Aug 26, 2012

The X-Factor For the Spartans Against Boise State Will Be...

Spartan kicker Dan Conroy
Photo Courtesy of:
By Blain Bradley

August 31st is almost here and the Spartans are growing anxious as their nationally televised game verse Boise State approaches. The BCS-busting Broncos look to take down the 13th ranked Spartans. Michigan State will need to be clicking on all cylinders to beat the Broncos. The team will need all units to perform exceptionally well.

The Spartans will Need an "x-factor" in order to win the Boise game, as well as other tough games down the road (Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, etc.). That "x-factor" will come in the form of the special teams unit. Special teams is often considered to be one of the most crucial components in a successful season. The Spartans have weapons on specials that will cause frustrations for many teams.

The biggest weapon in the Spartans' special teams arsenal is kicker Dan Conroy. In Phil Steele's 2012 College Football Preview, Spartan kicker Dan Conroy is ranked as the sixth best in the nation. The senior kicker from Wheaton, Illinois is poised and accurate. He is a fifth year senior who will be a third year starter this fall. He is a preseason favorite to earn numerous place kicking accolades (specifically the Lou Groza Award). Over his career, Conroy has made 82% of his field goal attempts. He is 93 for 94 in PAT attempts. Conroy can prove to be big in tight games. He has great range and veteran instinct. Conroy will attribute to the Spartans scoring. The Spartan offense appears to be suspect at times, with new quarterback Andrew Maxwell taking the reigns. Look for Conroy to make big plays this season.

Mark Dantonio has preached the importance of special teams during his tenure at MSU. According to
Since Dantonio's arrival to East Lansing in 2007, a Spartan kicker or punter has earned All-Big Ten recognition six times, and MSU has also produced Big Ten leaders in kickoff returns and punt returns. In addition, MSU led the Big Ten last season with five blocked kicks and scored two touchdowns on special teams."

The proof is in the pudding. Statistics show that blocked punts/kicks increase a team's chance of winning by over 50%. Creating such a situation is key to gaining a momentum swing. 

Handling the kickoff will be returning starter Kevin Muma. He is a strong leg kicker who frequently kicks for touchbacks. Muma will also be the reserve placekicker.

Mike Sadler will be punting the ball away. Sadler earned praise as a redshirt freshman last year. He will look to pin back opposing punt return teams. 

Sophomore running back Nick Hill will be the return specialist. Hill is explosive and lightning quick. He has an eye for small openings in hectic return situations. Hill will fill the void left behind from the departure of Keyshawn Martin (Martin currently is playing for the Houstan Texans).

Special Teams will be key for numerous reasons this season. The Spartans are a young team with a stellar defense and questionable offense. They will find themselves forcing many teams to punt the ball away. On the other end of the spectrum, the Spartans may find themselves punting frequently too. Regardless of the situation, look for the Spartan special teams to step up at the right moments. 

Aug 25, 2012

Why MSU Must Not Take Boise State Lightly

By Connor Wilton

The Michigan State Football season is now less than a week away. In years past, Michigan State have kicked off their seasons against the likes of Montana State, Western Michigan, and most recently Youngstown State. That'll change this season when the Spartans invite the Broncos of Boise State to the newly improved Spartan Stadium.

Ever since making the switch to the FBS in 1996, the Broncos have slowly become one of the more consistent teams in college football, albeit against easier competition. Nevertheless, Boise State are coming off yet another 12+ win season and are the favorites to win the Mountain West Conference. 

However, this Boise State team will be a much different looking team, especially after the departure of QB Kellen Moore. Moore, a four year starter at Boise State, was the most successful quarterback in FBS history, finishing his career with a startling 50-3 record. He also threw for nearly 15,000 yards, 142 TDs to only 28 INTs. Moore is not the only player Boise State will need to replace. The Broncos lose 7 starters on defense and 6 starters on offense, so the Boise State team taking the field will be almost entirely different from last year's squad. 

Despite this being, on paper, one of the weakest Boise State teams in a few years, this is a team that the Spartans can absolutely not take lightly. Boise coach Chris Petersen has orchestrated more than a few upsets in his time as coach for the Broncos. No one can forget the memorable 2007 Fiesta Bowl where Boise State shocked Oklahoma in exciting fashion with a 42-41 victory in double overtime. Also, Boise State has experience playing tough teams in their first game of the year. The past three years, Boise State has played Oregon, Virginia Tech, and Georgia; They won all three of those games. 

Even though Boise State will be inexperienced, they will not fear the Spartans and their highly praised defense.  I expect Boise State to come out strong against MSU and could see the game going right down to the wire.  I think MSU will eventually pull out the victory, but it will not come easy for the Spartans.  Maybe I'm giving Boise State too much credit for what they've done in the past, but I think Boise State poses a real threat for the Spartans.  

Aug 24, 2012

Michigan State A Favorite to Land Illinois LB Clifton Garrett

By Sean Gagnier

Michigan State already has one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, and country, but defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi isn't resting on his laurels, he's actively recruiting to make his defense even better. That improvement could come from fearsome Illinois linebacker Clifton Garrett, a four-star recruit and the best LB in the state of Illinois.

Garrett is ranked as the 41st best prospect in the country by 24/7 Sports and the second best linebacker in the country by the same site. He has progressed immensely from his sophomore campaign, putting himself on the national radar.

At 6'3" and 220 lbs., Garrett could stand to bulk up a little but his height is good for an outside linebacker. With the recent influx of talent at the linebacker position at Michigan State, Garrett could fit right in, red-shirting a season to get bigger and learn from those ahead of him and then hit the field and shut down the outside of the offense.

Garrett is being heavily recruited, but Michigan State is considered to be on his favorites list. It was reported that offensive coordinator Dan Roushar recruited Garrett and that he is very much interested in the green and white. Becoming a Spartan isn't his only option though, having received over 12 offers, including scholarship offers from Notre Dame and Ohio State.

The Irish and Buckeyes are also considered to be on his favorites list, but the allure of Ohio State may be too much for Garrett to turn away from, as he grew up a fan of the Buckeyes. Michigan State has made a career of landing big recruits regularly of late, so they won't give up on Garrett any time soon, and it looks like they just might land another big name soon.

