Saturday, September 9, 2017

First post in forever. Western Michigan game.

It's been a long time since I wrote in this blog. I'm still not sure if I'm entirely feeling it, but here's a shot.

We are already one week into the football season. The Spartans opened up last week with a workmanlike 35-10 win over Bowling Green. At least it was a much better performance than last year's season opener against Furman, a game MSU sleepwalked through (though they did win. But it was a harbinger of the disaster to come).

Today MSU takes on Western Michigan. The Broncos were 13-1 last year and just came off an impressive performance on the road against USC, in which WMU ran for over 250 yards and put up 31 points against a team that is allegedly top five in the nation. This game could be a litmus test for MSU. Are they improved from last year's disaster? Or are they where they left off last season. We shall see.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Catching up with Spartan sports

I haven't been too engaged with MSU sports this winter, certainly not as much as I have in the past. As I wrote in my previous post, events in our country and the world have rendered sports not as important or noteworthy as they once were.

Ironically, this season I have tied my personal record for Michigan State men's basketball games attended in person. I've been to eight games this season, and it would have been nine if my younger son's birthday hadn't been on MSU's senior day. (I decided to stay home and hang out with him). The Spartans have won every game I've attended this year, and my overall "in person" win-loss record is 46-3.

However, when I'm not at Breslin, I haven't been watching Spartan hoops that much. I think I've watched about one or two games on television. I just can't sit still long enough to watch a 2+ hour game on TV.

It's been a bumpy, rocky season. There have been key injuries and a young core of players who've had to learn how to play together, but it looks like maybe they are finally doing that. Miles Bridges has been excellent almost all year, but it's taken Nick Ward, Joshua Langford, and Cassius Winston most of the season to come into their own. After all the ups and downs they've been through, the MSU hoops team remarkably sits at 10-6 in the conference with an outside shot of tying for the regular season title. Who really saw that coming? Before we get too excited, though, the Spartans' final two regular season games are tough road contests against Illinois and Maryland. 10-8 is a real possibility.

The other news on the MSU sports landscape hasn't been as uplifting. The Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal has given Michigan State unwanted publicity, and the football program has a dark cloud hanging over it with a sexual abuse investigation of its own. It seems that ever since getting demolished by Alabama on December 31, 2015, the football program has hit the skids both on and off the field.

Oh, and the hockey program is a complete train wreck.

So the only reasonable bright sides this winter have been men's and women's basketball. But even the women's team has had a scare with Coach Suzy Merchant's health problems.

That's where we stand right now. I'll revisit this blog when March Madness begins.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sports don't seem very important right now

I've been away from this blog for quite some time. The truth of the matter is I just am not in the mood.

I don't want to get political here, but current events in our nation have made sports not seem particularly important. At least not important enough to write about.

I am not necessarily putting this blog in mothballs, but I may not write in here nearly as much as before. My impression is I don't have many readers anyway, so it may not matter much to anyone.

But while I'm in here, I may as well acknowledge the MSU basketball game against Michigan tomorrow. It was a game about which I felt fairly comfortable until the Wolverines demolished Indiana by 30 points. I still think that the Spartans should find a way to beat Michigan at home, but it could be a death struggle. I will go out on a limb and predict a 73-67 MSU victory. But if Michigan won, I would not be shocked.

I don't know the next time I'll write in here, maybe I'll surprise myself and write immediately after the MSU/UM game, but I really don't know.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of the year wrap-up

There's no way around it, 2016 was a rough year for Michigan State sports. Consequently, it was the least active year I've ever had in this blog. Quite simply, there wasn't much of anything fun to write about, so I didn't write often.

I suppose the tone for 2016 was set on December 31, 2015, when the Spartan football team was completely destroyed by Alabama in the College Football Playoff.

Though the Spartan basketball team had a reasonably decent Big Ten season in 2016, injuries prevented them from achieving everything they could have achieved, though it's hard to get too angry about a second place finish in the conference and a 13-5 Big Ten record. Though winning the Big Ten tournament was a highlight, the first round loss to Middle Tennessee State brought the season to a resounding thud of an end.

Meanwhile, the Michigan State hockey program is a far cry from what it has been in the past. The team muddled its way to a fifth place conference finish (out of six teams) in the 2015-2016 season (6-12-2 in the Big Ten, 10-23-4 overall). I don't follow hockey enough to know what it is going on under Tom Anastos, but based on the results on the ice, it's not good. Hockey at MSU doesn't have near the buzz it had in the '80s and '90s when the late great Ron Mason was coach, and has even fallen far below the standards set by Mason's successor Rick Comley.

