The season so far in terms of defensive tackle size:
- Aug. 31: 5-11, 290 lbs (Travonte Boles); 5-11, 284 lbs (Jabari Bothwell)
- Sept. 7: 6-3, 326 lbs (Louis Nix)
- Sept. 14: 6-2, 266 lbs (Nico Caponi); 5-11, 293 lbs (Cody Grice)
- Sept. 21: 6-5, 323 lbs (Shamar Stephen); 6-3, 297 lbs (Angelo Pruitt)
- Sept. 28: BYE
- Oct. 5: 6-6, 311 lbs (Rashede Hageman); 6-5, 290 lbs (Cameron Botticelli)
- Oct. 12: 6-3, 330 lbs (DaQuan Jones); 6-4, 310 lbs (Austin Johnson)
- Oct. 17: 6-5, 312 lbs (Ralphael Green); 6-2, 300 lbs (Adarius Rayner)
- Oct. 24: BYE
Highly metaphorical plot synopsis of Thor 1
Thor and Loki are brothers. Thor, the elder of the two, has been groomed to ascend to the throne of Asgard, while Loki has lived his life in the back seat. This state of affairs engenders bitterness and jealousy in Loki. To make matters worse Loki discovers he was adopted. He hatches a plot to banish his brother, kill his father, and do all sorts of bad things on his way to power.
Thor eventually figures out what’s going on, overcomes Loki’s plot, and fights Loki in a CGI-tastic battle sequence that may or may not actually be a Skittles commercial. That’s when Loki has a moment of candor: “I never wanted the throne. I only ever wanted to be your equal!” Moments later, he loses the fight and falls into a wormhole.
Whereupon Thor exclaims, “Loki, NOOOOOOO!”
The season of infinite Schadenfreude*
2012 was a great season to watch Michigan State football. Between LeVeon Bell’s disinterest in requiring an offensive line and the receivers’ disinterest in catching footballs, the Spartans offense was a season-long etude in one-man football. Throw in Andrew Maxwell’s live YPA stats and you had a pretty great drinking game.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan State’s defense probably found a lot of personal meaning in the tale of Sisyphus from Greek mythology. I’m totally kidding. Most of them are like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about / I got rid of mine with penicillin.”
Highlights of their season include trailing Eastern Michigan for three quarters, trailing Indiana for three quarters, blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Iowa, and blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.
Michigan fans will remember that last part as the day it momentarily stopped being funny.
At season’s end, all fingers pointed to the offense, so offensive coordinator Dan Roushar got fired. I’m not sure if that was warranted. I didn’t watch them that closely, but I don’t think you can fault the OC too much when the offensive line is a lemon and Nike is coating their Pro-Combat receiver gloves with teflon. Add in the QB transition and losing most of their previous playmakers to the NFL … Whatever. A witch was required. They burned her.
This is where it gets hilarious. The results of a diligent coaching search turned up Dave Warner (MSU QB coach) and Jim Bollman (YTJB). Warner got promoted, maybe by mistake, so then Bollman got hired a few weeks later because -- who the hell knows. Synergy. Cross-platform initiatives. Verisimilitude.
The two are still figuring out how to split OC duties, since one guy alone couldn’t handle the neural load of the Spartans offensive Jaeger. They will enter a Drift this fall and become one, which means Warner will emerge at some point from the coordinator box shaking uncontrollably, with blown pupils, a bloody nose, and images of Joe Bauserman seared indelibly into his mind. This is a great and totally convincing premise for plot and character development.
Michael Bay Guillermo del Toro is the best.
*Except for the Nebraska game, where choking away the game to spite Michigan’s chances for a division title was the Spartiest thing ever. I bet the most common cause of diabetes in East Lansing is “UM fan wanted to borrow sugar.”
Nobody deserves a second chance like QB Andrew Maxwell. Poor guy put it on the money more often than not only to see the ball clang off his receivers’ facemasks. Maybe that arm strength thing really is overrated, because clearly Michigan State’s receivers much preferred the softness of Kirk Cousins’s balls.
Of course, after suffering through a season of awful receiving and crappy pass protection, nothing says “thanks for taking things in stride” like a good old-fashioned QB controversy. Maxwell (52.5%, 2606 yards, 5.8 ypa, 13 TD, 9 INT) has to fend off Connor Cook, a dual-threat guy who makes up with size and spunk what he lacks in arm. In the spring game Cook went 10-26 for a little over 200 yards and a score. Yeah, had the receivers not been wearing their Teflon-coated gloves, Cook’s completion rate would have been higher. Had the DBs not borrowed gloves from the receivers, though, his INT rate would also have been higher, too.
I think Maxwell holds onto his job, but it’s not going to be easy. Bollman loves him some noodle-armed scramblers, so it’s likely that Cook will be auditioned as a “change-of-pace” player until Bollman gives up on reincarnating Troy Smith.
On the receiving end, WR Aaron Burbridge is the primary argument for having a QB who can actually throw. A late-emerging star last season, Burbridge is a guy you may remember as the borderline five-star recruit Michigan was after in a bad way until academics became an issue. As a Spartan, he lived up to his billing, making a bunch of highlight-reel catches over a three-game stretch in October. His production waned in November for some reason, but he came back strong in the spring game with five catches for 113 yards. He’s the preseason favorite to be MSU’s offensive MVP.
If Maxwell loses his job, however, Burbridge will probably be relegated to blocking duties, where he will join fellow returning starters Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett, and Bennie Fowler. Their lead hands will.
