Saturday, October 3, 2015

Another nailbiter (Michigan State 24, Purdue 21)

Knee jerk reactions to today's 24-21st nailbiter of a win over Purdue:

This team absolutely can't afford any more injuries. From my perspective as an observer, the team's depth is getting spread thin and these guys are getting gassed in the second half.

At least the schedule appears favorable for the next week. Rutgers is one of the worst teams in the conference and the Spartans should be able to survive that game. With any luck, MSU will get Conklin and Keiler back for Michigan and they'll also need a healthy Josiah Price and R.J. Williamson.

In short, after a healthy 2013 and 2014, the law of averages has kicked in and the injury bug is biting MSU on the butt.

As I sit here and watch Ohio State struggle with Indiana, it becomes abundantly clear that life at the top is tough every single week.

I have a feeling that nobody is reading this blog besides me, but I messed up last night and in an irrational fever I temporarily changed the name of the blog, then changed it BACK again but have a feeling I screwed something up because now the blog comes up as "unavailable" or some such thing when it is Googled. Lord knows what the hell I did.

October 5, 2015 update: R.J. Williamson is out for the season, joining Vayante Copeland--so the back side of the Spartan defense is in even more trouble. I am trying to remain positive about the rest of the season, but unless the next men in line are able to step up and learn quickly, this doesn't bode well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

"Sunshine blower"?--that's me!

There is a term used by the fanatical MSU fans who post on the Red Cedar Message Board. It in an unflattering term used to describe folks who are relentlessly chipper and optimistic about Spartan sports teams, despite indications that such enthusiasm is unwarranted. The term is sunshine blower.

The term perfectly describes my current state of mind.

Oh sure, I was feeling some aggravation and stress during the CMU game, but I've gotten over it since. It seemed to me that the Spartans sufficiently imposed their will in the fourth quarter that maybe--just maybe--there isn't as much to fear as many of us might think.

The first test of this theory comes tomorrow against what looks to be a weak Purdue team. Now, it's true that the Boilermakers have played MSU close the last five years or so, however the Spartans haven't lost to Purdue in the Dantonio era. I don't see this changing tomorrow.

I tend to side with those who think that the Spartans are sick of hearing about their perceived weaknesses and will take it out on Purdue tomorrow. Despite MSU's injury situation, I see the Spartans winning this one by something in the neighborhood of 38-17.

I considered going over the other Big Ten games, but as it's a little late right now and my brain doesn't feel like it's fully functional, I'll pass on that now and try to do it tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 28, 2015

My post-Central Michigan game blather and anxiety

For the 23rd consecutive season, I have attended at least one MSU football game. It was a streak that began, coincidentally, with the 1993 game against Central Michigan.

It's a relatively modest streak, but I've grown somewhat proud of it and feel a little pressure each season to keep it going. Thankfully, between living only a few miles from the Michigan State campus and having a family member with season tickets, I am generally able--without much difficulty--to keep the streak going.

Since I'm nerdy and obsessive enough to keep track of such trivia, yesterday's game was my 49th MSU football game. That certainly pales compared to people who have had season tickets for decades, but perhaps better than many more casual fans, or fans who live far enough away from East Lansing that they can't make it to the stadium for games.

It was a gloriously warm and sunny afternoon on campus. One of those early autumn days that you need to cherish because we just don't get enough of them in Michigan. I enjoyed food and a couple of beers at an elaborate tailgate.

As far as the game itself goes, it was frustrating and nerve-wracking. MSU's offense sputtered and backfired and the Spartan defense had a difficult time getting off the field, seemingly giving up big plays on every 3rd and long situation that CMU faced. In the third quarter, when the Chips had narrowed the score to 17-10 and seemingly nothing was going MSU's way, I had serious 2009 flashbacks. I audibly declared that if MSU lost the CMU, I would never again attend a Spartan/Chippewa football game.

Thankfully, the Spartans turned up the intensity and focus in the fourth quarter, putting together a couple sustained touchdown drives that put the game away. But it sure wasn't pretty.

This may be the most criticized and over-analyzed undefeated team in MSU history, but it comes with the territory when the stakes for this program have become so high--easily the loftiest in my lifetime. And, truth be told, the Spartans have yet to play to what most consider their full capability.

The injuries are mounting, though--and that's greatly concerning. It started before the season even started when Ed Davis was lost for the year, then Vayante Copeland suffered a season-ending injury in the Oregon game and the defensive backfield is still trying to overcome his loss. Offensive tackles Kodi Kieler and Jack Conklin are now out for who knows how long. In short, the injury situation is worse than it has been since Dantonio became coach in 2007 (I certainly can't remember such a rash of injuries to key players). Let's face it, this team absolutely cannot afford any more injuries or it can kiss any hope for the college playoff goodbye.

We can also no longer only view Ohio State and perhaps Nebraska as the biggest remaining games on the schedule. Harbaugh already has Michigan playing much better than they have in several years, and the October 17 tilt in Ann Arbor is shaping into a potential landmine.