Monday, November 27, 2006

Victory for MSU...
Okay, I realize you are reading from the same blogger that just preached a sermon on why Tom Izzo was the right man for the MSU football job, but hear me out anyway. If you go back and read my posts at the start of and during the search, one name that never got a lot of play but was always in my top tier of candidates was Mark Dantonio. In a way, he is as close to Izzo as MSU was going to get without risking ridicule, question and disrespect.

This was a great hire. Is it sexy? No. Never was going to be. The only truly "sexy" names were Mariucci and Davis and neither of them apparently got that long a look from the folks at MSU. What it is is a safe, solid, sound hire. For the first time in my life, the powers that be at Michigan State University got it right. They talked to a boatload of people, a bevy of candidates, had a search committee and a group over-seeing that committee to make sure it was all done well and done right. It was and in the end, MSU earned a victory.

Time will tell if Dantonio can make MSU the contender and winning program it should be. But one thing is evident from the get-go - the guy is right for the job. From his on the field principles and beliefs to his off the field expectations, he has the entire package. There should be less meddling than in years. There is a true leader at the top, one who gets what it takes to field a winner. His resume is impressive, his demeanor impeccable, I have faith that it will translate to lasting success on the football field.

Final thoughts on the rest of the candidates... Pelini lacked the head coaching experience this team needed; Grantham the same; Baggett would have been a better fit seven years ago; Shurmur isn't ready yet; Kelly is a year or two away from being a hot candidate and MSU needs to get back to defense.

The process was long and arduous and not without the typical rumors running amok, but it was done as close to perfect as possible. And in the end, it all means a Victory for M-S-U!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Championing the cause...
As much as I'd love to leave the ACC - Big Ten Challenge picks at the top today; I just can't help but do a deeper dive into the "Izzo for football coach" talk that has taken hold in here in Michigan and among MSU fans, followers, supporters, alumni and media alike.

The question I want to get to is, why not? Seriously. I keep reading on message boards and in some media circles about what a bad idea it is. Take a second. Look beyond the surface. Tell me what MSU wants in a head football coach? Let me guess, you answered things such as: The person must be able to recruit; be a great teacher, a master motivator, an innovative mind; someone who can instill a climate of personal, team and institutional accountability and discipline; someone with whom you would entrust your son to help him be a successful person and with whom your son would want to stay in contact throughout his life; and be an effective communicator and committed to community outreach. I

promise you each one of you answered at least some of those things. So again, I pose the question, why not Tom Izzo? Is he not all of those things and more? Should we be any more sold on a defensive coordinator who has never been a head coach than on Izzo - who we know would consult his friends Nick Saban, Jon Gruden and Steve Mariucci - among others - in a quest to field a team of the best assistants in the business?

Who's to say that Grantham, Pelini, Shurmur, Kelly or anyone else bandied about would even hold a candle to what Izzo brings to the table? Think about it. Think deeper than "it would be stupid", or, "it would be embarrassing." Those are your initial feelings. Think about what you want in a coach and tell me that Izzo isn't all of that and then some. Isn't that what Michigan State football needs?

Worried about losing him in basketball - the guy has five former assistants as head coaches in the game. You don't think he'd find an able replacement to keep this program humming? All of your reasons for not wanting it to happen are really just plain stupid. It takes a look beyond the surface to get the real answers. Tom Izzo is the answer.

For more eloquent takes on this, I urge you to read Steve Grinzel's four latest web logs:

Izzo has all the criteria for MSU's next coach
Izzo addresses interest in football job
Izzo backlash
Saban speaks out for Izzo

Bottom line, if Saban thinks it would work and if Joel Ferguson thinks it is the dumbest idea ever, I've never read two better endorsements. One because Saban is the last coach we're truly had that embodies exactly what we need and two, because Ferguson is a meddling (you fill in the blank :) )

Happy Thanksgiving...
Get Gamm - Basketball Style...
It is almost that time of year again. As you recall, we usually start picking by analyzing the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then cover all 88 Big Ten basketball games. Same goes for this year and since the Challenge is next week, it is time to pick away...

Monday 11/27 - Michigan at NC State
Tuesday 11/28 - Maryland at Illinois
Tuesday 11/28 - Florida State at Wisconsin
Tuesday 11/28 - Indiana at Duke
Tuesday 11/28 - Penn State at Georgia Tech
Tuesday 11/28 - Miami-FLA at Northwestern
Wednesday 11/29 - Michigan State at Boston College
Wednesday 11/29 - Virginia at Purdue
Wednesday 11/29 - Iowa at Virginia Tech
Wednesday 11/29 - Ohio State at North Carolina (TIEBREAKER)
Wednesday 11/29 - Clemson at Minnesota

Football report cards are coming soon. And more on the MSU coaching search, including a must read. Everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Michigan at NC State
Michigan has yet to placonsequence consequense but NC State is a little rough around the edges. In the first decent test of the season, Michigan gets the Big Ten started off on the right foot (for a change)... Michigan over NC State

Maryland at Illinois
Maryland is a team that by season's end will be in the race for the Final Four. The Terps have a nice mix of veterans and youngsters and their pressure defense is tough as nails. Illinois has a definite home court edge with the Orange Krush, but the Illini are a little too dinged up to get this one. Maryland over Illinois.

Florida State at Wisconsin
The Badgers are firing on all cylinders already and while Florida State rises up often in these early battles, they usually do so in Tallahassee. As evidenced by my picks for the Big Ten this year, I really like this Badger team. Wisconsin over Florida State - BIG.

Indiana at Duke
This will be one of the best match-ups of the Challenge. Duke is good, and as usual, highly ranked but with as young as the Blue Devils are, a little overrated at this point. A loss to a good Marquette team proves that Duke is ripe for the picking now. Indiana is still adjusting to Kelvin Sampson's style and is a bit of a mystery. It wouldn't shock me to see the Hoosiers win at Duke, but I don't expect it. Duke over Indiana.

Penn State at Georgia Tech
GA Tech might still be on Maui time when this game tips off and while Penn State is improving and not as bad as in the past, the Nits did manage to lose a game already to Stony Brook and also Shippensburg in an exhibition game. Meanwhile the Yellow Jackets have played tough teams like Purdue and Memphis and tonight, UCLA. Georgia Tech over Penn State - BIG.

Miami-FLA at Northwestern
Might be the biggest yawner on the slate. Northwestern is a little better right now than I expected, but is still just 2-2 with a loss to Cornell. Miami is one of those middle of the pack ACC teams that rises up every now and then. Unless they take the night off, the 'canes should have little problem with the pesky Wildcats. Miami over Northwestern.

Michigan State at Boston College
Another of the more intriguing match-ups in this year's Challenge. The Spartans beat Boston College on a neutral floor last year and dominated an early common opponent this season (Vermont) that whipped the Eagles on their home floor. B.C. has more veterans and in these early big games, that often wins out. On a neutral court, I like the Spartans with their defense and rebounding. But on the road, B.C. wins a tight one. Boston College over Michigan State.

Virginia at Purdue
Both squads are a work in progress, but the Cavaliers already own a nice early season upset (Arizona). The Boilermakers are in the same boat as Georgia Tech - coming in after a trip to Maui. But the experience gained there will be huge. UVA will likely be favored in this one, but I like Painter's crew to get a nice win for the Big Ten. Purdue nips Virginia.

Iowa at Virginia Tech
Iowa will be a bit up and down this year. There is some talent and the Hawkeyes have already been tested but they have me a little uneasy. Virginiaperennial no perenial power but the Hokies are slowly progressing on the court. Gonna have to toss a coin on this one. Iowa over Virginia Tech.

Ohio State at North Carolina
The battle we all want to see. It's just too bad that Oden won't be matching up with Hansbrough in this one. Both teams are quite young but yet have a nice mix of veterans that are difference makers. Purely because the Buckeyes are without Oden, the Tar Heels win an overtime thriller. North Carolina over Ohio State - 82 to 80.

Clemson at Minnesota
An anti-climactic showdown to close out what looks to be another ACC win in the Challenge. I honestly haven't seen either team play, and though Minnesota is always scrappy and always uses the venerable Barn to its advantage, I am not sure if the Gophers can take down the Tigers. Another coin toss. Clemson over Minnesota.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Morning QB …
Well the “Game of the Century” lived up to the hype. There were a lot more points scored than I think most anyone around figured, but that only made it all the more enticing to watch. The only unfortunate event tied to the game was the loss of Michigan great Bo Schembechler. Bo personified this rivalry and really, Big Ten football. He won the right way and only that way and will be missed by everyone who loves this game. Rest in Peace, Bo.

Back to the games. Like I said, Michigan – Ohio State lived up to its billing. It was hard fought, well played and close to the bitter end. USC is in the catbird seat now as far as the National Championship hunt goes, but we could very well see M vs. OSU II. The only comment I have on that is, who is the champ if the Wolverines win the rematch???