Aug 22, 2012

Michigan State Receivers Preview

MSU receivers tweeted by Bennie Fowler, @b_fowler13
By Sean Gagnier

With the departure of so much of the Spartans receiving corps following last season many believe that the inexperience at wide out will hurt Michigan State this season; however, the amount of talent on the field begs to differ.

Coming into the 2012 season, the Spartan receiver with the most catches last year is Dion Sims, who caught 12 passes last year. There is no doubt that this is a young receiving corps, but that isn't to say that it will under perform or that it couldn't even surpass last years group.

Several receivers are not new faces on this team, they have just been biding their time behind stars like Keith Nichol and B.J. Cunningham. Bennie Fowler has battled injuries throughout his career in East Lansing and Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery served their redshirt year under Coach Mark Dantonio and have been putting in work on the practice squad.

Currently, the Spartans depth chart has Fowler and Lippett tied for the "X receiver" position and Mumphery in control of the "Z receiver" position. Close behind Mumphery is Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett. Arnett transferred to Michigan State at the last year when his father's health condition worsened.

Arnett, from Saginaw, Mich., was released from his scholarship by the Volunteers and transferred to the Spartans to be closer to his father. He had to submit a hardship waiver to the NCAA to be eligible to play this season; that waiver was granted and he will most likely see the field this season.

Recruited as a four-star receiver Arnett performed well at Tennessee and will most likely fight his way into a starting job this season. He has proven to be elusive in space after the catch and has explosive speed, but he needs to work on getting off jams.

Fowler, now fully healthy, will most likely be the starting receiver on the right side of the formation. He played in several games last season before his injury, catching two passes for a total of 20-yards. At 6'1" he is smaller, but he plays big and can get off the line quickly.

Fowler's main competition comes from Tony Lippett, who is currently tied with Fowler for the starting "X receiver" job on the preseason depth chart. Lippett stands 6'3" and weighs 190 lbs., a good sized receiver, he will certainly see the field in a rotation that Dantonio will use to keep his receivers rested.

Mumphery is just 6-feet tall, but weighs in at 208 lbs., meaning that while he is on the smaller side, he can get off the smaller defenders and get the inside track on the ball. He has good hands and speed, but no game experience. With Arnett, a veteran of the SEC, breathing down his neck he may not be able to hold onto the "Z receiver" job.

Sims is the only receiver who isn't battling for his job this preseason. Being the player with the most previous catches on the roster, with 12, Sims looks to continue to be solid at the tight end position. Sims is an imposing figure, standing 6'5" and weighing 285 lbs. he is able to hold his own on the line and when he gets up field his size makes him difficult to bring down.

This Michigan State receiving corps is young and lacks game experience, but while they weren't getting reps in games and in practice with Kirk Cousins, they were getting reps on the practice squad with then-backup Andrew Maxwell throwing the passes. Maxwell knows these receivers and they know him, that familiarity is something that quarterbacks always look for in their receivers and these guys have it.

With position battles across the receiving corps those who are rewarded with starting jobs will be the best of the best and help keep the Spartans from losing a beat in the air.

Aug 21, 2012

5 Players Most Important to Spartan Success this Fall

From The Detroit Free Press

By: Connor Wilton

The Michigan State Spartans once again have high expectations this fall. Obviously, there are several Spartans who will need to step up this season in order for MSU to achieve their ultimate goal of playing in the Rose Bowl in January. But here are 5 players who will be most important in determining Spartan success this season.

5. TE - Dion Sims

This may come as a surprise to some people. Tight ends are becoming less valuable in college football as more teams implement spread offenses. However, with tons of inexperience at the wide receiver position, Sims could be called upon to become the Spartans primary target in the passing game this year.  At 6'5 285 pounds, Dion Sims is essentially a lineman playing tight end. His size will allow him to get to almost any part of the field without too much resistance. He had a fantastic spring and summer which was capped off by a dominating performance in the intra-squad scrimmage where he had 10 receptions for 171 yards and a TD. The most important role for Sims this season will be providing as the safety valve for QB Andrew Maxwell. It's often believed that the TE is a QB's best friend and I think that will prove very true this season.  Sims will also be very important for converting 3rd down passing situations. If Sims can stay healthy, he could help Maxwell immensely and turn the Spartan passing game into a strength.

4. LB - Max Bullough

As a true sophomore last season, Bullough proved he was more than capable of leading the Spartan D.  An All-Big Ten second team selection by the coaches, Bullough was arguably the most consistent defensive player for MSU last year. Coming into his junior year, Bullough will be called upon to be even greater for the Spartans.  At 6'3, 240 pounds, Bullough is a true middle linebacker whose size allows him to tussle with the big boys in the middle. While his size is a major plus, his most gifted attribute is his intelligence. Pat Narduzzi recently called him "the most unbelievable middle linebacker I've ever coached, just because the mental aspect of the game." Bullough always appears to be in control of the defense, something that will need to continue for the Spartan D to have success.

3. RB - Le'Veon Bell

Even though Le'Veon Bell did not become the primary RB until halfway through last year, there was no question he was MSU's most effective RB. With Edwin Baker now gone, Bell will get the majority of the carries with Larry Caper spelling him in passing situations. At 240 pounds, Bell is extremely difficult to bring down and he is surprisingly quick and agile for his size.  With a more experienced offensive line leading the way, there is no reason Bell can't become one of the best running backs in the country and rush for 1000 yards. Bell will be extremely important to the Spartans this year and counted on to take pressure off QB Andrew Maxwell and the questionable passing game.

2. DE - William Gholston

The potential and talent of William Gholston is undeniable. He's a 6'7 275 pound defensive end with the speed of a linebacker. Gholston registered 70 tackles and 5.0 sacks last season which was good enough to earn him All-Big Ten second team honors. Personally, I thought Gholston was a little inconsistent at times.  There were games were he would be constantly harassing the QB, and other games where he appeared to disappear. There also was his incident in the Michigan game where he punched QB Denard Robinson, resulting in a one game suspension. Gholston enters this year on the watch list for nearly every defensive award possible. The success of the Spartan defense will heavily rely on Gholston's play this season. If he can consistently dominate lineman and get to the quarterback, the Spartans will have a great chance at winning the Big Ten.