And then there's football. 2016 was a disaster. It was so bad, that the high water mark, the pinnacle, the highlight, came in week two when the Spartans hung on to beat Notre Dame in South Bend. It was a game that, at the time, we thought was a big win. As it turned out, the Irish would go on to have a sub-par season, and the Spartans would only win one more game the rest of the year.

Let's just hope 2017 sees a reversal of fortune for MSU sports.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A fitting end to a disastrous season

It's been 16 days since I last posted here, because what is there really to write about? The Spartans followed up their uninspired and anemic loss to Illinois with a 49-0 blowout of Rutgers, one of the worst teams in FBS. They then played a tough, competitive game against Ohio State but just didn't have enough to get over the top and lost 17-16. In the (mercifully) last game of the season, MSU was able to hang with Penn State for one half--actually maintaining a 12-10 lead at intermission--before the bottom fell out in the second half and getting blown out 45-12.

In what seemed like a fitting twist of fate, Damion Terry was knocked out of the game in the first half after suffering a concussion. Terry was playing his best game of the season, and though it was disappointing that the Spartans had to settle for field goals, Terry was at least leading the offense down the field and looked as confident as he had all season. When Terry couldn't return after getting hit in a helmet-to-helmet collision, I certainly had a sense of impending doom. But then again, the entire season has been about impending doom.

By the time the score was 31-12 in favor of Penn State, I'd had enough and went for a run to let off some steam. By the time I'd finished, the game was over and MSU had lost 45-12.

So the football season comes to a merciful end. I don't have a heck of a lot to add right now, just that this season seems to have mirrored what has been a fairly putrid 2016.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Is this rock bottom?

With the recent election results, sports are about the furthest thing from my mind, but here goes:

 I don't know what to say about Michigan State football anymore. I watched the entire MSU/Illinois game and I was shocked. Shocked at how anemic the Spartans looked against a weak opponent. Shocked at how uninspired the whole team played after having played a good game against Michigan.

I gave up the opportunity for free tickets to today's Rutgers game. I just can't take this anymore, and I can't become further depressed by freezing in a half-empty stadium watching the Spartans in a death struggle against an equally pathetic Rutgers team.

I don't even know how much of this game I will watch on television. I suspect not much.

I am so out of sorts that I completely forgot about last night's basketball game against Arizona. I'm disappointed that the Spartans lost--I suppose that eventually MSU WILL win again in a major sport--but encouraged by how well Miles Bridges played. This is a Spartan team that is still learning to play together. I assume that once they gel, they will be outstanding.

Back to football, I don't even know if I should give a prediction for today's game. Honestly, I don't have much faith in this team anymore. It saddens me to write that. Just for the heck of it, I will drink a large glass of green Kool-Aid once more and say that somehow, someway, the Spartans actually find a way to win at home today. Final score: MSU 23, Rutgers 20.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Signs of encouragement?

I'm waiting until the last second to publish my weekly Spartan dispatch. The Cubs' World Series championship and this train wreck of a presidential campaign have dominated my attention.

I did take time early this week to watch the BTN replay of the Michigan game. Count me as one of the "sunshine blowers" who was encouraged by how MSU played. I didn't expect the Spartans to rack up 217 rushing yards against one of the nation's best defense (or allegedly one of the best). For the second week in a row, MSU's offense, and in particular its running attack, looked fairly efficient.

The defense, on the other hand, still has issues. Though it limited Michigan to three points in the second half (the bizarre 2-point conversion return for a touchdown doesn't count against the defense), the Spartans couldn't stop Michigan in the first half. They got little pressure on Speith, but even when they did he came through with some great on-target throws. There's not much even the best defenses can do when a quarterback reacts well to pressure.

Like most other fans, I was disappointed in some incredibly vanilla playcalling in the red zone. I don't know why Dave Warner/Mark Dantonio didn't at least try some deception. Josiah Price is one of the conference's best tight ends who has delivered big plays time and time again since 2013 and he was never utilized.

But all-in-all, it was an encouraging performance. If the Spartans can bring just 75 percent of the focus they had against Michigan, they should beat Illinois today by two touchdowns.

So even though my predictions have been terrible this season, I'll call this game: MSU 31, Illinois 17.