One team no one in the nation is giving any props is Wisconsin. What did they do to deserve the attention that they haven’t gotten? Try winning more games in the regular season than the Badgers ever have (11). The only loss on this season’s slate for Wisconsin was to Michigan. Granted, the Badgers never played the Buckeyes, but it still is very much a possibility that the superior traveling Badgers might give the Big Ten three, count ‘em, THREE BCS teams.

Elsewhere, kudos to Minnesota for swiping back the world’s most coveted swine - Floyd of Rosedale. That caps a three game win streak that puts the Gophers back into a bowl game for the seventh time in eight seasons. He won’t get mention for it, but my vote would go to Glen Mason for Coach of the Year in the Big Ten. Purdue held onto the Old Oaken Bucket and kept rival Indiana from gaining bowl eligibility. Northwestern avoided a tie for last place and won the Battle for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk with a nice “W” over Illinois. Michigan State battled in what might have been its best defensive effort in a few years but came up on the short end of yet another close game and stayed winless in State College dating back to 1965.

Team of the Week…
It could be Minnesota but really it has to be BOTH Ohio State and Michigan. The two played a game for the ages just like it should have been played and Michigan had to do it with the added weight of the loss of Bo. Hat’s off to both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines for showing off to the nation why the Big Ten is indeed the best conference in the land.

Player of the Week…
No one stepped up as big this past weekend as Troy Smith. The senior signal caller shredded the Michigan secondary and likely sewed up a Heisman Trophy in the process. All that’s left is to lead the nation’s best team to a second National Title in five seasons.

Get Gamm (with one to go)… Only Buckeye Nation and yours truly went a perfect 6-0 for the week. We both have Purdue losing this week at Hawaii and if that holds true, Gamm wins the last week by virtue of “closer on the final margin” of the OSU – M classic. Also, if that holds true, BN is in the driver’s seat with only the bowl games to go. If Purdue wins, it will be a three way tie at the top with several still with a shot at the season title.

1 – Buckeye Nation: 71-17 (.807), 3 GG Wins – Has Purdue losing
T2 – mayo170: 70-18 (.795), 1 GG Win – Has Purdue winning
T2 – Dan Meyer: 70-18 (.795), 2 GG Wins – Has Purdue losing
T2 – phatsdawg: 70-18 (.795) – Has Purdue winning
T5 – Gamm: 69-19 (.784), 1 GG Win – Has Purdue losing
T5 – flakcat: 69-19 (.784), 1 GG Win – Has Purdue losing
T5 – andrew1313: 69-19 (.784), 1 GG Win – Has Purdue winning
8 – BigTenSportsFan: 57-19 (.750), 1 GG Win - DNP
9 – PUFan: 48-18 (.727), 1 GG Win – Has Purdue winning

Get Gamm Basketball Style… It is almost that time of year again. As you recall, we usually start picking by analyzing the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then cover all 88 Big Ten basketball games. Same goes for this year and since the Challenge is next week, it is time to pick away…

Monday 11/27 – Michigan at NC StateTuesday 11/28 – Maryland at Illinois
Tuesday 11/28 – Florida State at Wisconsin
Tuesday 11/28 – Indiana at Duke
Tuesday 11/28 – Penn State at Georgia Tech
Tuesday 11/28 – Miami-FLA at Northwestern
Wednesday 11/29 – Michigan State at Boston College
Wednesday 11/29 – Virginia at Purdue
Wednesday 11/29 – Iowa at Virginia Tech
Wednesday 11/29 – Ohio State at North Carolina (TIEBREAKER)
Wednesday 11/29 – Clemson at Minnesota

Team by Team report card…
Time for a quick report on how the Big Ten did compared to my preseason thoughts along with an overall grade for the season and what to expect going forward. Check in later this week for a breakdown of each team…

Purdue at Hawaii (Nov. 25)

One day, Big Ten teams will learn that this game is nothing but trouble. Just ask the Spartans. They so deplored the way their game was called and how they were treated that they bagged a trip in 2008. Purdue has nothing to gain in this game and Hawaii is actually pretty good. The Warriors will get some home town calls and pass to a win. Hawaii 35 – Purdue 28.

Mayo170 says … Oh wait! We have one last game to visit on the agenda. This year Purdue gets to go to Honolulu and take on the Rainbow Warriors in paradise. Well, I have no idea what this Hawaii team is all about, and after looking at their site, they are quite a bit better this year than I had expected. Purdue seems to be playing a totally different brand of football than Tiller brought to West Lafayette 10 years ago and perhaps that’s why it’s so tough to watch for me this year. Although bowl eligible, I don’t know that I have a whole lot of confidence in them holding up against Hawaii. I’m just going to believe long enough that Purdue is going to do the Big Ten proud and take care of business out there. Purdue 31 at Hawaii 23

MSU Coaching Search…
Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon is on the ball. This is what she sent regarding the coaching search. I still think the candidates are Grantham, Shurmur, Pelini, Kelly and Strong, with Dantonio and Tom Izzo, yes that Tom Izzo as darkhorses.

I thank you for the support of Spartan football, this year and over many years. Your loyalty is to be commended. I know we share goals for a football program that is:

(1) competitive on the field with student-athletes who will be competitive in their chosen fields when they leave MSU;
(2) above politics and above reproach;
(3) a magnet drawing students, alumni, faculty, staff and our stakeholders closer to the University;
(4) consistent on the field, but also consistent in values, success and traditions across the inevitable transition of presidents, athletic directors, and coaches; and
(5) helping to enhance the international reputation of the university.

In our process of selecting a new football coach, the Board of Trustees and I affirm our shared values and goals. We have done extensive analysis of other BCS-eligible football programs; talked with and listened to a wide range of people inside college and professional football, and looked in depth at what we need to do as Team MSU to shape a culture that enhances the probability of success within the context of our goals, values, and traditions. One only has to look at our MSU basketball programs or at the coaches who will compete for the Big Ten Championship on Saturday to know that there is not one formula for success in terms of prior experience and prior institutional affiliation.

What is clear is that a successful football coach must have key characteristics beyond the knowledge of the game, particularly for a program that must establish itself consistently among the top 25 programs in the country and at or near the top of the Big Ten. Almost to a person, the individuals with whom we have talked recognize that we need to break the yo-yo pattern of success and significant rebuilding. All recognize that we need to be held in high regard even in defeat.

Unlike the recruitment of a star faculty member, candidates who reach an acceptable level are generally known through traditional media and the extensive chat rooms that dominate the landscape of college athletics, going into high gear when a high-visibility program is searching for a coach. We have observed a rise and fall of candidates in the public forum and read reports of what we allegedly have or have not done. Many folks seem to know what we should seek in a coach. We know the key characteristics we do seek. Obviously, we choose from a pool of candidates who meet basic considerations and who would be viewed as credible head coaches at peer programs. However, there are other key considerations that form the basis for evaluation of who should be our next coach.

1. The person must want to be at MSU and have a plan to build on our assets and our traditions. This has been occurring at Rutgers and Oklahoma with coaches without strong prior ties and at Notre Dame and West Virginia with coaches having strong prior ties.

2. For a program that is rebuilding, great recruiting and great teaching are essential. The person must be able to recruit in Michigan and the Midwest, but also have the ability to reach out to other national recruiting hotbeds. A great teacher who brings consistency and levels of peak and sustained performance is needed in a rebuilding process.

3. The person must establish a climate of personal, team and institutional accountability and discipline that build the necessary foundation for sustainable excellence and pride.

4. The person must demonstrate the capability to build and lead a strong and diverse coaching staff.

5. The person would be someone with whom you would entrust your son to help him be a successful person and with whom your son would want to stay in contact throughout his life.

6. The person must be an effective communicator and committed to community outreach.

7. The person must "fit" with the culture of a world's top-100 university and be a part of Team MSU.

What does Team MSU need to do in return to help the next football coach be successful? Obviously, we must offer competitive compensation for the coach and assistants, a top-flight strength and conditioning program, state-of-the-art facilities, one of the best academic support programs and a strong partnership with the Office of Admissions. These are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for success.

We are a University that is committed to celebrarting the glories of the past, and we were reminded this fall of those glories when so many great Spartans returned to campus on the weekend of the Notre Dame game, when we commemorated the historic 10-10 tie. But we also must be committed to using our values, assets, and traditions to reinvent ourselves to meet the challenges of a twenty-first century football program. The University community must work to be a place where a great football coach- like a terrific faculty member - wants to stay because he can find success, feel that we are committed to him, and because he feels an integral part of the University community.

My role and responsibility as President is to be clear about criteria and how these criteria fit within the best interests of Michigan State University; to seek broad input so that no special interest group is viewed as "running the MSU football program;" to assure a process faithful to the criteria of the Black Coaches Association and to our own values of inclusiveness; and to implement a process that has checks and balances that bring into equilibrium both short-term expectations and long-term success of the coach and of the University.