1. QB – Andrew Maxwell

Even though the importance of having a top-notch quarterback is diminishing in college football, no player will have a greater impact on Spartan success this season than Andrew Maxwell.  Besides being a first year starter, Maxwell will have to deal with the pressure of replacing Kirk Cousins, the most successful quarterback in Michigan State history.  Despite never starting a game for MSU, Maxwell is entering his third year in the Spartan program so he knows the offense better than anyone.  Maxwell will have a strong running game to lean on, as well as a solid offensive line that should give him plenty of time to operate in the pocket.  Maxwell also had a very impressive performance in the intra-squad scrimmage this past weekend.  All signs point to Maxwell having a strong season, but nothing is certain until he takes the field August 31st

Aug 19, 2012

Tracking Spartans from the 2012 NFL Draft

Kirk Cousins and Offensive Linemen Tom Compton celebrate after a touchdown
Photo Courtesy of
By Blain Bradley

As the NFL preseason winds down, teams are making cuts and rookies are continuing to battle it out for a coveted spot on the 53 man roster for game day. The Spartans 2012 draft class was their biggest since 2000. The picks are listed in order: Jerel Worthy DT (2nd Round Green Bay Packers), Kirk Cousins QB (4th Round Washington Redskins), Keshawn Martin WR (4th Round Houston Texans), BJ Cunningham WR (6th Round Miami Dolphins), Trenton Robinson FS (6th Round San Francisco 49ers) and Edwin Baker RB (7th Round San Diego Chargers). 

Worthy has made an impact at Packers training camp. Rookie defensive lineman Mike Daniels was quoted saying that Worthy "loves the game of football" and "loves to bring energy." Last season Worthy earned consensus first team All-American honors from the Associated Press. Worthy brings tremendous size and power to the Packers. Worthy has gained praise from coaches and fellow players for being vocal and passionate. Look for him to pair up well with B.J. Raji on the Packers d-line. He has been lining up next to Raji in nickel packages. Worthy eats up blockers, allowing Raji and blitzing linebackers to get an inside rush. Worthy should make an impact right away. 

Former Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins has impressed analysts, teammates, and coaches alike. Many were shocked when the Redskins drafted Cousins after selecting Heisman winning quarterback Robert Griffin III. What football outsiders don't understand is that in today's league sometimes it is better to have a traditional pocket passer rather than a dual threat quarterback. Robert Griffin brings a running game, however NFL defenses are far too athletic and smart to allow Griffin to run wild on them. If he somehow flops, Cousins can step in and be the signal caller for Washington. 

Cousins brings experience to the Redskins. He was a three year starter at MSU, who as a sophomore earned captain honors. He had a stellar season last year leading the Spartans to an Outback Bowl win. Cousins threw for 3,316 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions as a senior. He has incredible football knowledge and is a pure leader. 

Cousins amazed fans during his second half performance against the Bears this preseason. Cousins threw the ball 23 times, in which he completed 18 of those passes for 264 yards. He had three passing touchdowns. Redskins receiver Terrence Austin praised Cousins. Austin had this to say about the rookie quarterback:
“The other day, one of the guys mentioned to me how he’s like a computer, and I guess you can kind of see that. What I like about him is he’ll ask you questions about what you’re thinking on your route so he can kind of connect it. He has a strong arm, he’s mobile and he’s real smart. I’m impressed with him so far.”
Hopefully Cousins can continue his on field success. The Redskins have two preseason games left in which they'll face the Colts and Buccaneers. 

Former Spartan wide receiver Keshawn Martin is emerging as the starting slot receiver for the Houston Texans. Martin impressed coaches so much that he started in his first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Martin replaced injured star Andre Johnson. The Texans love how versatile Martin is. He even had a rushing attempt in which he ran for 12 yards on an end-around play. Martin also has the ability to return kicks and punts. He is a special player who was a fourth round steal by the Texans.

Little has been said about former wideout B.J. Cunningham. He has struggled to find a spot in the Dolphins receiver rotation. It's odd because the Dolphins are lacking at the wide receiver spot. Cunningham should really capitalize on this and try to earn a key role. According to the Miami Herald chances of Cunningham making the final roster are slim. It's a shame because Cunningham had a spectacular season last year. His teammates voted him the most valuable player amongst the Spartans. Cunningham hauled in 79 passes for 1,306 yards (he had 12 touchdown catches). Cunningham left MSU as the Spartans all time leader in receptions (218) and receiving yards (3,086). Hopefully he can breakout and put numbers up in the NFL.

Trenton Robinson has gotten mixed reviews from football insiders. He has steadily progressed, but coaches are ready to see him pick the pace up. The free safety has a fair shot at making the team and even seeing playing time. Robinson has seen lots of field time during the 49ers two preseason exhibitions. Robinson has also been a key member of the special teams unit for San Francisco.

Former Spartan running back Edwin Baker seems lost in San Diego. Last season LeVeon Bell out played Baker and it seemed that Baker had hit his peak. The case seems similar in San Diego. Baker has been over shadowed by the play of undrafted rookie running back Michael Hayes. Both are trying to survive and find a spot on the practice squad.

The Spartans put together a unique draft class that should be successful in given time. Keep your eyes peeled for big play from Cousins, Worthy, and Martin this season. 

2012 Michigan State Football Preview

From MSU Facebook
 By: Connor Wilton

As summer comes to a close, that can only mean one thing, college football is back.  With the season only 12 days away, I’ve decided this is a great time to preview the upcoming Michigan State football season and provide predictions and players to watch for each game.

Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans are coming off back-to-back 11 win seasons. Despite this success, the Spartans have yet to win the Big Ten conference outright.  This will only add to an already very motivated Spartan team as they look to finally get over the hump and win the Big Ten title.

