Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Seems Like MSU Closing Gap Quickly On U-M

Ah, the DVR. What a great invention. I watched the Michigan State-Bowling Green game this morning and I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I have been with the Spartans’ new head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff. Is that even the same team?
Bowling Green was a trap game for the Spartans. There is no way that game should have had an 18-point spread. Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan, albeit in his first season as a starter, is an excellent player. Minnesota had no answer for him the week before - and Michigan State’s secondary was hardly tested by Alabama-Birmingham in the opener. And Bowling Green’s defense is relatively stout.
Bowling Green didn’t roll over. The Falcons were right there with State. In the second half, though, the Spartans made the necessary adjustments and won going away. Oh, and that 55-18 win over UAB became much more impressive when UAB played Florida State so tough Saturday (it was tied 24-24 with one play left in the third quarter before FSU won by 10).
The fundamentals are much improved. The Spartans are tackling better and blocking better. The coverage skills of their defensive backs - although with the same personnel - are markedly better. The Spartans are running the ball and setting up the pass well. State’s more talented players, like wide receiver Devin Thomas and tight end Kellen Davis, have made noticeable strides. Davis might have a future in the NFL as an edge rusher on defense. His closing speed has been exceptional when spotted defensively specifically to rush the passer. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has obviously been schooled well.
Obviously, the buzzword for Sparty is caution. But given Michigan’s struggles, and that it looks like the Spartans may have found something really good in Dantonio, it’s not out of realm of possibility MSU could close the gap on the Wolverines much faster than had widely been thought possible.

Random Thoughts

- A-Rod or Mags for MVP? As somebody who has voted for the MVP in the past, I’d have to give it to A-Rod. As good as Ordonez’s numbers are, A-Rod’s are just better. That would change, though, if the Tigers rally down the stretch and ace out the Yankees for the wild card spot. Without Ordonez, I am not sure the Tigers would be much above .500 this season when it is considered how their pitching has essentially collapsed.

- We’ll know a lot more about whether Shaun Rogers is really back to his old dominating self this week when he faces two of the best interior offensive lineman in the game, Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk.

- An underlying factor in the Michigan-Notre Dame game Saturday is how the two best high school quarterbacks from last season, Michigan’s Ryan Mallet and ND’s Jimmy Clausen, are starting against each other. Considering the struggles of both programs, it’s real sink or swim stuff for these two youngsters. Don’t be surprised if Irish coach Charlie Weis doesn’t unleash some form of the spread offense with speedy Demetrius Jones taking most of the snaps instead of Clausen, a pocket passer. It would be the smart way to attack Michigan’s defense, which has no glue how to stop the spread.


Blogger maddog52 said...

Book - sorry I been away for a bit. I had a tough time coming to grips with my beloved Wolverines blowing a turd this year. But if you are a true fan of the game. You have to realize that the demize happen when ball state lit us up like a christmas tree. Then Ohio St. did it. Then USC. This year there is no surprise. To me the biggest surprise is the lack of adjustment on U of M part. But it may just be a lack of talent on the D-side of the ball for michigan. Until an adjsutment of some sort is made I jsut think if any coach is smart Michigan maybe in trouble. Offense can only take you so far. Good thing for them N.D. is as equally clueless at this point in time with their program.

The Tigers injuries and all those early blown saves has really come to bite the tigers. the surge is ok, but give credit to the tribe and Yankees they haven't let up. I still think there was a ton of great stories and a lot of things to hang our hats on this year. Mags has been absolutely a stud this year. To me though Granderson's numbers are as equally impressive being he hits leadoff. Going into next year though I think the biggest question which was suppose to be strength has to be pitching. Now everyone is talking about going out and grabbing A-Rod. This was just a thought and I know it won't happen but you must admit the thought is a good one. Jurgins looks like he could be a great fill in pitcher next year as a fifth starter. It's expected Miller could be joining the staff next year. You know verlander is going no where. It be nice if the tigers could make some sort of run at Either Andruw Jones or Tori Hunter. Put a package together of bonderman/robertson (and yes) maybin if that is who they want or bonderman/jurgins and go get a guy like Johan Santana from the Twins. You go Santana, Verlander 1/2. Throw a lineup of Granderson, Polonco, Sheffield, Ordonez, Guillen, Hunter/Jones, Shelton/Hessman, Pudge, Inge. Man you'd be pretty damn solid. I am a wishful thinker but so what haha..