To achieve these expectations, an internal assessment group, led by Ron Mason, was created. Mark Hollis has served as the focal point for the assessment of successes at other BCS programs and the analysis and synthesis of the advice and support of those involved in various key roles in many searches. Tom Izzo has been directly involved in the process and has talked with candidates and references. Lt. Alan Haller of the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety, a 1992 graduate, former Spartan football player, and a former player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is also directly involved in the internal think tank and in the interviews. I wanted a second external group to assure the fairness and integrity of the process, as well as offer an assessment of needed executive leadership and communication skills. Therefore, we sought the counsel of three alumni: Ben Maibach, a successful Southeast Michigan businessman; Gene Washington, a former Spartan star and NFL player and 3M human resources executive; and Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of the Texas Supreme Court. These people have been our chief process protectors and consultants to assure that we build for the future.

In addition, we have engaged Chuck Neinas, former Commissioner of the Big Eight Conference and former Executive Director of College Football Association to act as an intermediary for us with various candidates and sought a review of the criteria and other advice from former Spartan Athletic Director Joe Kearney and Gil Brandt, former Dallas Cowboys executive and one of the most knowledgeable people in the NFL. One of our first steps was consultation with the NCAA Minorities and Opportunities Committee. We have consulted with Nick Saban and Steve Mariucci and other current and former NFL coaches. I have appreciated the advice and time of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. We have talked with many other current and former athletes and have reviewed every piece of communication received from the Spartan family, including the MSU Black Alumni, the MSU Football Players Association, MSU faculty, students, and staff and many, many others.

Throughout, the Board of Trustees has been engaged in the structure of the process and development of overall criteria. I have frequently kept them informed of the status of the search. Our mutual goal has been to be on the same page. I appreciate the support they have provided and the confidence they have shown in me to bring forth a candidate who meets our criteria and has the best potential to help us reach our goals.

We are now actively evaluating individuals. We are fully aware of timelines and mandates associated with recruiting, building a coaching staff, and for dealing with current head coaches.
As I have said over the past two weeks, we announced our decision to seek new leadership for the football program when we did because the decision was foregone. We wanted to be clear and fair to all concerned that we were searching for a coach. The need for integrity and clarity that guided us from the start continues to guide us. We will keep you informed as we proceed with the process.

President Lou Anna K. Simon

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Week 12 - Get Gamm Previews ...
Buffalo at Wisconsin
Illinois at Northwestern
Indiana at Purdue
Iowa at Minnesota
Michigan State at Penn State
Michigan at Ohio State (TIEBREAKER)
Purdue at Hawaii (11/25)

Buffalo at Wisconsin
Nothing like kicking off a week of this magnitude with a potential classic between MAC doormat Buffalo and sneaky good, second place guaranteed Wisconsin. For those who can’t sense it, that is sarcasm. Wisconsin still has an outside shot at a BCS bid, but a lot has to happen above them in order for the Badgers to get in position for an unprecedented third team from one conference to slide into the BCS picture. So, with virtually nothing on the line, and a trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl locked up, don’t expect this to provide much entertainment. Buffalo is not very good… at all. Wisconsin wins with little fanfare and goes a tremendous 11-1. Wisconsin 31 – Buffalo 10.

mayo170 says… I honestly think that if this were an NFL game (the Bills and the Packers) I would be more apt to watch this one, and I hate the NFL. Alas, Wisconsin rounds out their 12-game schedule with this match-up. I don’t see many teams that can keep up with this Wisconsin squad in the country right now, as they have been a very strong team, since losing the early conference game to Michigan. Whether or not Stocco plays, this will be over 10 minutes into the game. Buffalo 6 - Wisconsin 34

Illinois at Northwestern – Battle for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk
The battle to get out of the cellar ensues in Evanston this week. Both teams are young with potential, though Illinois might have more upside given that their quarterback situation is far more settled at this point in time. The Wildcats have been about as expected this year following the tragic death of Coach Randy Walker. Illinois looked to be ready to get to four, maybe five wins after upsetting Michigan State but promptly lost close games to Indiana and Ohio and with it a chance to parlay a big win into momentum. I like the short term future of Illinois more but something tells me the Wildcats will rise up in this one as a season ending tribute to “Walk”. In a classic rivalry battle… Northwestern 23 – Illinois 20.

mayo170 says … Illinois and Northwestern, each have quite a bit to look forward to in the future, as they are both playing pretty darn good football, albeit a little late for this season. I really like the way Illinois is coming around and given a couple more years, they could be a very dangerous team to deal with. Northwestern, and especially coach Fitzgerald, I tip my hat to whenever I get a chance. To go through what they have this year and to still have the tenacity to put everything into every game, says a lot. It might be one of the best games to watch this week. I’m giving the nod to Northwestern, only because they are at home, Illinois 24 at Northwestern 27.

Indiana at Purdue – Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket
I know writers aren’t supposed to take sides, but I have to say - no offense to the Boilermakers - I’d love to see Indiana win this and get back to a bowl game for the first time since 1993. In reality, as I’ve said for weeks, the Hoosiers should already be bowl eligible. Even a split with Southern Illinois and Connecticut would have Indiana at the six win mark. But alas, after the win over Michigan State, the cream and crimson got hammered at Minnesota and are now faced with having to win the Old Oaken Bucket to go bowling. Also going against IU is the fact that Purdue is actually starting to play decent football again. Since back to back losses to Wisconsin and Penn State, the Boilermakers have nipped the Spartans and handled Illinois. This could be a highly entertaining game, trouble is, it will go unnoticed in the Big Ten. Purdue 31 – Indiana 24.

mayo170 says … Purdue is a bit of a misnomer this year, I just haven’t been able to stomach watching them. There is just something missing there that I can’t figure out. I really think that Indiana, having so much to prove for the last decade, or two, or three, will pull this one out to get them to a bowl game and get a reward for something they truly deserve. This has been a great stepping-stone year for the program and the stock is rising for Hoeppner and his crew. Indiana 24 at Purdue 22

Iowa at Minnesota – Battle for Floyd of Rosedale
This game means more than you might think for both teams. Sure, Iowa is already bowl eligible, but Minnesota is riding a two game win streak and needs one more victory to go to its sixth bowl in seven years. The only trouble is, Iowa has held Floyd of Rosedale since 2001 and is looking to snap out of its current funk. A win here likely means a better trip this holiday season. A loss might relegate my preseason pick to win the Big Ten to the Insight or Champs Bowl. Something tells me that Minnesota, starving to win back this trophy to begin with, will come out with all guns a blazing. The Gophers ripped Indiana two weeks ago and survived some early issues in East Lansing to stomp the Spartans. Iowa is wounded and has just the trophy and maybe the Alamo Bowl to play for. I like the Golden Gophers to find a way to win their 39th in the series and sneak into a bowl game. Minnesota 28 – Iowa 21.

mayo170 says … This Iowa team is scary, they seem to me like they should be kicking some tail and be on Wisconsin’s tail in the league, but somehow, they just aren’t clicking. Minnesota on the other hand, is right about where I expected, basically rebuilding, losing more than winning, and just now finding a bit of a rhythm toward the end of the year. I just don’t believe that Iowa is going to leave the dome very happy with their performance this weekend. Iowa 16 at Minnesota 31

Michigan State at Penn State – Battle for the Land Grant Trophy
This is the newest of the Big Ten rivalry games, kicked off as a result of the two institutions being the first two Land Grant schools to be formed back in 1855. Penn State owns 10 wins in the rivalry series (to MSU’s 3) but the overall series is knotted at 11-11-1. The Spartans are playing for a lame duck coach with no bowl berth on the line and haven’t won at Penn State since 1965. We may have seen the last of Drew Stanton as well. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are shooting for eight wins and a berth in the Outback Bowl. Coach Joe Paterno will coach from the Press Box after suffering a broken leg and torn ligaments at Wisconsin two weeks ago. The last time a lame duck Spartans squad came to Beaver Stadium, Larry Johnson ran for nearly 300 yards, IN THE FIRST HALF, en route to a 61-7 drubbing of the green and white. This Penn State team isn’t that good and believe it or not, this Spartan squad isn’t that bad either. Still, on Senior Day in State College… Penn State 38 – Michigan State 17.

mayo170 says … My wife of 12 years, a truly Go Green, Go White woman, said before the year started that MSU was going to be 4-8. I scoffed and thought there’d be no way (7-5 or 8-4). Well, the Spartans seem to want to prove a point to me… Don’t argue with your wife, she’s always right! I guess I should have said “Yes Dear” and left it at that. Penn State, as battered as their leader is, and in a bit of a rebuilding season, has shown they have a solid foundation yet again this year. I like their defense and soon enough they’ll be in the running for a Big Ten championship. Michigan State 13 at Penn State 22

Michigan at Ohio State
Funny how the best rivalry of them all doesn’t have a trophy on the line. Then again, this game doesn’t need any extra motivation. The rivalry between the states dates back to before football was played, manifested from the historical tension of the Toledo War between Ohio and the Michigan Territory. It is debatable who won that battle (Ohio got Toledo, Michigan what is now the Upper Peninsula) but there will be little debate who wins this year by about 7:15 Saturday night.