Game-by-Game Analysis

August 31st - Boise State at Michigan State

Player to Watch: QB Andrew Maxwell

I think all Spartan fans will be very curious to see how Andrew Maxwell comes out in his first game as starter. Replacing Kirk Cousins is no easy task, and expecting him to perform up to Cousins standards may be unfair at this point in the year. However, the success of the Spartans will rely heavily on the play of Maxwell and all eyes will be on him August 31st.

Preview: The Spartans aren’t doing themselves any favors with their opening matchup.  MSU takes on the pesky Boise State Broncos.  Boise has had great success over the past six years under head coach Chris Petersen including two BCS bowl game victories. With that being said, this is a much different Boise State team.  With the loss of standout QB Kellen Moore and 14 other starters, Boise State could struggle mightily against the vaunted MSU defense.  But remember, this is Boise State and they relish the underdog role.  The game will be competitive throughout most of the game, but I believe the Spartans will pull away late and kickoff their season with a victory.

Prediction: Michigan State wins 24-14

September 8th – Michigan State at Central Michigan

Player to Watch:  DT Tyler Hoover

After battling injury last season, Hoover decided to add 20 pounds in the offseason to make the switch to defensive tackle from defensive end.  Hoover impressed in 2010 at defensive end but it will be very interesting to see how he handles the defensive tackle position. At 6’7, Hoover is a huge presence in the middle and someone who could greatly help the Spartan D down the road.

Preview: Michigan State fans still have bad memories of what occurred in 2009 when the Chippewas of Central Michigan shocked the Spartans in East Lansing.  State fans should have nothing to worry about this year.  CMU is coming off a dismal 3-9 season which included a blowout loss to MSU 45-7.  If Spartans play up to their abilities, it will be more of the same this season.

Prediction:  Michigan State wins 42-10

September 15th – Notre Dame at Michigan State

Player to Watch:  WR DeAnthony Arnett

If you follow Spartan football, you likely already know of DeAnthony Arnett. Arnett transferred from Tennessee this season so he could be closer to his ailing father. He was granted a hardship transfer by the NCAA, allowing him to play without siting a year. This is huge for the Spartans, since they already have major inexperience at the WR position. Arnett is only a sophomore, but with a year of SEC football under his belt, there is no reason to think he won’t contribute in big ways for the MSU passing attack this season.

Preview: Another difficult non-conference test will come from rivals Notre Dame in their annual showdown. After being embarrassed in South Bend last season, expect MSU to come out seeking revenge and try to overwhelm the Irish from the get-go.  Notre Dame always has the talent, but for some reason, they never seem to live up to the hype.  Notre Dame will keep it close with their talented defense led by Manti Te’o, but I expect the Spartans to prevail.

Prediction:  Michigan State wins 31-20

September 22nd – Eastern Michigan at Michigan State

Player to Watch: RB Nick Hill

Nick Hill is slated to once again be the KR for the Spartans this season. With the departure of Edwin Baker, Hill is now third on the depth chart at RB behind Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper.  With a blowout against Eastern likely, this could allow Hill to get a substantial amount of carries late in the game.  If Dantonio likes what he sees, this could allow Hill to get some more touches as a change of pace back or third down back.

Preview:  Like I said, I don’t expect Eastern Michigan to be competitive in this game. As long as Michigan State comes out ready to play, they will have absolutely no problems beating the Eagles. If anything, this game will provide an opportunity for some young players to gain some experience. 

Prediction: Michigan State wins 38-3

September 29th – Ohio State at Michigan State

Player to Watch: LB Denicos Allen

Allen really came on to the scene last season after his phenomenal game against Ohio State, which was capped by a highlight-reel sack where he leaped over an OSU blocker. Allen finished the 2011 season with All-Big Ten Second Team honors and is expected to wreak havoc from the outside once again this season.  Being an Ohio native, it seems Allen really loves playing the Buckeyes.  Look for another standout performance out by Allen against OSU this season.

Preview: Under new Head Coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State will be a difficult team to beat this season, despite their inexperienced players.  Due to NCAA violations, the Buckeyes are not qualified to compete for the Big Ten title. This makes them even scarier in my opinion, since they have nothing to lose.  However, the fact that this is a home game for MSU gives just enough the advantage they need to defeat the Buckeyes.

Prediction: Michigan State wins 24-17

October 6th- Michigan State at Indiana

Player to Watch:  DE Lawrence Thomas
Thomas is another player who is making a position change this season. Playing primarily LB in high school, Thomas made the switch to DE for this season. Thomas was a very highly rated prospect in high school so his talent is evident. Even though he won’t be starting, I believe Thomas can make an impact on the Spartan defensive line later in the season.

Preview:  Coming off a terrible 1-11 season, Indiana returns 19 starters.  Stephen Houston is a talented RB that could cause some problems for the Spartans, but not nearly enough to upset MSU.  Indiana is a team that is slowly turning things around, but don’t expect them to give MSU any problems.

Prediction: Michigan State win 31-14 

October 13th – Iowa at Michigan State

Player to Watch: RB Le'Veon Bell

Le'Veon Bell is probably the best weapon the Spartans have on offense and will heavily rely on Bell this season.  If the MSU offense is successful this year, Bell may be the number one reason.  Bell had a fantastic game against the Hawkeyes last season totaling 112 yards and a TD.  With Iowa losing their entire defensive line last year, I anticipate Bell will once again surpass the century mark in yards.

Preview: Spartans will be relieved to see Iowa coming to East Lansing this year, as oppose to making the trip to Kinnick Stadium where the Spartans have had little success. With Iowa returning nobody on their defensive line, I expect MSU to run the ball early and often, which should eventually open up the play action pass game. I expect a similar game to last season.  Not domination, but a clear Michigan State victory.

Prediction: Michigan State wins 28-14

October 20th – Michigan State at Michigan

Player to Watch: DE William Gholston

After a very solid season as a true sophomore last season, Gholston is touted to have an All-American worthy season this year. But the reason he is my player to watch is for what he did against this very team last season.  Gholston created headlines after last season’s game for his dominating play and illegal punch to Michigan QB Denard Robinson’s head.  This resulted in a one-game suspension for Gholston. It’ll be interesting how aggressive Gholston plays this time around, and if Michigan will seek any retaliation.

