Saturday, November 21, 2015

Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14

First of all: this isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that I was dead wrong about a game. I predicted that OSU would win 34-24, completely underestimating the sheer brilliance of MSU's defense, and just the flat-out resilience of the entire Spartan team. Ezekiel Elliott's pouty, sour grapes post-game comments be damned, the best team won today.

I'm writing this with no clear idea of where to start. Maybe the best place to begin is by saying this has to be the best and biggest regular season win of the Dantonio era. It tops this year's Michigan game in importance even if it comes just short in drama. (Though Michael Geiger connecting on a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the game is pretty damned exciting).

Urban Meyer, in almost four years at Ohio State, has exactly two Big Ten losses. Both losses came at the hands of Michigan State. While Meyer has been routinely beating all other Big Ten teams, he's only 2-2 against the Spartans.

If Michigan beats Ohio State next week, and becomes the only conference team not from East Lansing to top the Buckeyes, the Wolverines can thank the Spartans for completely shattering OSU's spirit.

Michigan State won this game without Connor Cook. Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry filled in admirably for Cook, while Gerald Holmes, L.J. Scott, and Delton Williams contributed to a surprisingly effective running game. The Spartans had an astonishing 203 yards on 51 carries. George Perles probably has a gleam in his eye about that stat.

So now, I bask in this win and hope that we all have a big Sparty Party next week after a win over Penn State for the East Division title.

No Connor Cook

No Connor Cook.

This is a tough position to place Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry, playing against Ohio State at the Horseshoe. It may be on the defense to win this one.

Ohio State pre-game post

How good is Ohio State? And what Ohio State team will play today?

Those are the questions I entertain as we near kickoff, which at this point is only about 90 minutes away.

I suspect that the defending national champions and winners of a ridiculous 30 consecutive regular season Big Ten games are a damned good team and will finally reveal themselves today...but this will be their first big test of the season.

The bottom line is that MSU needs to play its best game of the season to win. That means no special teams gaffes, no getting completely burned in the secondary (see: Nebraska game), the front seven needs to put pressure on J.T. Barrett, the running game needs to be better than it's been all year, and the offensive line needs to get a push and finally open up some wholes, and last but not least, Connor Cook needs to play through whatever pain he is feeling and have a big game.

MSU CAN win this game, but I have to lean towards OSU and hope like hell I'm wrong. My gut says Ohio State 34, Michigan State 24. My heart is, of course, with MSU all the way and hoping I'm wrong.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Denzel's November valentine

In my previous basketball post, I neglected to mention Denzel Valentine, and maybe that's because in the Florida Atlantic game, he played exactly as I thought he should: very good. In fact, his quiet efficiency in that game (13 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists) made him easy to overlook.

After Valentine's brilliance in last night's 79-73 win over Kansas (which I am almost ashamed to say I couldn't stay up to watch--but I'm a workin' man), I feel bad that I didn't mention him in that FAU overview post.

Here's some trivia for you: Only two players have ever recorded triple-doubles against Kansas in the ENTIRE history of Jayhawks basketball, and both of those players are Michigan State Spartans. The first was Earvin "Magic" Johnson and the other is Denzel Valentine.

I don't want to overvalue last night's win, because it's still early in the season and a lot can happen between November and March, but it's fair to say that this team's ceiling could be a bit higher than even I thought before the season started.