Michigan leads the series 57-39-6, 45-39-4 in conference play. However, over the last 50 years, the true test of the rivalry, it is all even at 24-24-2. It surely has its ebbs and flow, but this is the best rivalry game in college football. Auburn-Alabama has more bitterness, but rarely does a rivalry game anywhere else have as much on the line as this one. The pair have only met as unbeatens five games before this contest, and only twice where it was the last regular season game. The 1970 game was won by the Buckeyes, the 1973 game was a 10-10 tie. After going 8-2-1 from 1990 through 2000, Michigan has been on the short end of the stick in four of the last five meetings.

Enough with the history and on to the game. This is to college football what Duke vs. North Carolina is to college hoops. The best of the best, going head to head, in a hard fought but respectful battle. Each school boasts its heroes and legendary coaches. But throw that all out the window. This is for the Big Ten title, bragging rights and oh, by the way, a berth in the National Title game. The scarlet and gray have been No. 1 all season long, while Michigan has moved up steadily since week one. These are truly the two best teams in college football this year. And the tough part when it comes to game analysis? They are nearly dead ringers for one another – from top to bottom.

The difference maker? Michigan’s typical big game tendency to “turtle up” and a guy by the name of Troy Smith. In an epic battle, an ESPN classic, and a game to be talked about until we are all long gone… Ohio State 21 – Michigan 20.

mayo170 says … Ahh, The Game. Perhaps the greatest of this storied series. I don’t know how all the maize and blue and scarlet and grey can contain themselves this week. I absolutely love watching this one, regardless of whether it’s on TV, at Michigan Stadium with my dad, or rehashing some of the great showings on ESPN Classic. Picking this one is pretty difficult since they both have pretty explosive passing games, great running backs, smart QB’s, solid and hard-hitting defenses and the freakin’ history and tradition. For all the reasons that I think Ohio State has a great shot at winning with their offense, Michigan’s defense has been flat-out dominating this year. Michigan’s offense, still a very efficient unit, seems to be light-years ahead of what we witnessed last year. This game will come down to the trenches and special teams. I have a feeling that Woodley is going to take it upon himself to get in Troy Smith’s face more than the camera man zooming from the end zone. The linebackers at Ohio State baffle me, how can they be this good, after losing the guys they had last year? And how Pittman is so overshadowed by the receivers is beyond me. This game has all the makings of a game of the century.

If I were gambler, I’d put my money on OSU at home. But I tend to listen to the voices in my head sometimes, and this is going to be one of them. I’m going to put my money on Michigan for one reason: The success that Tressel has had against Carr. Say what you want, but I really think that the winged helmets are going to come out and actually hold the lead this year. They have been awful close these last few years with some quick starts, but then fizzling out during the second half of the game. Granted, Troy Smith is the best QB in the country and had a lot to do with the Ohio State dominance over Michigan since he’s been the starter, but this year’s Michigan defense has really buckled down and I think it’s their year. This game should be one of the classic chess matches that Woody and Bo were famous for. To be honest, I’m pretty dang glad that I’m alive to witness this game. Michigan 19 at Ohio State 17

Purdue at Hawaii (Nov. 25)
One day, Big Ten teams will learn that this game is nothing but trouble. Just ask the Spartans. They so deplored the way their game was called and how they were treated that they bagged a trip in 2008. Purdue has nothing to gain in this game and Hawaii is actually pretty good. The Warriors will get some home town calls and pass to a win. Hawaii 35 – Purdue 28.

mayo170 says … Oh wait! We have one last game to visit on the agenda. This year Purdue gets to go to Honolulu and take on the Rainbow Warriors in paradise. Well, I have no idea what this Hawaii team is all about, and after looking at their site, they are quite a bit better this year than I had expected. Purdue seems to be playing a totally different brand of football than Tiller brought to West Lafayette 10 years ago and perhaps that’s why it’s so tough to watch for me this year. Although bowl eligible, I don’t know that I have a whole lot of confidence in them holding up against Hawaii. I’m just going to believe long enough that Purdue is going to do the Big Ten proud and take care of business out there. Purdue 31 at Hawaii 23

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Morning QB …
Game on! After weeks of guessing, hoping – in reality – knowing that we were going to be set up with No. 1 vs. No. 2 on the last weekend of Big Ten play, we are finally able to say it – GAME ON!

Even as a Spartans fan, someone who respects but abhors Michigan and is definitely on the “dislikes” side of the fence when it comes to the Buckeyes, this is as exciting as it gets in college football. A week of hype where any level of hype and talk isn’t enough. Winner goes to the National Title game. Loser goes to the Rose Bowl (so is there really a loser here?). Or maybe, just maybe, loser gets a rematch in the national title bout. Hey, Texas, Auburn, Cal and Louisville all fell last weekend and Florida was a finger tip away from the same fate.

It isn’t far fetched to see USC lose to Cal but knock of Notre Dame and fall from the race while taking the Irish with them. Florida is ripe for a loss after blocking three kicks to survive South Carolina. Rutgers could very well lose to West Virginia and even if the Scarlet Knights go 12-0, don’t be shocked to see a one loss Michigan or Ohio State team get the points necessary for a rematch.

College football is a wild and crazy game, where anything can – and often does – happen. Ask the Spartans, who once again had strong early momentum and then fell flat for a seventh loss in eight games. Ask Iowa, who lost for the third time at Kinnick this fall. Yes, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State rolled and Purdue took care of business, but generally speaking, this is a fickle game that in the course of 60 minutes is like a ride on the tallest, fastest, scariest damn roller coaster on earth each and every week.

Let the hype begin, the bona fide Game of the Century kicks off in just a few short days…

Team of the Week…
It could be any of a few, but I am going to go with Wisconsin. The red and white went on the road, without their leader (John Stocco) and got a huge win. This team was predicted to be middle-of-the-pack – at best – this season and is quietly in the BCS Top 10 with a 10-1 record and a tie for second place in the Big Ten all locked up. The Badgers’ only loss was to Michigan. If everything falls right, might they sneak into a BCS game too? Hey, they travel incredibly well so it isn’t inconceivable…

Player of the Week…
Steve Breaston has been pretty quiet this season but gave Ohio State some things to look at with two huge touchdowns against Indiana. He was on the other end of a bomb by Chad Henne and was masterful with a back-breaking punt return. Breaston, Arrington and Manningham will test the heck out of the OSU secondary – IF – Lloyd Carr doesn’t go too conservative…

Get Gamm Status…
mayo170, who has been at or near the top of the standings all season long finally got off the schnide this weekend – the only player to go a perfect 6-0. There are only two chances left to “Get Gamm” this week and bowl season. The overall winner gets $25 to spend in the TFS Store.

T1 – mayo170: 66-16 (.805), 1 GG Win
T1 – andrew1313: 66-16 (.805), 1 GG Win
T3 – Buckeye Nation: 65-17 (.793), 3 GG Wins
T3 – Dan Meyer: 65-17 (.793), 2 GG Wins
T3 – flakcat: 65-17 (.793), 1 GG Win
T3 – phatsdawg: 65-17 (.793)
7 – Gamm: 63-19 (.768), 1 GG Win
8 – BigTenSportsFan: 57-19 (.750), 1 GG Win
9 – PUFan: 43-17 (.717), 1 GG Win

This week’s schedule (includes Purdue at Hawaii for 11/25):
Buffalo at Wisconsin
Illinois at NorthwesternIndiana at PurdueIowa at Minnesota
Michigan State at Penn State
Michigan at Ohio State (TIEBREAKER)
Purdue at Hawaii (11/25)

MSU Coaching Search Update…
Contrary to the many rumors out there last week, MSU did not offer the job to Brian Kelly, Todd Grantham and Pat Shurmur! It has been announced that face-to-face interviews will start this week and after some possible (not confirmed) phone interviews, the final-ish candidates are Todd Grantham, Bo Pelini, and Pat Shurmur with Strong and Kelly as toss-ups and Mark Dantonio and Bill Cubit as longshots. Expect a move to be made by Thanksgiving – just in time for open (on the road) recruiting season.

My personal choice is still probably Brian Kelly, but given what I've read and been told, I would rate the order that I think the MSU selection team has in mind as follows:

Grantham and Shurmur are neck and neck.
Pelini is right on their heels.
Brian Kelly is running fourth but could leap to the top.
Mark Dantonio has the ties to be ahead of others.
Cubit and Strong are, as I said above, longshots.

By the way, Mooch was a strong candidate, the timing appeared to be the biggest detractor (his family just moved back to the west coast).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Get Gamm - Week Eleven Preview...
Purdue at Illinois
Temple at Penn State
Minnesota at Michigan State
Michigan at Indiana
Wisconsin at Iowa (Tiebreaker)
Ohio State at Northwestern

Purdue at Illinois
Purdue stepped a game closer to bowl eligibility last week and now has three games to win one more. But you know Tiller & Co. want to not only get to a bowl, but try and sneak into play for the Outback (Wisconsin, I believe has the Capital One all but locked up). Nine wins seems like a definite possibility with Illinois, Indiana and Hawaii left on the slate, but Illinois is getting better all the time, despite its 2-8 (1-5) record. The Illini stayed right in the game with Ohio State a weekend after nearly tripping up the Badgers. Purdue needs to contain Juice Williams or be faced with beating a rival and a long road trip to go bowling. Illinois is close – again – but doesn’t yet know how to finish off games. Purdue 24 – Illinois 20.