Preview: For me, this game is ultimately going to decide who wins the Legends Division. I also think this game is nearly impossible to predict at this point. This game is going be a bitter bloodbath and will probably be the best game in the Big Ten all year.  The reason for Michigan State’s past success against U of M is they have found the formula to stop or limit QB Denard Robinson, especially in the running game.  They have to slow down Denard big time again if they want to come out on top. But when it’s all said and done, I believe Michigan will finally get over the hump and take back the Paul Bunyan trophy. My reasoning? They are the home team and the law of averages.  I believe Michigan and Denard Robinson are due, plain and simple. This is Denard’s final chance to finally beat State and I’ll think he’ll come out and take it.

Prediction: Michigan wins 27-24

October 27th – Michigan State at Wisconsin

Player to Watch: LB Max Bullough

Heading into his second year as the starting MLB, Bullough will be called upon to orchestrate the Spartan defense this season.  If the Spartans want to beat Wisconsin, they will have to shut down Ball and the Badger run game.  Bullough is arguably the best MLB in the Big Ten and he will be a major factor in this defense becoming good or great.

Preview: We all remember what happened last season when these two teams met. First, there was the remarkable Michigan State victory in East Lansing capped off by “Rocket”; which was followed up by a back and forth affair that ultimately resulted in a Wisconsin victory.  State’s emotions will be running high heading into this game. Michigan State will have to be on their A-game to defeat the Badgers at Camp-Randall, especially at night.  Even though Wisconsin loses QB Russell Wilson and 11 other starters, they return Heisman finalist Montee Ball, someone who has done extremely well against State. I fear it will be more of the same for Ball and Wisconsin who will hand the Spartans their second consecutive loss.

Prediction: Wisconsin wins 31-17

November 3rd – Nebraska at Michigan State

Player to watch: TE Dion Sims

After a having a nice season last year and a fantastic spring, a lot is expected out of Dion Sims.  He is not your typical tight end though, as he weighs 285 pounds.  This allows him to be effective as both a pass-catcher and blocker.  A tight end is often referred to as a QBs security blanket.  Maxwell may need that security blanket more than ever when they play in hostile environments like Camp-Randall Stadium and Michigan Stadium. Sims could be very important against Nebraska in setting up the play-action, which can keep the Cornhuskers defense off balance. 

Preview: After getting thoroughly outplayed by Nebraska last season, the Spartans will seek payback on their home turf this season.  Nebraska returns 16 starters this season and could be a sleeper candidate to win the Legends Division.  Like Wisconsin, State will have to shut down Nebraska’s running game and force QB Taylor Martinez to throw the ball, where he is extremely inconsistent.  State also needs to get off to a much better start than they did in Lincoln last season.  If State can grab an early lead and force Nebraska to eventually abandon the running game, State will be victorious.

Prediction: Michigan State wins 27-17

November 17th – Northwestern at Michigan State

Player to Watch: CB Johnny Adams

To be honest, I think Johnny Adams will be someone to watch in every single game this year.  A preseason All-American, Adams very well may be the best CB in the entire country.  Adams will be another very important part of the Spartan defense.  Having a shut down corner like Adams will give State’s front 7 plenty of time to disrupt the QB.  With this being his final game at Spartan Stadium, I would expect Adams to go out in a big way.

Preview: The final two games for MSU are relatively easy following the brutal three game stretch of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.  They face Northwestern in what will be their home game of the season. Northwestern has played MSU tough in the past, but this game is not in Evanston.  I see absolutely no way that Michigan State loses at home to Northwestern, especially on senior day.

Prediction: Michigan State wins 31-7

November 24th – Michigan State at Minnesota

Player to watch: S Demetrious Cox

Demetrious Cox is the most high profile recruit of the Dantonio’s 2011-2012 recruiting class. Cox is not the most gifted safety, but he closes quickly and has great awareness and vision.  Assuming he isn’t redshirted, I could see Cox getting some playing time late in the year to provide rest for starters Isaiah Lewis and Jairus Jones. Cox is the future of the MSU secondary and we may get a little glimpse of him this season.

Preview: Michigan State finishes off their regular season against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.  Minnesota is arguably the worse team in the Big Ten after finishing last season 3-9.   They are a team that has a never quit attitude, much like their head coach, Jerry Kill.  Unfortunately for Minnesota, effort does not win football games. I expect the Spartans to finish the regular season on a high note, with a thumping of Minnesota.

Prediction:  Michigan State wins 34-10

Final Record: 10-2

Michigan State has one of the most difficult schedules in the Big Ten this season so to expect a Rose Bowl appearance may be too much for the Spartans to handle. With that being said, the Spartans are a good enough to once again reach double digit wins and earn a birth in a good bowl game. Even with the question marks that MSU faces at QB and offense in general, there is one thing not to question with the Spartans, and that is their dedication and motivation; two things that can take a team a long, long way.

Aug 18, 2012

Michigan State Defensive Line Preview

From The Orlando Sentinel blogs
By Blain Bradley

"Offense wins games, defense wins championships." The Spartans will have to believe in this phrase in order to have on field success this season. Michigan State's defense was ranked sixth in the nation in total defense, allowing only 277.4 yards a game. 

Much of the defense's success came from the play of the d-line. The big boys up front were anchored by defensive tackle and current Green Bay Packer Jerel Worthy (currently Worthy is rotating in the starting lineup and impressing coaches and teammates at Packer's training camp). Although Worthy is gone, Spartan fans can rejoice in the fact that seasoned veterans return such as Marcus Rush and William Gholston. Both had impacts last season. 

College football insider Phil Steele ranked Michigan State's defensive line the 10th best unit in the nation. He notes that the Spartan front line was key last season allowing only 101 rushing yards per game. The Spartans also tallied 45 quarterback sacks. This year Steele says the Spartans will rely on William Gholston to rally the front four.

