their own. Rumors have defensive coordinator Pat Naduzzi shifting true-freshman Thomas to defensive tackle to play opposite of Gholston on the line, making for the toughest front four in the Big Ten.

QB Kirk Cousins returns for his final season and has most of his weapons from last season returning with him. Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham and Keith Nichol all return to the receivers corps, along with Keith Mumphrey, who was red-shirted last season but displayed blazing speed.

Perhaps the most exciting area of the Michigan State offense are the running backs, all three starters return this season. Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper bring back the "Full House Backfield" and look to continue their run over opposing defenses all season.

While it may seem a bold move to many; Dantonio calling for a trip to Pasadena in January, is closer than it has ever been for the Spartans.

Aug 4, 2011

Dantonio's Comments On Tressel Being Taken Out Of Context

In last week's Big Ten Media Day there was buzz around several names; new Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. Both of these men are connected to Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and he was questioned on them both, but his comments on Tressel are what drew the most attention.

When asked about the scandal surrounding Ohio State that lead to Tressel's resignation Dantonio responded in a familiar way for Spartans fans; however others have taken his comments out of context as a way to slam the head coach.

"To me, it’s tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my view. Usually tragic heroes have an ability to rise above it all in the end. That’s what I’ll look for in the end," said Dantonio.

By definition, a tragic hero is; a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy.
His comment was spot on and accurately describes the situation surrounding Tressel and Buckeye nation. Coach Tressel was blinded by his power in Columbus, he felt that he could get away with anything; and for a long time he could, but just as Dantonio eluded to fate and external forces combined with his error of judgement and brought him down.

In Columbus Tressel had bred an unhealthy culture amongst the team, they felt the same their coach did; they believed that they were able to get away with anything. But when a federal probe into a drug dealing tattoo parlor operator lead to the uncovering of players pawning team memorabilia it caused Tressel's downfall.

While anyone who has read great literary works understands that in calling Tressel a "tragic hero," Dantonio was in no way condoning what he had done; those out to slam the coach grab at whatever they can.

Comment boards exploded with University of Michigan fans haranguing Dantonio for calling Tressel a "hero," saying how could Dantonio condone such actions as took place in Columbus. Many even suggested that Dantonio was conducting similar practices at Michigan State because of his support for Tressel.

These fans have all missed the boat on their thoughts, each one of them claimed that Dantonio had called Tressel a "hero," when he in fact referred to him as a "tragic hero." There is a huge difference between those two; with one you praise a man and with the other you acknowledge his great impact on an area before succumbing to his own vices.

Dantonio was simply trying to rally up support for his team this season as they seek to defend their Big Ten title. The comments were simply a friend commenting on the failure of his long-time friend due to his own actions, Dantonio handled himself appropriately.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke took the podium and tried his best to channel his inner Bo Schembechler, referring to Ohio State repeatedly as "Ohio" and issuing statements such as, "this may be arrogant but, we're Michigan."

While his purpose was to fire up his base, which face it was fired up as soon as Rich Rodriguez was fired, he came across to the other eleven schools in the conference as arrogant and naive. For a coach who has yet to set foot on the field at Michigan Stadium for a game to come out and insult the rest of the conference is ridiculous; that should have been the headline of the day. 

When Dantonio comes out and attempts to do the same thing as Hoke did just an hour prior, fire up his base and get going on the season, people seize upon a quote and take it out of context in order to serve their purpose. The only explanation as to why Michigan fans would seek out any kind of "quote" to use to damage Michigan State and Dantonio is because they are jealous of their recent success and of the success of their head coach.

If all of this venom is being tossed around and it's only the beginning of August, this football season is shaping up to be one of the best yet. The rivalry is back.