Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Michigan State/Alabama pre-game post, volume II (and some basketball)

Before I get to tomorrow's football game, let's start with hoops:

I don't know quite how or why, but I stuck with last night's Spartan basketball loss to Iowa all the way until the bitter end. It was easily the worst game our guys have played all season. The struggles last night are due to a variety of reasons. First and foremost, they miss Denzel Valentine...badly. It's not just that Valentine is the team leader in scoring, rebounds, assists, and steals--and arguably the best player in college basketball this season--it's that he is the undisputed leader of the team and makes everyone around him better. Valentine is, as Reggie Jackson once referred to himself, "the straw that stirs the drink." The Spartans were rudderless (or "strawless"?) without him last night.

The amount of lethargy that the Spartans exhibited last night makes me wonder if the death of Tom Izzo's father has effected them. Even Tom Izzo didn't seem to have the same amount of fire that he usually displays. It's natural and expected that Tom would be in mourning right now, and maybe a bit distracted. This could rub off on the players. I don't know this to be fact, but just speculation. In any case, the team should come out with considerably more focus against Minnesota and I'd be surprised if they lost that game.

It looks like Valentine may be able to return for the Big Ten home opener against Illinois, If the Spartans can beat Minnesota and make win two of the three games they play sans Valentine, that is about a good as it could get,

Now on to football:

I'm tired of the hype, I'm tired of listening to all the opinions and punditry, all of the fan trash talk, just bring on the game.

By this point, I'm sure everyone has read or heard the "keys to the game" ad infinitum. Essentially, for Michigan State, it boils down to whether the Spartans can contain--though not necessarily stop--Derrick Henry. (It's not realistic to expect the Spartans to stop the Heisman Trophy winner dead in this tracks for 60 minutes). It's true that a pro-style offense like Alabama's is the best case scenario for MSU's defense. They tend to be much more successful against those type of offenses than the spread, read-option, "throw it all over the field" attacks.

On the offensive side of the ball, will the Spartans be able to run effectively enough to allow Connor Cook and the passing game to be successful? If the Spartans can rush for over 100 yards in the game and at least keep Alabama honest, then that should make Cook's job at least a little easier.

So what would a national championship in football mean to Michigan State? It would be such an incredible achievement that I'm trying hard not to fixate on it. I don't want to be overly disappointed if it doesn't happen.

A national championship for Alabama or Oklahoma would be...well, just another national championship. Business as usual. For Michigan State, it would be a game changer, and the most significant...and improbable...athletic achievement in the school's history. MSU hasn't won a national championship since 1966 (depending on which of the myriad football polls one takes into account),

I'd best not obsess over the possibility of a national championship. There's plenty of time to hash over the ramifications for MSU if and when it happens.

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