Gholston (who is cousin to former Buckeye and current Chicago Bear Vernon Gholston) is a physical specimen, standing 6 feet 7 inches and weighing 278 pounds. He has a freakish reach that will allow him to disengage blockers and create separation. He is a preseason favorite for the Bednarik, Hendricks, Lombardi, Camp, and Nagurski awards. Gholston also holds preseason All American Titles from (2nd Team) and Phil Steele (3rd Team).

Gholston is looking to have a big year, largely due to the fact that he is a hot draft prospect. Last year he had a little slip up against rival Michigan. In an incident that has gained fame via internet clips, Gholston punched Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson during a scrum on the ground. Gholston served a suspension handed by the Big Ten for the incident. He has put it aside and looks to lead the Spartan D-line and defensive unit.

The defensive line preseason depth chart reads as follows: Defensive End Marcus Rush (6-2, 250 SO) Defensive Tackle Anthony Rashad White (6-2, 330 SR) Nose Tackle Tyler Hoover (6-7, 310 SR-5) or James Kittredge (6-4, 272 SO) Defensive End William Gholston (6-7, 278 JR)

Marcus Rush, an Ohio native, enters his second starting season. He has numerous preseason accolades and is praised by coaches. As a redshirt freshman he earned Big Ten Freshman Defensive MVP honors from Rush is excited about the depth of the defensive line. In an interview from the Lansing State Journal Rush stated:
“Your goal is to have that comfort zone that you can come out and rest for a couple plays and be able to come back in, and that's great. We’re gonna be that much more fresh and more powerful.”

Anthony Rashad White has some tough shoes to fill. The senior from Battle Creek is replacing All American d-tackle Jerel Worthy. White appeared in 13 games, but he is best known for the blocked field goal that set up the Outback Bowl win for the Spartans. He has pure size and strength. His veteran experience will help him endure the season long battle in the trenches.

Tyler Hoover, a fifth year senior from Novi, is in a heated position battle With James Kittredge (a Ramsey, New Jersey). Hoover added 20 pounds to his frame in order to make the switch from d-end to nose tackle. He suffered a fractured rib last season, yet he impressed coaches during the Green and White scrimmage. Hoover won the Danziger Award as a sophomore (this is presented to the team's most impressive Detroit area player). He tallied nine starts as a sophomore and had a huge impact. Hopefully Hoover stays healthy and produces this season.

Kittredge is a product of Don Bosco Prep, a national football powerhouse that has reached the top of high school polls across the nation. He was an Under Armour All American, who originally committed to Vanderbilt. Kittredge originally played Offensive Line at Vandy, appearing in games as a true freshman at guard and center. He sat last season out during the transfer period and has three years of eligibility left. Kittredge's father played with coach Dantonio at South Carolina. Kittredge had a falling out with the Vanderbilt program and wanted a team allowing him to play on the defensive side of the ball. Kittredge was originally recruited by MSU as a d-lineman in high school. He has a high motor and instinct for making plays. 

Both Kittredge and Hoover are excellent players. What might be best is a hybrid nose tackle role in which both players rotate. Hoover offers overwhelming size and experience, while Kittredge is quick and versatile. A combination could prove to be a secret weapon in the Spartans defensive arsenal.

A defensive unit is anchored by the d-line. With a deep squad, experienced veterans, freak athletes, and hungry younger players, the MSU d-line will set a precedent for the rest of the squad. Look for a big season from the front four.

Aug 17, 2012

Michigan State Offensive Line Preview

Guard Chris McDonald at work during a preseason practice
Photo from Michigan State Spartans Official Facebook Page
By Blain Bradley

Summer is winding to a close and the grind of the gridiron has begun. The Spartans look to continue their on field success this year with a team that is young and hungry. As the old adage goes a football game is won in the trenches. The Spartans O-Line looks strong and determined this year. Great offensive line play will be needed this season. Junior LeVeon Bell and the Spartan running backs will rely on them for protection. Bell is returning off a 948 yard, 13 touchdown season. Credit for his on field success is largely given to the Spartan line.

Last season the Spartans finished in the middle of the pack in sacks allowed in the Big Ten. In a conference that is known for defensive pressure this can be alarming. New Quarterback Andrew Maxwell will need to rally the big boys together and depend on them to protect him from big time pressure. The key to quarterback success is trusting your teammates around you. The biggest trust is between a quarterback and his receivers. Second to that comes the offensive line.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked line positions is that of the tight end. When you break it down a tight end is still a linemen. The Spartans will play big bodied tight end Dion Sims from Detroit. The motor city man is a solid 6 foot 5 inches with 285 pounds on his frame. The junior was named to the Mackey Award watch list. College football guru Phil Steele put Sims amongst the top tight ends in the nation. Sims is a tough player who played the second half of last season with a broken hand. Sims has nice speed on the outside for sweep plays and stretch plays that require clean blocks. Look for him to have a big season.

The preseason depth chart lists the following starters on the O-Line: Left Tackle Dan France (6-6 315, JR) Left Guard Blake Treadwell (6-3 300, JR) Center Travis Jackson (6-3 280, SO) Right Guard Chris McDonald (6-5 298, SR-5) Right Tackle Fou Fonoti (6-4 296 SR) Tight End Dion Sims (6-5 285, JR).

Perhaps what is most impressive about Michigan State's offensive line is that eight players have some starting experience under their belt. Experience will be key in a schedule that leaves no margin for error. When asked about his thoughts on MSU's O-Line during media day, Coach Dantonio responded with the following statement"If you can run the ball and protect the passer, we're going to be pretty successful on offense. So it's very, very important."

Offensive Line coach Mark Staten feels more comfortable with this years unit. He has a better understanding of the depth that the Spartans have up front. He is also highly pleased with the quality of players.

As of now Blake Treadwell is recovering from a tibia fracture. Replacing him is Redshirt Freshman Jack Allen. Allen has impressed coaches with great run blocking and a tenacity to fight back during tough drives. He has great work ethic according to coaches.

With the first game being August 31st against the scrappy Boise State Broncos, the Spartans have little time to prepare. If all the pieces click well, the Spartans can score a big win at home on national television. It will all start with the offensive line and their desire to persevere through a long, grueling season. 

