"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
As chosen by Rivals' thoroughly scientific process (/s). But seriously, it's always cool to see any Michigan game getting national hype.
Best game: Michigan at Michigan State, noon, ESPN. Michigan makes the short drive to East Lansing to put its unbeaten record on the line against the Spartans (4-1) in a bitter in-state rivalry. Michigan State has won three in a row in the series. The Spartans have held four of their five opponents to seven or fewer points, but they face a tremendous challenge in trying to contain explosive Wolverines QB Denard Robinson and a Michigan offense that has exceeded 30 points four times.
Best unit matchup of the week: Michigan offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive line. Michigan State leads the nation in total defense and is third nationally in run defense. Michigan's offensive line has done a nice job controlling the line of scrimmage and that has to continue against the Spartans. Wolverines QB Denard Robinson certainly can scramble, but he would much rather run when he wants to rather than when he has to. Michigan's line has allowed a nation's-low two sacks, and TBs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Vincent Smith have been effective runners. The Spartans' front needs to clog up the middle Saturday.
Best coordinator chess match: Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges vs. Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. The Spartans have surprised many by playing some of the best defense in the nation under Narduzzi. But Narduzzi will have to have his troops in top form facing Borges' attack, which is led by Denard Robinson. Borges is slowly opening the playbook and expanding the options for Robinson. The winning coordinator's team will have a big leg up in the Big Ten Legends Division race.
Michigan State will be wearing Nike Pro Combat uniforms for their game against Michigan this weekend. I actually think the uniforms look great and I'm probably not as offended as I should be about Nike's use of military words and pictures to market to teenage athletes.
Most Nike Pro Combat uniforms pay homage to great teams from the past, echo traditional uniform elements or employ locale-specific themes; I like to think that a total lack of options required Michigan State to go all the way back through their history to ancient Sparta for design elements worth repeating.
I laughed when I read the original press release in September as I imagined how the uniform would look if they really wanted to dress up their football team like Spartans. Nike could use dye sublimation to print 300-esque physiques on the jersey and pants and add blood spatter numbers and branding to reinforce the whole "Prepare for Combat" message. Nike isn't afraid of introducing new technology in their uniforms, so why not a partnership with Vibram to combine the natural feel of FiveFingers with the traction of Vapor cleats?
Here's what Nike's official press release would say about my version of Michigan State's Spartan throwback uniform:
Like the ferocious Spartan warriors of ancient Greece, the Michigan State University football team views every game as a battle of attrition, requiring the right equipment, body oil and attitude to die to the last man. Accordingly, the Spartans have been chosen to wear the innovative Nike Pro Combat system of dress-up for the 2011 season. When the gates lift for their battle against archrival Michigan on Oct. 15, the Spartans will sport a design with dye-sublimated physiques printed from full body scans to perfectly match each player's skin and muscle tone. Bronze helmets honor the heroic armor of their historic namesake and an intimidating detachable plume will be worn during pregame warmups. Realistic skin effects are visible throughout the uniform, adding the authentic skimpy durability synonymous with the Spartan name.
The uniform's overall innovation starts with the skin tight baselayer, as strategically placed seams, pads and cooling zones help minimize chafing and optimize protective coverage. It features customizable protection, incorporating a thin, incredibly strong carbon fiber plate textured and painted to look like genuine leather. This symbolically mirrors that of the Spartan body armor, which consisted of leather briefs and sash with a small amount of padding on the shield arm shoulder.
An exclusive partnership with Vibram brings natural running technology to the gridiron for the very first time. Like their ancient counterparts, these Spartans will battle barefoot, or as close to it as NCAA rules allow. For the first time, football players are able to experience the sensation and freedom of barefoot running with the protection and sure-footed grip of Nike's new Talon cleat technology.
Echoing the cry of King Leonidas, the back of the collar is inscribed with the words "Molon Labe," the Spartans' defiant challenge to the competition (and to fans clamoring for officially licensed gear) to "come and get them!" Flayed, blood-spattered numbers and branding compete the traditional Spartan post-combat look. Armed with intensity and determination, and realistic leather accessories, MSU will fight on the battlefield until the last team is standing.
The images below are a previews only. You can get the widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
I needed a solid white uniform to pull this off and was lucky to find a decent image from a previous version of LSU's Pro Combat uniform. As you can see in the video, I painted over the existing numbers and logos and then superimposed the muscles and other effects. If you're up for several minutes of uncomfortable closeups with bare-chested warriors being manipulated digitally then this making-of video is for you.
Michigan State Red-shirt freshman Offensive Tackle Skyler Burkland is out for the season after getting his leg rolled up on and broken in the game against ND. If you watched the game you'll probably remember cringing in sympathetic pain when they showed the replay.
Let's all take a moment to reaffirm that we are basically good people at heart and we wouldn't wish that kind of injury to happen to anyone, friend or foe.
Done? Good. Now let's look at the damage:
Burkland... was replaced by junior-college transfer Fou Fonoti. Fonoti is likely to be the full-time replacement for Burkland, even after he had been pushing Dan France for playing time at left tackle. To help the team's depth issues, Dantonio said defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds will be moved back to offense. Reynolds has been moved back and forth between offense and defense throughout his career, and saw plenty of action on defense against Florida Atlantic.
Ifyou're keeping score at home, that's about three notches on the "Position Switch(es) Indicating Approaching Doom" scale in that paragraph alone. It's starting to look the MSU game will look like the Western game on steroids - on any given play Cousins will probably either end up throwing a laser to a frustratingly-open reciever, or getting murderized by a Michigan lineman or blitzer.
So after hearing about MSU's Mark Hollis complaining at MSED about his apparent lack of budget, it was surprising to see this article in this week's issue of SBJ
In a feature story on college atheltics (which is very interesting from the 'brand' perspective...), SBJ lays out the AD budgets for all schools in major conferences. Of note is the big ten, where Michigan ranks second behind only Ohio State.
2012 Big Ten AD Budgets
1.) Ohio State - 126.5 Million
2) Michigan - 109.8 Million
3) Penn State - 92.0 Million
4) Wisconsin - 88.1 Million
5) Nebraska - 79.1 Million
6) Michigan State - 78.8 Million
7) Minnesota - 78.6 Million
8) Iowa - 74.9 Million
9) Illinois - 70.2 Million
10) Purdue - 68.7 Million
11) Indiana - 61.5 Million
12) Northwestern - N/A
So Mr. Hollis does in fact have at least half of UM's AD budget (though its still a fairly significant gap).
Other interseting takeaways:
- Michigan's AD budget growth over the three year period (FY2010 - FY2012) was 29.8% (84.6 Million to 109.8 Million), which does prove that the big house renovations are really paying off
- Michigan's AD budget is the third largest in the country, behind only Texas (153.5 Million!), and Ohio State (126.5 Million).
- Every school in the Big Ten has experienced posive budget growth over the three year period.
Lastly, here's a great article on the success of branding in college athletics, which is sure to piss everyone off.
This more or less broke last night, but Jaleel Johnson officially committed to Iowa today. He was considering MIchigan earlier in the process, but was down to Iowa and Michigan State.
This is a big blow for Michigan State. As of a week ago, they were pretty confident that they had him in the bag. With Danny O'Brien focusing on Michigan and Tennessee and rumors that Norfleet is looking down South a bit, Michigan State is running out of big names on their board. It's possible that the only blue-chip recruit they end up with is Se'Von Pittman, but MSU fans can't feel too confident about that commitment given some of his comments.
Per Bill Greene's twitter. Huge get for MSU out of nowhere.