Saturday, September 5, 2015

The WMU game aftermath

What is the takeaway from last night's mainly lackluster, mistake-filled opening day 37-24 win over Western Michigan?

On the positive side, the Spartans escaped with a win and do not appear to have suffered any major injuries. It also looks like Madre London, L.J. Scott, and Gerald Holmes could and should be a formidable trio of running backs. The front seven looked very strong on the defensive end, as well.

But the negatives last night somewhat outnumbered the positives, and I hope, and I assume, that we can chalk this up to a combination of first game cobwebs and a case of looking ahead to Oregon. It was also quite clear that the play calling was purposely vanilla.

Credit must be given to Western Michigan, who in the biggest game that Waldo Stadium has ever seen, played their hearts out. Their skill players were just as good as advertised. Terrell is an outstanding quarterback who rarely let the pass rush get to him, has a quick release, and uncanny accuracy. The Broncos' receivers are athletic and fast. This team should make some noise in the MAC and challenge for the title.

I've been guilty of overreacting positively and (mostly) negatively to opening weekend football games. Exhibit A being the 2013 season, when I was darned near ready to throw in the towel on the season. This year, I'm determined not to make that mistake and trust that the coaching staff will make the necessary tweaks and adjustments for next week's much steeper challenge against Oregon.

If adjustments are not made and the team plays with the level of malaise I witnessed last night--particularly in the second half--the Oregon game could get ugly. I don't think that will happen, though. I fully expect the Spartans to come out next Saturday with a fire, passion, and focus that wasn't quite there against Western Michigan.

Until proven otherwise, I'm maintaining an attitude of positivity. Mark Dantonio has earned, and deserves, my trust and faith.

Friday, September 4, 2015

MSU/WMU pre-game post

Here's a quick post before the MSU/Western Michigan game starts, about a half hour from the point I've begun typing this.

The Spartans don't have any easy non-conference games this season. All four of the teams they play-- Western, Oregon, Air Force, and Central Michigan--played in bowl games last season. Oregon, of course, played in the national championship game, and strangely enough, Western Michigan and Air Force played each other in a bowl game, with Air Force prevailing.

Western comes into this game with a potent offense featuring some excellent skill players. The quarterback , Zach Terrell (3443 yds in 2014 with 26 TD and only 10 INTs, 67.9 completion percentage) is in his 3rd season and is already 22 years old. Jarvion Franklin, the starting running back, has been compared to Le'Veon Bell, and wide receivers Daniel Braverman, Kendrick Roberts, and Corey Davis are good players. The Broncos also have an experienced offensive line.

Western may be able to put some points on the board in this game and hang with the Spartans at least through the end of the first half and maybe into the third quarter, but the Spartans should have too much depth for them and wear down Western in the second half. The score should be somewhere in the neighborhood of MSU 38, WMU 20.

It'll be interesting to see just how good MSU's defense is. Will there be any noticeable differences in schemes with Harlon Barnett as co-defensive coordinator.

There are still question marks with the Spartans. Jeremy Langford is gone and Madre London, L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Delton Williams are most likely challenging each other for the starting position--though Delton Williams, with his difficulties over the off-season, is a wild card. The receiving corps is also a puzzle. Aaron Burbridge should have a good year, but what of Macgarrett Kings, A.J. Troup, R.J. Shelton, and DeAnthony Arnett? Presumably, they will all be ready to roll, but who knows.

Well, there's my two-bit, half-hour analysis. The game is about to start.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ready or not, here comes football season

The days of hibernation are over. It's about to begin. Four days from today the Spartans take on Western Michigan...and I will most likely fall down the rabbit hole for the next...uh, eight months (including basketball season).

For the most part, I've tuned out Spartan sports this summer and have focused on "summer activities," i.e. following the Detroit Tigers' increasingly disappointing season (including a couple visits to Comerica Park), going to the beach, venturing "up north" for vacation, etc.

I've listened to enough commentary to realize that this seems to be the most lauded and wildly anticipated MSU football season of my lifetime. Being a Michigan State football fan through mostly mediocre to bad seasons, I'm having a hard time getting used to this new reality. It makes me, well, nervous.

If you've been reading this blog enough, you'll know that my nervousness towards MSU sports--particularly football--is an ongoing theme.

By this point, with four double-digit win seasons in five years, two Big Ten titles, Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl victories (four consecutive bowl victories), it should be abundantly clear to me that Mark Dantonio knows what he's doing and the depressing seasons of John L. Smith, Bobby Williams, et al are in the rearview mirror.

The new reality is that MSU football is a national power and it's okay for me to acknowledge it. It's perfectly acceptable for me to not expect or prepare for "the worst," but to anticipate success on the field.

Easier said than done.

So, consider this my first post of the 2015 football season. I'm back, and preparing myself for what promises to be a wild ride.

Ready or not, it begins in four days.