The Journey Through Michigan State Football 2011-12

By Sean Gagnier

With the 2012 football season fast approaching, take a look back at the amazing season that was the 2011-12 Spartan football season.

Aug 16, 2012

Spartans Select Student Section Shirt

 By Sean Gagnier

Each season the Michigan State Spartans faithful join together and cast their vote for the shirt that each of them will don each Saturday and become one united group, and this year, this is what they selected.

With 48 percent of the vote the third option presented to voters won. The shirt, seen above, was designed by Nike and bears the slogan, "We will stand. Stand and fight." A strong statement by the students for their football team.

Students who purchased season tickets can pick up their shirt, included in the cost of the tickets, at several places on campus, including the Spartan Bookstore in the International Center. Students who did not purchase season tickets may still buy a student section shirt across the campus and at the Spartan Bookstore.

Aug 15, 2012

Spartans Ranked No. 8 In Sports Illustrated

By Sean Gagnier

The preseason rankings have been out for a while now, and according the The USA Today the Spartans are the 13th best team in the land, trailing the rival Wolverines who sit in eighth place. But a new ranking is out, this one from Sports Illustrated and things look a little different. In that listing the Spartans are a top ten team, No. 8, and the Wolverines have taken over the 13th position.

SI's reasoning in why they have Michigan State ranked No. 8 is that while the Spartans have lost Kirk Cousins, the man that will be replacing him is actually better than he was. SI explains that even though Cousins had the game experience, that his replacement, Andrew Maxwell, has a better arm and is more athletic. With the full stable of receivers the Spartans have this season, Maxwell shouldn't have trouble finding someone to throw to.

Maxwell was named the "Breakout Player" on this Spartans team, as he will take over a club that has posted back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. Michigan State's defense is just as good, if not better than it was last season, and will keep opponents from scoring regularly, giving Maxwell and his offense many opportunities to get and maintain the lead.

SI noted four-star safety recruit Demetrious Cox as the Spartans top recruit, but with as good as the secondary was last season (18 interceptions to lead the B1G) Coach Mark Dantonio will likely follow his blueprint and red-shirt Cox for the 2012 season.

William Gholston was spotlighted by the magazine, as one of the best players on the defensive side of the ball, and with the performance the former five-star recruit turned in during the win in the Outback Bowl over Georgia he is quite impressive.

Yes, Gholston has had his bad times, after twisting Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's helmet and punching Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan in the facemask, but he served his suspension and came back to his team playing a clean game, but playing with the same ferocity that he had before the ban.

Michigan State did lose a defensive force in Jerel Worthy to the Green Bay Packers, but another former five-star recruit Lawrence Thomas has transitioned from a linebacker to a defensive end. Meaning that this Spartans team will now have a five-star defensive end on each end of the line every down while the middle of the defensive line sports names like Anthony Rashad White and Marcus Rush.

With an impressive defense returning, and improving from last season, and a quarterback in Maxwell that is thought to be even better than Cousins, the Spartans simply need to get their receiving corps in order and they will be the favorites for the Legends Division crown for another season.

The Michigan State preseason depth chart has Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery listed as the starting receivers, but former four-star recruit to Tennessee DeAnthony Arnett is making a push for a job of his own. Redshirt-freshman recruit Juwan Caesar is also pushing for his own starting job. With the Spartan receiving corps bristling with this much talent, Dan Roushar's pass happy offense should continue to cruise.

Coach Dantonio has said that he wants to get back to running the ball and no one should be happier to hear that than Le'Veon Bell who is listed as the starting running back. Bell is a physical back who almost seeks out contact, a la Adrian Peterson, when he gets through the line and is in the secondary. He will be pushed however, as senior Larry Caper hopes to regain his starting job.

With the defense as solid as ever and the offense reloading, it appears as though the No. 8 seed placed on the Spartans by SI is well deserved.


Aug 13, 2012

Storylines and Predictions for the 2012 Spartan Football Season (Part One)

Photo from @MSU_Football

By Matt Sheehan

It's almost that time of year again, Spartan fans. Now that we are two weeks away from kickoff it is time to go through the schedule and breakdown the story line and chances of winning for each game the Spartans will play in 2012. In today's edition we will look at the first six games on the Spartans schedule to get the season's expectations put in place.

Aug 31 vs. Boise State- These two teams are in one identical situation: trying to replace the stars of last year’s offense. Boise State has lost record setting quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin, just as the Spartans have lost Kirk Cousins, BJ Cunningham, and Keshawn Martin.

Both teams will be test driving their new offense, but the defense of Michigan State will stop the Broncos from going anywhere the whole night. Not only will the play on the field be well, but just think of the atmosphere that will be in Spartan Stadium; it’s a night game, with the brand new scoreboards, and it’s the very first game of the season. Sounds like a big bowl of mayhem for Boise State to be stepping into. 

Michigan State’s chances of winning: 70%

Sep 9 vs. Central Michigan- The Chippewas of Central Michigan bring in the Spartans for a rare showdown in Mount Pleasant. The last two meetings have been split between the pair, with Michigan State winning 45-7 in a not-so-nail-biter in 2011. 

The crowd will be top of the line for Central Michigan, but that won’t even help the Chippewas spotty offense get going against the Spartans tenacious D. Michigan State is seeing some of their best days in program history and Central Michigan is still trying to find their footing ever sense quarterback Dan LeFevour graduated. 

Michigan State’s chances of winning: 90%

Sep 15 vs. Notre Dame- Notre Dame head coach, Brian Kelly, is 1-1 against Michigan State since joining the Irish, beating the Spartans last year 31-13. Last year’s drubbing all but erased the great memories (depending on who you root for) of “Little Giants” back in 2010. This game will settle the score and could very well put Brian Kelly and the Irish on the hot seat early on in 2012.

This matchup, like always, will have no clear-cut favorite to win. Both teams boast and incredible defense with offenses that look promising, but will still be in question. Star running back Le’Veon Bell will lead the ground attack for the Spartans and tight end Tyler Eifert will be the playmaker in the air for Notre Dame. Michigan State’s linebacker core and secondary will give the Irish a hard time airing out the ball, so expect a low scoring game from both ends of the ball. It will be another game under the nighttime skies of East Lansing, so prepare for another game with an intense atmosphere. 

