Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A step in the right direction

I missed almost the entire first half of the MSU/Youngstown State game because my cable provider, Xfinity, deemed it necessary to not only show the Michigan/Akron game on the primary Big Ten Network channel, but on both of the overflow BTN channels. I'm assuming this was Xfinity's decision, or maybe it was the Big Ten Network. Either way, I found this to be disappointing. Still, I probably can't fault BTN/Xfinity too much, because the Michigan/Akron game was exciting and without a little homecooking that saved the Wolverines' hides, may have been the biggest college football upset this side of 2007's Appalachian State/Michigan game...(and Appalachian State was arguably a much better team than Akron).

Not having the MSU game on television forced me to do what I used to do in the old days, listen to the game on the radio. (At least the first half of the game, that is). So I had George Blaha and Jason Strayhorn describing the laugher at Spartan Stadium while Michigan was fighting for its life on my TV.

I don't know what the takeaway is from MSU's 55-17 win over Youngstown State. I suppose it was the best case scenario. Connor Cook, in his first start, played extremely well and, at the very least, saved Damion Terry's red shirt from being removed.

It was good to see MSU's offense with a pulse, and to see the receivers make catches. Yes, it was only Youngstown State, but it was still an encouraging sign.

After last year's CMU game, I lauded the play of Macgarrett Kings. For some unknown reason, Kings was not heard from again after that game. Against Youngstown State, Kings was the leading receiver and is, in fact, leading all MSU receivers in yardage. He has good hands and is shifty and elusive. At this point, the Spartans can use all the help they can get at receiver, and Kings provides hope at that position.

And hey, it turns out MSU has tight ends after all. They even showed up to make some catches on Saturday.

Next on the docket is Notre Dame.

I have absolutely no idea what to expect in this game. Is Notre Dame as mediocre as they have appeared in their first three games? It's hard to believe they are. Will MSU's offense continue to make the strides it displayed against Youngstown State? or is that performance, indeed merely fool's gold? It's still extremely difficult to gauge MSU's team, or have any sense of how much Notre Dame has dropped off since last year's strong season.

I've heard it said before that, for Michigan State, the result of the Notre Dame game is often an indicator of how the rest of the season will go for the Spartans. I think using this game as a barometer for the rest of the season is overstated. In 1986, the Spartans beat the Irish 20-15 at Spartan Stadium, but went on to a mediocre 6-5 season. The following year, MSU got run over by Tim Brown and ND, a game that started off badly and never got better--but MSU went on to win the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl. In 1998, MSU massacred the Irish 45-23 in East Lansing, but went on to a lackluster 6-6 season. In 2011, the Spartans were routed in South Bend, but ended up playing for the Big Ten title. So my point is, you just never really know.

That said, it's always great to beat Notre Dame, and MSU hasn't done it since the Little Giants play of 2010. With the Irish off the schedule for the next two years, it'd be awfully sweet for the Spartans to knock them off this season. I don't think anyone wants that more than Mark Dantonio.

So regardless of what happens this Saturday at Notre Dame, there's no point in getting either too high or too low.

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