PUFan says … A completely biased pick here (why start something new now?), but was still shocked to see the early betting line with Illinois as a 3ptfavorite. Granted, the Illini have played very well of late, probablyeven better than my Boilers, but I still think Purdue's got more talentright now than Illinois. Have seen the Illini go up-n-down each week,playing well and following it up with a stinker game. After battlingtOSU for 60 minutes last weekend, the Boilers benefit from a bunch ofIllinois turnovers for some easy scores. Purdue 34, Illinois 20

Temple at Penn State
The real story in this game is that Penn State coach Joe Paterno will be missing from the sidelines for the first time since 1977 and only the second time as head coach. Temple finally got a win after losing 20 straight games but this team got humiliated by Minnesota earlier this year and the Nittany Lions are better than the Gophers. The Nits, much like the Boilers, are seeking to secure a berth in the Outback Bowl. A big win here makes the blue and white 7-4 with lowly MSU at home to close the regular season. Penn State gets the offense rolling after two straight weeks of relying on the kicking game. Penn State 34 – Temple 10.

PUFan says … This should be a yawner from the opening kickoff. Temple's bad and the Nittany Lions are better than their showing at Wisconsin last week. Stay safe JoPa ... this is a game you can stay home without much worrying! Penn State 27, Temple 3

Minnesota at Michigan State
You may be shocked to read this, but this is a bowl elimination game for both teams. Minnesota and MSU sit at 4-6 (1-5) and needing to win out to eek out a bowl berth. The Gophers are on a bit of a roll after hammering Indiana a week ago to the tune of 63-26. That’s the same Hoosier squad that scored 46-straight on the Spartans en route to a 46-21 win a week prior. It is Senior Day in East Lansing but perhaps the loudest cheers will be as fans see John L. Smith’s backside disappear through the tunnel. Michigan State played its best defensive game in a few years but still found a way to lose to Purdue last weekend. Will they send the seniors out on top? Neither team will make it to a bowl this year, but it is more common for Michigan State to win this sort of game with a berth on the line heading to State College. Incidentally, MSU has gone to Penn State five times since the Lions joined the Big Ten with a bowl bid on the line. Can you guess the outcome? 0-5. Back to this one. Stanton and Trannon put on a show in their finale and the Spartans win… Michigan State 38 – Minnesota 33.

PUFan says … At some point the bounces are going to go the way of Sparty and this seems to be the weekend. The last 25 minutes of the Northwestern gameaside, nothing has gone right for Michigan State in the last seven weeks. The final home game of the year for the Spartan seniors, along with aGophers squad which has just one win this year away from home andcertainly can't put up another 63pts like they did last weekend, shouldspell W-I-N for Michigan State. Spartans 26, Minnesota 13

Michigan at Indiana
If you’re like me, you pin-pointed this weekend as the possible sloppy showing for Michigan heading into the showdown with Ohio State. However, that happened with another Indiana team, last week. Ball State gave Michigan all they could handle and that doesn’t bode well for the Hoosiers. IU is better than Ball State but you know Michigan will not be looking ahead. They can’t afford to. Still, the cream and crimson will put up a fight. Kellen Lewis and James Hardy are a lethal combination and the Hoosier faithful might even sell out Memorial Stadium for a change. Look for Indiana to keep it tight early, but for Michigan to pull away with a big return from Steve Breaston and a huge day from Mike Hart. Michigan 37 – Indiana 17.

PUFan says … You think Terry Hoeppner called his brethren from the MAC over at Ball State to say "Thank You Very Much"! Nothing like waking up a sleepingWolverines squad the week before they come to Bloomington in which theynow realize they need to not only beat IU, but beat them BADLY for theirBCS standings ... oops! With Ohio State next week, Michigan won't playa bunch of the starters in the 2nd half if they jump out to big leadearly. Sorry Hoosier fans but I'm guessing they'll score early-n-oftenin the first half though! Michigan 41, Indiana 20

Wisconsin at Iowa
Iowa is the third team (with Purdue and Penn State) fighting for a New Years Day bowl berth. Trouble is, the Hawkeyes just got taken out, at home no less, by hapless Northwestern. And, Iowa scored just seven points in the process. The black and gold will go to a bowl, but with each loss, the destination is less enchanting and the magnitude of said game less intriguing. Wisconsin is winning the old fashioned way – with defense and a stellar ground game. John Stocco just wins, baby, and P.J. Hill just flattens opposing defenses. Iowa will put up a fight and may even pull off the upset, but I like how the Badgers are rolling right now. Wisconsin 20 – Iowa 17.

PUFan says … This could certainly be the game-of-the-week in the Big Ten. The Badgers have been better than I thought and who'd have predicted theHawkeyes would be below Purdue and INDIANA through six games ofconference play?! The emotions will be running high in Iowa City asits the last game for the Hawks seniors along with the fact Wisconsin QBJohn Stocco is still nursing a shoulder injury he got toward the end ofthe Penn State game last Saturday. I like Iowa to get back on trackwith an upset home win. Iowa 20, Wisconsin 17

Ohio State at Northwestern
Much like Michigan last week, the OSU struggle and subsequent wake-up call may have come a week earlier than expected. Illinois was still alive down to the last play of the game. Northwestern has lost the element of surprise itself by handling Iowa at Kinnick. This could be interesting and even entertaining. Ohio State won’t want to reveal too much and would love to shelve its stars as much as possible heading into the what should be an epic classic next weekend. Northwestern has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Its players and coaches are young and hungry to prove last week wasn’t a fluke. Still, Smith, Ginn, Gonzalez and Pittman trump Sutton any day of the week. Ohio State 30 – Northwestern 10.

PUFan says … The last speed-bump on the way to the Buckeyes/Wolverines matchup in Columbus next weekend, tOSU heads to a pumped up Northwestern squad this weekend. The Wildcats upset at Iowa last Saturday was amazing, but Ohio State's a whole other level of competition. Like Michigan at IU,Tressel won't want to play his first-team much in the 2nd half to avoidinjuries so they'll try to score early-n-often ... and they will. tOSU 33, N'Western 12

MSU job search update…
Mooch and Butch Davis are out of the equation in East Lansing, but it sounds like interviews have been done with Brian Kelly, Todd Grantham, Charlie Strong and Bo Pelini with more likely to follow. Could one of these be the next Greg Schiano? State fans hope so!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Big Ten Basketball Previews…
It’s that time of year again – my favorite time when it comes to sports. College basketball is tipping off and for my money; there is nothing better in sports than college hoops. The only unfortunate part is that due to the timing, I don’t have the space or time to devote as much to my basketball previews as I do to my football previews. Don’t get me wrong, I love football season too. But nothing beats the buzzer beating upsets, the adrenaline of last possession victories, the agony of defeat, the tournament … I love everything about college hoops.

That said, without further ado, here is my take on each team and how I see this regular season playing out in what could be a wide open Big Ten race.

Illinois Fighting Illini
Last Season: 26-7 (11-5, T2nd)
Key Losses: PG Dee Brown, F/C James Augustine
Key Returnees: G Rich McBride, G Jamar Smith, F Brian Randle
Key Newcomer: C Brian Carlwell

2006-07 Outlook: Illinois will sorely miss the leadership and uncanny big play abilities of Dee Brown and the inside punch of James Augustine. However, don’t cry too hard for Bruce Weber. This will still be a team capable of doing some things with a no-so-bad schedule and plenty of talent remaining on the roster.

Prediction: 20-11 (8-8, 7th) – NCAA Berth

Indiana Hoosiers
Last Season: 19-12 (9-7, T4th)
Key Losses: G Robert Vaden, F Marco Killingsworth
Key Returnees: G Roderick Willmont, F D.J. White
Key Newcomer: F Mike White

2006-07 Outlook: Indiana is finally fully removed from the Bobby Knight era now that embattled coach Mike Davis has moved on. Kelvin Sampson seems to have a skeleton or two in his closet but that will all be forgotten once fans see his rugged style take hold. D.J. White, when healthy, has been among the best players in the country, let alone the Big Ten. This team lost a lot but will be very solid by season’s end.

Prediction: 21-9 (10-6, 4th) – NCAA Berth

Iowa Hawkeyes
Last Season: 25-9 (11-5, T2nd)
Key Losses: G Jeff Horner, F Greg Brunner
Key Returnees: G Adam Haluska, G Mike Henderson
Key Newcomer: F Tyler Smith

2006-07 Outlook: It can be said that with the graduation of Horner, Brunner and Erik Hansen the Iowa Hawkeyes lost their heart and soul. The truth is, they probably did. In order to rise up and grind out another winning season, Steve Alford is going to have to get a lot out of some unproven players. Iowa will be a tough game all season long, but just doesn’t have enough polish to get above .500 this season.