So are the Lions who think they are the team to beat cause they beat a turd in oakland haha.

12:49 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Good point about U-M's lack of adjustments. It has been terrible. I don't understand why their players are so far out of position. The Tigers have fought through things well, but it has always been something holding them back. The games their bullpen blew earlier in the season are haunting them now. Good to hear from you again.

12:58 PM 
Blogger Scott (Thinking Man) said...


I have to agree with you about the MVP, it's got to be A-Rod. Maggs has been unbelievable this year, but A-Rod has been even a notch better. The only possible way Maggs wins is if the Yankees collapse and he goes into a terrible slump in the last two weeks. I don't see either of those things happening with New York playing a bunch of games with Baltimore and Tampa to close the season.

Looking at next year, I know we have both agreed that the Tigers biggest needs are a shortstop and a starting pitcher. But I think leftfield is a problem, too. Timo Perez has done well since being recalled, which makes you wonder if a Perez/Thames platoon could get them through next season until Maybin arrives to stay. I say no to that thought, however.

If the Tigers get Jack Wilson or Eckstein for SS, they're going to need consistent offense from leftfield. My guess is that the Tigers won't trade Inge and they will resign Pudge. That gives you three mediocre offensive players in the lineup ... adding a fourth with that platoon would put too much pressure on the top half of the lineup ... just like this year.

I wonder what your thoughts are about that?

Also, I wonder what you think about moving Granderson to the three-hole next year? If you put him there, you simply slide everyone else down a notch:

SS Wilson/Eckstein
2B Polanco
CF Granderson
DH Sheffield
RF Maggs
1B Guillen
LF Perez/Thames
C Pudge
3B Inge

I think Granderson would knock in 100 in that slot. I think as he gets a bit older, some of those triples and doubles will turn into home runs, too. I think he will hit 25-30 dingers consistently.

1:26 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Scott (Thinking Man),
I don't believe left is that big of a concern. I think Sheffield can play out there regularly and play well if necessary. Thames is fine if spotted. Also, at some point next season, Cameron Maybin will likely be a major league regular. His situation is a lot like Verlander's in 2005. He should make a dramatic leap forward for next season. Also, their best prospect currently in the minors, Gorkys Hernandez, is an outfielder.

3:05 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Book, taking a quick look at the Clevelnad schedule - besides the Tigers, they have KC, Oakland, Seatle, and finish off against KC.

What Irony it would be for KC to step up and bite Cleveland like they did us last year. I don't think its impossible (as you say - improbable perhaps - but not impossible). Seatle and Oakland aren't roll-overs.

Should we happen to sweep Cleveland next week - the whole race might swing like water in a spinning bucket.

And Mags has been brilliant - Maybe is we called him Mag-O or O-Mag ...

PS - Im listenbing to your podcasts.

5:09 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I just got back from the game and Mags hit another home run. He has been incredible. It's one of the greatest seasons a Tiger hitter has ever had. Thnaks for listening to the podcast. We just got it started. It will get better as time goes on.

11:52 PM 
Blogger Scott (Thinking Man) said...


I know what you are saying about Maybin and Hernandez. I hope that's true about Maybin, that he does take that leap. He looks like a heck of a player in the making. My concern with him is his lack of experience. He has been in the minor leagues only two seasons and he has missed significant chunks of both of those years. From what I've seen, I wouldn't even look at him until he gets another 300 or so at bats at Erie.

That being the case, I think the Tigers need a "bridge" player. Someone along the lines of a Mark Kotsay or another vet that can come in and mind the store for a year until Maybin is ready.

Perhaps I'm overstating things a bit ... perhaps Thames/Perez is enough of a bridge. Leyland seems to really like Perez anyhow.

2:48 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

scott (thinking man),
I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility, but not the priority some other things are going to be. I don't believe Perez is any kind of answer. One reason they might get somebody is that serviceable outfielders tend to be available for a reasonable price.

2:54 PM 
Blogger Eric Chase said...

Since no one in the Big Ten has really played any tough competition yet, I have no evidence to support this prediction. But someone tell me why MSU couldn't beat out PSU, OSU, and Wisc. for the Big Ten title?

4:15 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Eric Chase,
I think MSU will be better than I had anticipated (I picked them to go 4-8), but they are not at the talent level of those teams. I can see them entering the Big Ten season undefeated and splitting their conference games and finishing 8-4. That would be a great season for them at this stage.

8:59 AM 

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