Michigan State’s run game will go from firing depleted uranium shells (Bell) from a BB gun (2012 OL) to shooting frozen chickens (whoever the RB is this year) from a cannon (2013 OL). Yeah, I rocked the SAT analogies back when the SAT had analogies. The injured offensive linemen, RT Fou Fonoti and C Travis Jackson, are doing dandy these days, so things are looking good up front. In the backfield, not so much. As of the last time I read about MSU’s running backs, I’m pretty sure the guy getting the most hype was a RS freshman linebacker (Riley Bullough). Nothing has happened since spring ball, so I’m guessing that’s still accurate.
There’s a lot of suck written all over the Spartans offense, which is ironic because all Michigan State is asking from that side of the ball is to not suck. It’s a very reasonable request. Like, don’t go three and out every drive. Find the end zone every once in a while. Try to cross the 50 yard line.
Because if they can improve even a tiny bit, the team will be in good shape. After all, last year they lost five games by a combined 13 points thanks to their murderous
Spartan Pride -- operationally defined by flexing when you're down 49-7 to Alabama.
Things sure look a lot different over here. Where did all the suck go? Is this a different team?
It definitely deserves to be on a different team, and I bet Pat Narduzzi has been quietly fomenting ideas of secession within his ranks last September. When civil war breaks out, his defense would win easily (Narduzzi vs. Bollman, is there even a question?), and then they could join Northwestern and rule the B1G as a dual hegemony comprised exclusively of two-star recruits, scouting services be damned.
Back to reality, which is clearly not as cool as the alternate one in my head, I think what we’re going to see from Michigan State’s defense is more of the same. Since 2010, Narduzzi has proven his success to be completely sustainable. For Michigan fans, this is all very unfortunate. If he is interested I would be happy to write him a letter of recommendation for whichever head coach position opens up next. Likely Illinois.
The Spartans return everyone on defense except for DE Will Gholston and CB Johnny Adams. I know, right? OMG, 10 starters returning from a top-10 defense! It gets worse. Although Adams was a really good player -- three-time All B1G -- and will probably be missed to an extent, Michigan State has no lack for corners, and the other guy, Darqueze Dennard (52 tackles, 7 PBUs, 3 INTs), was better anyway. Meanwhile Gholston had the pass rush ability of Jordan Kovacs. That almost sounds like a knock on Kovacs. Five bucks says whoever Narduzzi finds as the new WDE will be more productive than Gholston.
Anyway, let’s just get the horrible part of the preview over with. A-gap extraordinaire LB Max Bullough (111 tackles, 12.5 TFLs) will continue to hang out in opponent backfields and make blocking schemes look silly; he is everything we hope Joe Bolden will be someday. Surface-to-Air Missile Denicos Allen (79 tackles, 10 TFLs, 3 sacks) will latch onto anything with a heat signal, which means on any given play he’ll either blow a guy up or run himself out of the play. WLB Taiwan Jones, who won the job from incumbent Chris Norman (38 tackles, 5.5 TFLs) halfway through last season, will be there to mop up the remains.
I’m watching these guys against Wisconsin, and it’s like Wisconsin’s offensive line forgets how to block properly:
The other thing to take away from the Wisconsin video is that the defensive line doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot on its own, but it does a good job of occupying blockers long enough for the linebackers to make plays. I think ever since Jerel Worthy left, the line’s production has lost the snap-jumping edge that made them elite.
They are still pretty good. With the return of strongside end Marcus Rush (38 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and tackles James Kittredge (14 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and Tyler Hoover (missed a chunk of 2012 with an injury), holding steady, last year’s production should be the bottom line. Ramping up the pass rush will be the item No. 1 in a short bucket list of things to improve. Otherwise, it ain’t broke. There’s no need to fix anything, not with the linebackers they have and Narduzzi’s penchant for blitzing them until your backfield is broken.
Even if QB pressure doesn’t always hit home, the coverage should hold up. Opposite Dennard will likely be newcomer Trae Waynes, another member of the two-star mafia likely to end up on an all-conference list somewhere just to spite everyone. At safety, Michigan State will feature multi-year starters Isaiah Lewis (80 tackles, 6 PBUs, 2 INTs) and Kurtis Drummond (53 tackles, 4 PBUs, 2 INTs).
Happy little ray of hope: their offense.
This team is kind of like: Sisyphus and his rock.
Vs. Michigan: The game is in East Lansing this year, which is the opposite of ideal for everyone involved except for Dantonio and Narduzzi, who figure a home game is when they can tell their players to do whatever they want, like so:
State had about 56 or 57 yards per game to penalties last year, a [Ed-H: Hey Seth, did you have a stroke?]
Extracurriculars aside, gameplanning against Michigan State’s defense should involve a lot of heavy sighing with regard to the ground game. Running between the tackles will be a lot like buying a lottery ticket the day after someone hits the jackpot: it should be done only to remind ourselves that downs are valuable and we are stupid. I know, I know, “the winner in this rivalry game always has more yards on the ground. Hurr durrr.” Did I mention that MSU’s best tailback is a linebacker?
Where Michigan can succeed is through the air. The OL should be pretty good at keeping the pocket clean, and Devin seems poised to pick apart defenses provided that he’s not scrambling for his life. As good as the Spartans DBs are, I think they’re lacking a touch of athleticism, and they don’t seem to stick to receivers as well as they should.
Defensively, coverage will be key. The passing game has a lot of potential, and as much as the receivers hate catching passes most of the time, I’m pretty sure they caught every single one last year against Michigan. Giving up big plays in road games can be devastating, and in the absence of Kovacs, the Wolverines will have to do everything they can to ensure that Burbridge and co. don’t get the crowd going.
- Western Michigan
- South Florida
- Youngstown State
- @Notre Dame
Outlook: 9-3 overall, 6-2 B1G
- Wins: WMU, USF, YSU, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, @Illinois, Minnesota
- Losses: @Notre Dame
- Random Number Generator: Michigan, @Nebraska, @Northwestern