Prediction: 14-16 (5-11, T8th) – No postseason play

Michigan Wolverines
Last Season: 22-11 (8-8, T6th)
Key Losses: G Daniel Horton, F Graham Brown
Key Returnees: G/F Lester Abram, C Courtney Sims
Key Newcomer: F DeShawn Sims

2006-07 Outlook: Michigan has really been an enigma the past few years. Strong starts have been followed up by major late season slumps and NCAA bids have turned to NIT berths. Part of it could be that the maize and blue are only challenging themselves once or twice before Big Ten play each year, although injuries have played a role as well. Floor general Daniel Horton is gone, but plenty of talent returns and that means Michigan will finally get back to the Big Dance next March.

Prediction: 21-10 (9-7, T5th) – NCAA Berth

Michigan State Spartans
Last Season: 22-12 (8-8, T6th)
Key Losses: G Shannon Brown, G Maurice Ager, F/C Paul Davis
Key Returnees: G Drew Neitzel, F Goran Suton
Key Newcomer: F Raymar Morgan

2006-07 Outlook: Teams with fans that routinely find themselves rushing the court after beating perennial Big Ten power Michigan State might have to temper that enthusiasm this year. Why? This is a bit of a rebuilding year in East Lansing. 78% of the scoring has departed for the NBA and this is the youngest team Tom Izzo has ever had on the court with ZERO seniors on the roster. The usually brutal non-conference slate isn’t so brutal this year and as always with Izzo coached teams, this will be a much better team in February and March than today. Think 2002 team, but a little better yet…

Prediction: 21-10 (9-7, T5th) – NCAA Berth

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last Season: 16-15 (5-11, 9th)
Key Losses: G Adam Boone, G/F Vincent Grier
Key Returnees: G Jamal Abu-Shamala, C Spencer Tollackson
Key Newcomer: G Lawrence McKenzie

2006-07 Outlook: Is it just me or does poor Don Monson always seem to be in rebuilding mode at Minnesota? Perhaps the same group championing the new football stadium should look at new basketball digs as well. This team loses its heart and soul in Boone and Grier and though it will scrap and claw and fight along the way, it just not destined to win very many games.

Prediction: 9-21 (2-14, 10th) – No postseason

Northwestern Wildcats
Last Season: 14-15 (6-10, T7th)
Key Losses: G Mohamed Hachad, F Vedran Vukusic
Key Returnees: G Tim Doyle
Key Newcomer: G Jason Okrzesik

2006-07 Outlook: Last year will be looked back upon as the one that got away. Northwestern actually put a highly competitive team on the court and still came up empty at season’s end. It is back to rebuilding this year with several new faces being counted on to make up for all that was lost with the departure of Hachad and Vukusic. Tim Doyle is the logical candidate to step up, but who else is with him?

Prediction: 7-23 (1-15, 11th) – No postseason

Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Season: 26-6 (12-4, Big Ten Champs)
Key Losses: G Je’Kel Foster, F/C Terence Dials
Key Returnees: G Jamar Butler
Key Newcomers: G Mike Conley, G Daequan Cook, C Greg Oden

2006-07 Outlook: When the “Thad Five” committed together to play for Coach Thad Matta last November, they were automatically crowned as the team to beat for as long as they played together. Well, that may be the case, but there are others in the Big Ten with something to say about that (Wisconsin among others). Don’t discount the fact that this team lost four starters from last season and is replacing them with rookies. Talented or not, this team will experience a few growing pains along the way. Greg Oden is out until January, which may slow the progress down some more, but come March, this will be a very, very good basketball team.

Prediction: 24-5 (13-3, 2nd) – NCAA berth, Sweet 16 or better

Penn State Nittany Lions
Last Season: 15-15 (6-10, T7th)
Key Losses: F Travis Parker
Key Returnees: G/F Geary Claxton, F Jamelle Cornley
Key Newcomer: F David Jackson

2006-07 Outlook: On paper, this team appears poised to make great strides and return to the NCAA Tournament. There is plenty of talent, the team is well-coached and there is more depth than perhaps any time in Penn State’s history. Still, until the team can win all of the games it should (it recently lost an exhibition game to Shippensburg) and hold serve at the cavernous and typically empty Bryce-Jordan, I can’t see more than the NIT. That said, this might and more likely should be the year that Penn State makes a quiet run to the top tier of the Big Ten.

Prediction: 15-15 (5-11, T8th) – NIT, Trip to MSG for the Final Four

Purdue Boilermakers
Last Season: 9-19 (3-13, 11th)
Key Losses: C Matt Kiefer, F Marcus White
Key Returnees: G David Teague, G Chris Lutz, F Carl Landry
Key Newcomer: F/C David VanderVieren

2006-07 Outlook: Don’t let last season’s record and finish fool you. Why? Purdue had key players drop like flies in October and November and paid for it when the season started. Two players in particular, Teague and Landry, would have led this team to a .500 record overall a season ago. The good news is the pair, combined with the players that made it through last seasons tough campaign will contend for a Big Ten title. Purdue doesn’t need to be convinced that it can be a top tier team like Penn State and thus will win the games it should, protect the home court and earn Matt Painter Coach of the Year honors in the Big Ten this season.

Prediction: 24-6 (12-4, 3rd) – NCAA berth, Sweet 16

Wisconsin Badgers
Last Season: 19-12 (9-7, T4th)
Key Losses: G Ray Nixon
Key Returnees: G Kammron Taylor, F Alando Tucker, F/C Brian Butch
Key Newcomer: G Trevor Hughes

2006-07 Outlook: Every year I expect Wisconsin to achieve less than the so-called experts do. Every year, or so it seems, I undersell the job Bo Ryan has done and can continue to do with this team. Not so this go around. Everyone else is talking up the Buckeyes, but not me – not yet. Wisconsin just knows how to win. The offense gets under your skin, the defense is in your face, the Badgers rarely lose to teams they should beat and protect the homecourt as well as powers Illinois and Michigan State. Alando Tucker has been in the Big Ten for fifteen years – or so it seems – and he and an underrated cast of very talented players will take this team further than anyone expects…

Prediction: 28-3 (14-2, Big Ten Champs) – NCAA berth, Elite 8 or better

My All Big Ten Team:
G – Adam Haluska
G – Drew Neitzel
F – D.J. White
F – Alando Tucker
C – Greg Oden

Freshman of the Year: Raymar Morgan
Coach of the Year: Matt Painter

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The MSU coaching search…
Last week, I provided a collective list of names reported to be “in the running” for the Michigan State football gig. I then proceeded to rate them on “sexy factor” and “likelihood”. Well, things change a lot when it comes to these things, so after sifting through these names, and still more names, reading up on each of them a little more, listening to what the main beat writers and media outlets and guys like Tom Izzo are saying, I am back with an updated look at who I think should have the best shot to be the guy.

First, a reminder of all the names I’ve read tied in as “candidates”:
Butch Davis – former Miami-FLA and Cleveland Browns Head Coach

Greg Schiano - Rutgers Head Coach

Ron English - Defensive Coordinator, Michigan

Ty Willingham - Washington Head Coach

Bo Pelini - Defensive Coordinator, LSU

Brian Kelly - Central Michigan Head Coach

Todd Grantham - Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns

Mark Dantonio - Cincinnati Head Coach

Pat Shurmur - QB Coach, Philadelphia Eagles

Charlie Baggett - Assistant Head Coach, Miami Dolphins

Jim Harbaugh - San Diego Head Coach

Charlie Strong - Defensive Coordinator, Florida

Gene Chizik - Defensive Coordinator, Texas

Jon Tenuta - Defensive Coordinator, Georgia Tech

Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots

Steve Mariucci - former Head Coach for the Lions, 49ers and Cal Bears

Nick Saban - Head Coach, Miami Dolphins

Tom O’Brien – Head Coach, Boston College

Bill Cubit – Head Coach, Western Michigan

Jim Grobe – Head Coach, Wake Forest

Next, I will put them in three tiers: Top candidates, second level and least likely to happen – based on my opinion – as well as my personal Vegas odds...

Top Candidates:
Brian Kelly. On paper, IMO, he is still 1-3 years away from being a top candidate for these sorts of jobs, but the more I read, the more I like him and think maybe you get the guy before he’s the next Urban Meyer. 30% chance.

Steve Mariucci. A week ago, I thought no way. But the way Tom Izzo is talking and being read by the people that talk to him daily (media), I have to think he is getting a heavy look and at the same time, thinking long and hard about the opportunity. Odds = 20% chance.

Mark Dantonio. I like his resume. I like his MSU and OSU ties. Not a “blow you away” name, but he’d be a solid hire. Odds = 15% chance.Todd Grantham. I also like his resume. Great Midwest ties. Again, not a “sexy” name, but a worthy candidate. Odds = 15% chance.

Ron English. Biggie Munn came from Michigan too. Young, a lot of fire. Defensive minded. Might need a MAC level gig first. Odds = 10% chance.

Butch Davis. I still think he is a reason they made a move early, but the more I read, the more he slides down the list. I truly think he finds UNC more attractive (if he really did say that) because they are a lot further south than MSU! Odds = 10% chance.