Michigan State’s chance of winning- 55%

Sep 22 vs. Eastern Michigan- A game should never be a walk in the park, but Michigan State could be enjoying a stroll on this Saturday afternoon. 2008 was the last time these two teams met, so the rosters will look very different for this game. 

The Eagles are coming off of a 6-6 record, and two of those wins came against Division I-AA schools. Not to say they will be terrible this year, but Michigan State should have no problem running away with a convincing victory. The only blunder they can’t make, however, is overlooking the Eagles and taking them too lightly.

Michigan State’s chance of winning- 93%

Sep 29 vs. Ohio State- Big Ten play opens up with a big name team, and this year the showdown will be in East Lansing. The Spartans took advantage of the Ohio State’s odd season by winning 10-7 in Buckeye territory. Less than a year after quitting his head coaching job in Florida for medical reasons, Urban Meyer takes over the same position at Ohio State.

Ohio State has 18 returning starters on their roster, and Meyer also brings a top-notch recruiting class with him. Dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller will be one of the nation’s hardest players to contain, but saying the Spartans have stopped Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson three straight years they should have no problem with Miller. Ohio State’s defense will return stud defensive end John Simon and safety C.J. Barnett, so don’t look for the scoreboard to flash big numbers. Ohio State is a good team, but the Spartans have what it takes to prove they are better for a second straight meeting. 

Michigan State’s chance of winning- 50%

Oct 6 vs. Indiana- Michigan State will head down to Hoosier Nation to follow up on last season’s 42-29 victory over Indiana. Indiana returns a Big-Ten high of 19 starters on both sides of the ball, but that is from a team that went 1-11 in 2011. Don’t give up on them, however, because they have the talent and new offensive coordinator, Seth Littrell, that could put Sparty on upset alert. 

Junior running back Stephen Houston will lead the offense for the Hoosiers, and he will be receiving hand-offs from either dual-threat quarterback Tre Robertson or Cameron Coffman. Unfortunately for Indiana, the Spartans will have defensive ends William Gholston and Marcus Rush to help clog the run game. The fact that they face a linebacker core led by Max Bullough doesn’t help the Hoosiers either, and once again defense could be the reason the Spartans drive out of Indiana with a ‘W’. 

Michigan State’s chance of winning- 80%

With six games in our preview knocked down, expect the Spartans to be 5-1 at this point of the season. A loss to either Notre Dame or Ohio State is possible, but to see the Spartans lose to both teams would be a shocker. Going undefeated through six games isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but they have a lot of talent to get through in order to achieve that record. 

Come back soon to see part two of our preseason breakdown, and prepare yourself for another great season of Spartan football.

Spartans Need Help In Renaming Hockey's Student Section

By Sean Gagnier

They call themselves "The Slapshots," they pile into the rink well before the rest of the crowd and lead the entire stadium in spirited cheers and jeers; they are the Michigan State hockey student section and they are getting a new name.

Under head coach Tom Anastos the Spartans hockey team has undergone a bit of a brand transformation and a search for a new identity. This season the Spartans will have a new set of uniforms, including a complete set for the Great Lakes Invitational that will be held outdoors at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit in January.

Coach Anastos said that he believes renaming the student section will bring in a new freshness to the team and help contribute to the groundswell of support that he expects from the Spartan faithful.

With Coach Anastos and the Student Alumni Foundation, which organizes the student section, both on board with the idea of a rename, they are asking for suggestions, and will be taking those suggestions until Aug. 26, at which point they will compile the names and select the top three to be voted on by the fans.

Have an idea of what the hockey student section should be called? Let them know right here.

Spartan Stadium In Top 3 Most Difficult Places To Play

By Sean Gagnier

The Sporting News recently released rankings of the toughest stadiums for opponents to play in, both historically and right now. And according to The Sporting News, Michigan State's Spartan Stadium is the third most difficult place to play right now.

The current 14-game home win streak the Spartans have accumulated is one of the things that The Sporting News cited when determining their rankings. During this streak the Spartans have beaten three ranked teams, including Wisconsin twice, with the last time being "The Rocket" hail mary from Kirk Cousins to lift the Spartans over the Badgers.

The last time the Spartans faithful left Spartan Stadium disappointed was on Nov. 21, 2009 when then-No. 13 Penn State beat Michigan State 42-14, with the Nittany Lions scoring 35 points in the second half.

Much of the difficulty of playing in Spartan Stadium comes from the 80,000+ fans who pack into the stadium on a weekly basis as well as the design of the stadium itself, with one University of Wisconsin student journalist to write of the building following the Badgers 2010 loss there, that it looked industrial and cold with a smokestack just beyond the endzone.

Well, the smokestack is gone, but there are three new scoreboards ringing the building and a new sound system to accompany them, so with the stadium looking on-point and the team looking good again this season, it appears as though Spartan Stadium will continue to be one of the most difficult places to play.

New Murals Go Up On Spartan Stadium

From Facebook
By Sean Gagnier

With the new scoreboards up and ready at Spartan Stadium all they needed was a finishing touch to cap off the multimillion dollar upgrade to the facility.

New murals will adorn the outside of the scoreboards, showing Spartans players in the midst of big plays. In keeping with the Athletic Department's latest movement the murals portray an anonymous Spartan player and not any one individual.

Back in the John L. Smith days the stadium was adorned with giant murals of Jeff Smoker and Jehuu Caulcrick. Captions read "Where there's smoke, there's fire." Under Mark Dantonio the names on the uniforms came back but the ones on the stadium came down.

Spartans fans will be treated to three giant-sized video boards and a new ribbon board across the top of the lower bowl. The monitors are a huge step up in size from the past monitors, as the graphic to the right shows.

The Spartan Stadium upgrades are part of a general upgrading of all of the sporting venues, with the Breslin Center and Jenison Center receiving upgrades last year. Any upgrades on Munn Ice Arena could be pending a decision on the future of the building.