Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Make Or Break Time For The Spartans

Michigan State's football season, at least the part of it that is going to represent progress, comes down to these next two early-season games.
Lose at Wisconsin and/or to Michigan at home, and the Spartans will likely take a step back from last season.
It does seem like the Big Three is back, with Ohio State. Michigan and Penn State clearly being the best three teams in the conference. And then there are the usual "others" fending for spots behind them. One of those "others" is Wisconsin. The Spartans' season last year, their best in nearly a decade, was made by tight victories over Wisconsin and Iowa, and a nice road victory at Northwestern. However, traditionally MSU has played poorly in Madison. The Badgers aren't that good, but Saturday will definitely be challenging - and perhaps defining for the Spartans.
Again, those three games will probably hold the key again.
But the Spartans aren't out of anything yet. There is no Ohio State on the schedule. If they win the next two games - and it will be like the Central Michigan and Notre Dame games didn't happen.
It wasn't good what ocurred to State QB Kirk Cousins at the very end of the Notre Dame game, but next time I would expect he will complete those throws and not be intercepted. He is not as athletic as Keith Nichol, but he is an accurate passer, who is still lacking experience.
When Mark Dell is healthy, he and Blair White are a very good receiving tandem. State's tight ends, as a group, might be the best in the country. Injuries on the offensive line have not helped the running game, but haven't see that much flash from Larry Caper, Caulton Ray and Edwin Baker. It doesn't make you appreciate Javon Ringer. Wisconsin is very inexperienced at linebacker and has struggled to stop the run. It is the Badgers' weakness.
What is inexplicable is State's defense. Based on personnel, it should be better, and given Mark Dantonio cut his teeth on the defensive side of the ball - and I've always thought highly of Pat Narduzzi.

Random Thoughts

- It does take away from the game when an umpire like Paul Schrieber squeezes the strike zone like he did Tuesday during the Tigers-Indians. A lot of those pitches weren't borderline. They were strikes. That should have been a much quicker-paced game, but dragged as a result.

- Just watched the Redskins-Rams. It was a weird game. Both teams did make some plays offensively, but score was only 9-7. Looks like Washington is vulnerable to off-tackle runs. Jason Campbell remains a mediocre quarterback. This is easily the Lions' best chance to win a game so far this season.

- Key for the Tigers is sweeping this series. The Indians have nothing left in the tank. The Tigers can't afford to make it difficult on themselves in the last 10 games.

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press. It's no mistake the Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons win and Lions lose:



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat, that umpire Schreiber was the same ump earlier this year that called a very questionable called strike three on Maggs earlier in the season and when Maggs said something he sort of pushed-put his hand on Maggs' back to move him along and Leyland ran out and blew a gasket on him.
There have been comments from both teams about last nights tiny and inconsistent strike zone.
I found a link from brooksbaseball that shows each and every strike and how bad a game this ump called.
check out the link from brooksbaseball on the tiny strikezone tonights game.|9/22/2009|Detroit%20Tigers%20@%20Cleveland%20Indians
both Tigers and indians took a beating from the ump.

4:38 PM 
Anonymous Jeff H said...


Agree with your assessment of State's tight ends. As a group, they should be getting 8 receptions a game minimum. If those tight ends are featured down the middle of the field, it will help loosen things up for the running backs.

Marcus Thames has been terrible. I'd rather have Huff as full time DH. He was producing as a full time hitter with Baltimore, why is Leyland benching him against lefties when Thames is doing nothing?

8:58 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

It did hinder the game from a viewing standpoint, the one thing, though, is it didn't seem to alter the outcome. He was shaky for both teams.

4:05 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Jeff H,
With Dell back at full strength, Wisconsin won't be able to crowd underneath routes. Should help tight ends - and they are very good.

4:06 PM 

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