Second Level:
Tyrone Willingham. Obvious reasons here. Problem is, he’s happy in Washington and we ticked him off the last few go-arounds. Would be expensive but a solid hire.

Pat Shurmur. If an older, MSU tied candidate like a Baggett were to come in, I would think that he’d be brought on as offensive coordinator and be groomed to be next in line. But I am not sure that is anywhere close to where MSU wants to go this time around. Stanton gave him his endorsement – that’s worth something, I guess…

Jim Harbaugh. As I’ve said, what better way to understand how to beat Michigan than to get one of their beloved. It would spice up the rivalry a little more – from the M side anyway.

Charlie Strong. A name defensive coordinator. Young. Well thought of. But see Ron English – i.e. might need seasoning as a MAC level Head Coach first.

Bo Pelini. See Charlie Strong, Ron English. Plus he’s been passed over for the head jobs before.

Jon Tenuta. See Pelini, Strong and English. Have heard that he doesn’t interview well but he has put feelers out on his viability as a candidate.

Gene Chizek. See Tenuta, Pelini, Strong and English.

Not gonna happen:
Nick Saban. He’ll help MSU out with advice, but he’s where he wants to be.

Greg Schiano. I still predict he ends up at Miami after Coker gets fired (inevitable).

Charlie Baggett. I just don’t see it happening, unless it is a 2 for 1 with Shurmur.

Josh McDaniels. Have only seen his name linked just once and never again. Too young.

Tom O’Brien. He’s done so well at B.C., why would he want to leave?

Jim Grobe. Done great things at Wake and has some Ohio ties, but I don’t see him as a true candidate, rather just a name on the list.

Bill Cubit. Intriguing. Has done great things for Western Michigan, but not as much bang as Brian Kelly.

So, what does it all mean?
I guess you could deduce that I think Brian Kelly might be the next guy. That’s today. Talk to me tomorrow! Seriously though, the more I read, the more I think State might need to jump on this guy now or always wonder what-if. Mooch would be a big name that brings immediate attention to the program but he would have to overcome the throngs of Lions fans who blame him and not the Ford’s or Millen for that joke of a program.

The bottom line? Whomever gets the job will not be left with a cupboard as bare as what John L. Smith was left with. There is plenty of offensive firepower coming back and a few playmakers on defense, not to mention a great young kicker and a recruiting class, that if completely salvaged, is going to be one of the better classes to come to East Lansing in some time.

Stay tuned, it will be a wild ride!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Morning QB ...
A wild and wooly Saturday around the Big Ten this past weekend. Ohio State only a touchdown winner at Illinois? Michigan has to have a goal line stand to avoid possible overtime with Ball State? Minnesota flat out crushes Indiana? Northwestern wins on the road – at Iowa no less? Maybe the only normalcy came as Michigan State found yet another way to blow a late lead in a loss to Purdue and Wisconsin dominated on the ground and on defense en route to a solid 13-3 win over Penn State.

Now to the games themselves. Illinois isn’t all that bad. Yep, the Illini are tied for last but they are a team, like Indiana, that can rise up when you least expect it. That’s what nothing to lose mentalities get you. The Ball State – Michigan score was more shocking to me. But when you turtle up and go conservative, that’s what happens – you get more than you bargained for.

Purdue and Michigan State probably played the most entertaining game with a lot of twists and turns, but the Spartans could not win one for John L. Smith and then he was no where to be found after the game when the media came calling. Penn State coach Joe Paterno suffered a broken leg and two damaged ligaments when he was rolled on the sideline. Makes you wonder how that doesn’t happen more often. Unfortunately, that was the only highlight of a pretty well played but boring, old fashioned Big Ten battle.

What the heck happened to the Hoosiers? This is the third game that IU has put in the loss column that on paper, should have been a win. It might’ve been the final nail on the Indiana bowl chances coffin as Michigan comes calling this weekend followed by a game at Purdue. Speaking of what the heck and “H” nicknames, hello, Hawkeyes – where were you on Saturday? My pick to share the Big Ten title was stunned at home and all but assured that they won’t be spending New Years Day in Florida. Alamo Bowl, here we come.

Team of the Week...
Could be Wisconsin, who is quietly a solid 9-1 (6-1) and on a six game win streak. Could be Minnesota who kept slim bowl hopes alive by trashing the Hoosiers. Could even be Illinois for putting up a solid fight against the Buckeyes. But I have to go with Northwestern. In the middle of a stretch that included road games at Michigan and Iowa, followed by a home date with the Buckeyes – all after the devastating loss to Michigan State – it would have been understandable if the team sort of hung it up. No siree. Kudos to Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats for smacking Iowa on the chin and hanging on for a huge victory.

Player of the Week...
Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito came out firing and it paid off big time for the Golden Gophers. 22-33, 4 TDs and 378 yards passing. Brilliant.

Get Gamm status...
We have another new winner this week. Three went 5-1 this week with Northwestern and Minnesota throwing most for a loop. PUFan, not eligible for the overall prize, wins the honor this week. Send your picks my way by Thursday PUFan.

T1 - Buckeye Nation: 61-15 (.803), 3 GG Wins
T1 - Dan Meyer: 61-15 (.803), 2 GG Wins
T1 - andrewj1313: 61-15 (.803), 1 GG Win
T1 - flakcat: 61-15 (.803), 1 GG Win
T5 - may0170: 60-16 (.789)
T5 - phatsdawg: 60-16 (.789)
7 - Gamm: 58-18 (.763), 1 GG Win
8 - BigTenSportsFan: 57-19 (.750), 1 GG Win
9 - PUFan: 39-15 (.722), 1 GG Win

This week's slate:
Purdue at Illinois
Temple at Penn State
Minnesota at Michigan State
Michigan at Indiana
Wisconsin at Iowa
Ohio State at Northwestern

Coming soon... my basketball predictions

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hot Topic - Who will be MSU's next Head Coach?
Admit it. Even if you aren't a Michigan State fan you have some names in mind for who you think will be the next boss on the football field in East Lansing. Heck, every single news outlet in Michigan has a list and not all of them are the same.

Do you go with an established guy with head coaching experience? Do you go with a hot young coordinator? Do you cherry pick from the NFL? Does the guy have to have MSU ties? All great questions.

To reply to a great question from TFSDN blog reader mayo170: I think MSU needs to find the right person without worrying about Joel Ferguson. He's a self-serving meddler and it is people like him, who really - IMO have no business being a part of the decision, that have led us to make hasty or even wrong decisions in the past. Did Ron Mason make a mistake the first time? Maybe, maybe not. He tried to cut past the BS and do it on his own and good old Joel got it all off to a bad start by ridiculing the choice rather than supporting it. For that, I don't blame Mason. Here and now we have a more seasoned A.D. and a President with a clue about sports as well as an understanding that Tom Izzo needs to be a part of the process. I'm sorry, but as good as MPMP (M. Peter McPherson) was as a leader, he was out to lunch when it came to helping hire a good coach.

Now, back to the search... Todd Schulz of the Lansing State Journal listed out the "traits" quite well in his take today:
  • He should be relatively young and capable of pouring endless energy into the program.
  • He should be a defensive guru, capable of rebuilding the porous, patchwork unit that Smith simply never got fixed.
  • He should have previous coaching experience, at least as a coordinator, in a Bowl Championship Series conference.
  • He should have Big Ten Conference ties.
  • He should have Midwest roots and recruiting connections.
  • He should have successful coaching mentors.
  • He should have NFL experience.
  • He should be a highly sought candidate for other vacancies.
  • He should be aching for a chance to prove himself on a big-time stage.

With that, lets have a look at all the names that are accumulating on the list. Some make sense. Some are a shot in the dark. Some are there out of necessity. Some are quite entertaining and intriguing at the same time. Here is a list of all the candidates, at least per various sources around Michigan, followed by my personal take on their viability as a candidate and a 1-10 rating on "sexiness of the name" and 1-10 rating on my gut feel of the "likelihood of it happening". They are listed in the order that I would put them in if I were leading this search:

1. Butch Davis - former Miami-FLA coach with NFL experience. Will come at a high price but that price is worth it. He has fire, experience, the right ties and is the huge name that MSU really could use right now. Sexy factor = 10. Likelihood = 7

2. Greg Schiano - Rutgers Head Coach. The guy is the hottest coach at a smallish BCS conference school. Rebuilt a program from the ashes. Firey, smart, solid. More likely to head to Miami when Coker is let go at season's end. Sexy factor = 10. Likelihood = 2.

3. Ron English - Defensive Coordinator, Michigan. How great would it be to steal a guy as known, respected and with the future of English? He has Big Ten and NFL ties, and look no further than what he has done for the M defense this year for his credibility. Sexy factor = 9. Likelihood = 5.

4. Ty Willingham - Washington Head Coach. An MSU guy. Has plenty of experience. Is smart, no nonsense and knows pressure. With time I still think he would have had great sustained success at Notre Dame. Will be costly to buy him out and since he's been passed over before, will he want the gig? Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 7.

5. Bo Pelini - Defensive Coordinator, LSU. The guy is leading the best (statistically) defense in the nation. He's got midwest ties. He has NFL ties. Never been a head coach and has been passed over at Nebraska, Pitt and Syracuse, but is young and ready to take over a program. Meets just about all of Todd's criteria listed above (and endorsed by Todd as well :) ). Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 8.

6. Brian Kelly - Central Michigan Head Coach. A winner at 1-AA and now in the MAC. A great offensive mind who understands the state of Michigan. Not a ton of big experience, but a coach who will be at a big program sooner than later. Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 7.

7. Todd Grantham - Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns. An assistant under Nick Saban at MSU. Eerie similarities to Saban and his path including same position on the same team Saban left to coach MSU. Understands the midwest and the Big Ten. Sexy factor = 4. Likelihood = 5.

8. Mark Dantonio - Cincinnati Head Coach. Has done a nice job keeping the program heading in the right direction. Also a former Saban assistant at MSU with plenty of Big Ten and midwest experience. Sexy factor = 4. Likelihood = 5.

9. Pat Shurmur - QB Coach, Philadelphia Eagles. His name came up when JLS was hired. MSU ties. Wants to lead this program. No coordinator or head coaching experience. More likely to come on board as a coordinator if a guy like Willingham or Charlie Baggett is hired and then be next in line. Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 7.

10. Charlie Baggett - Assistant Head Coach, Miami Dolphins. MSU experience. NFL experience. Long, long time assistant. Not going to be a coach that hangs around forever. Enough negatives that he's not been hired in the past and the big negative - too close with Ferguson for my liking. If he was the guy, I promise you that Shurmur would be his already hand-picked successor. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 6.

11. Jim Harbaugh - San Diego Head Coach. Sac-religious you say? Be honest, if he's not next in line at Michigan, why not MSU? NFL experience. Doing great things at the 1-AA level. A name with an understanding of the Big Ten and what it would take to beat Michigan. Sexy factor = 6. Likelihood = 4.

12. Charlie Strong - Defensive Coordinator, Florida. In the mold of Pelini. Young, energetic, a head coach lying in wait. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 4.

13. Gene Chizik - Defensive Coordinator, Texas. Bound to get a shot at some point. Could tap a market MSU hasn't - Texas. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 4.

14. Jon Tenuta - Defensive Coordinator, Georgia Tech. After a while, all of the D.C.'s blend together. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 3.

15. Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots. Young (30), coached under Saban in 1999. What are his long term aspirations? Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 1.

16. Steve Mariucci - former Head Coach for the Lions, 49ers and Cal Bears. Obvious reasons make him a great and a horrible candidate all at once. Sexy factor = 10. Likelihood = 1.

17. Nick Saban - Head Coach, Miami Dolphins. MSU should have never let him go. Struggling in the NFL but we all know that's where he wants to be. Sexy factor = 9. Likelihood = 1.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Week Ten - Get Gamm Previews ...
Indiana at Minnesota
Northwestern at Iowa
Ohio State at Illinois
Ball State at Michigan
Purdue at Michigan State
Penn State at Wisconsin (TIEBREAKER)

Indiana at Minnesota
I’m going to be honest with you. Back in July and August when I was making my predictions for this season, I didn’t have this circled as a game worth a glance let alone an extended look. After all, I had the Hoosiers going 4-5 and in the midst of a four game losing streak heading into this one. And Minnesota? I had the Gophers pegged at an even more brutal 3-6 (0-4).

Well, the Golden Gophers are making me look like a genius so far, but Indiana has me all twisted around. The Hoosiers lost to 1AA Southern Illinois and a so-so at best Connecticut team, but pulled off a comeback against Illinois, stunned Iowa, and pounded Michigan State and sit at 5-4 (3-2) and very much alive and kicking as far as a bowl berth is concerned. Well, this is the easiest remaining chance (Michigan and Purdue remain) to get to the magical six win mark and bring Indiana to a bowl for the first time since 1993.

To say that the Gophers are struggling would be an understatement. To say the Indiana is on cloud nine much of the same. The Lewis to Hardy combination is really clicking right now and I just don’t see Indiana getting derailed in its quest to go bowling. Minnesota puts up a fight, but Indiana celebrates what might be a ¼ full at best Metrodome. Indiana 31 – Minnesota 23.

andrewj1313 says … If only Minnesota was a decent team, this game would actually be worth watching. Indiana is a young team with a lot to build on, getting to a bowl would be the biggest building block they could hope for. Indiana is playing for a purpose and Minnesota is playing for pride, when these two meet, I’ll go with the former. Indiana has a good chance of becoming bowl eligible and I think they get there this week. Indiana 28 @ Minnesota 24

Northwestern at Iowa
This is a key game for the Hawkeyes. Drew Tate may or may not play (I say may not because why not let him rest and mend with the Mildcats coming to town) but it won’t matter. Northern Illinois provided a bigger test. True, Northwestern bounced back admirably after the biggest collapse in D1 history (MSU loss) by keeping it respectable in Ann Arbor, but folks, aside from Tyrell Sutton, this just isn’t a very good team.

Iowa is 6-3 and should wind up no worse than 8-4. The question is, will that be good enough to get the Hawkeyes bowling in Tampa (Outback) or will they be spending the holidays at the Alamo? Regardless, it will be better than being at home with perhaps one (at best) conference win and two overall. Northwestern will fight, because I wouldn’t expect anything less from Coach Fitzgerald. But Iowa should win, Tate or no Tate, and win easily. Iowa 33 – Northwestern 10.

andrewj1313 says … Northwestern is clearly not a good team, they escaped AA without getting totally embarrassed, which counts as a moral victory (I hate those). Iowa should have Tate back this week and that always makes this team better. Even though they are not the juggernaut they have been the past few years, Iowa is still good. Iowa rolls and gains a little ground on, gasp, Indiana and the loser of the Penn State/Wisconsin game. Northwestern 7 @ Iowa 28

Ohio State at Illinois
Another tune-up for the scarlet and gray … or is it? Ask Wisconsin what looking past the Illini can mean. Better yet, ask Michigan State or John L. Smith! Illinois isn’t all that good – yet – but is getting better all the time and sooner than later will pull an Indiana over Iowa type upset. Does that mean it will happen this week? Highly doubtful. In fact, I’d bet a million dollars against that happening. But it might be a better game than some expect.

The key is for Ohio State to keep its focus and to score early and often and put the game away by the half. Do that and OSU moves to 10-0 with one more scrimmage until the big game. Illinois can make this interesting by being opportunistic and playing to have fun. Strange things happen when teams don’t play tight and the Illini need a bevy of strange things to happen to win this game. Troy Smith adds to his Heisman credentials. Ohio State 38 – Illinois 7.

andrewj1313 says … Ohio State has had the benefit of seeing two perennial basement dwellers play great the week before their match-ups with OSU. This goes a long way in keeping OSU focused on the task at hand. First Indiana upset Iowa, which lead to no surprises in Columbus. Then Illinois looses late against a good Wisconsin team. Don’t look for Illinois to repeat their performance this week; OSU is just too good and well coached. All I want to see is if OSU can actually get that 45th point this week. Ohio State 45 @ Illinois 6

Ball State at Michigan
Really now, does more need to be said than “see OSU preview”? Michigan hasn’t exactly been putting teams away of late, what with Mario Manningham on the shelf, but Ball State is nothing more than a flashing yellow light on the road to an epic game in Columbus. The Big Ten is 14-1 against the MAC this season, 2-0 against Ball State. Rather than waste anymore breath… Michigan 34 – Ball State 0.

andrewj1313 says … I see Michigan has a bye week (sorry, BTSF). If Super Mario is indeed back this weekend, this could get ugly quick. Michigan slept a little last weekend, but I wouldn’t expect to see that happen again, Michigan will run away with this game and start putting in back-ups early in the second half. Ball State scores against second and third string. Ball State 3 @ Michigan 42

Purdue at Michigan State
Remember when these teams were capable of racking up 500-plus yards and 40-plus points per game … apiece?! Seems like eons ago. Instead you have Purdue limping in with three points scored in the past two games. Michigan State pulled off a miracle for the ages and then got hammered by Indiana and oh by the way, told its coach he has run out of time to turn it around. That begs the question, are Purdue fans going to start beating the same drum?

This is an interesting game for a million reasons. Neither team plays much defense, both teams have offenses that are potent but have gone AWOL, each is still fighting to get a bowl berth (Purdue has four games to get two wins, MSU has three games to get two), and there is the little thing going on in East Lansing called a search for a new coach. On paper, the teams are very evenly matched. It all comes down to how Michigan State reacts to the firing of John L. Smith. Do the players rally and send him out a winner? Do they flush the toilet on the season? Or to the latter point, did they actually do that last week in Bloomington? No matter what, the coaches and players can relax knowing the fate of the Smith. The fans can show up and support the team rather than boycott to send a message. I want to pick State to lose big and win big at the same time. Time to flip a coin… heads, MSU wins, tails they lose… tails. Purdue 38 – Michigan State 37.

andrewj1313 says … At the start of the season, this game looked like it would be a great one, now – not so much. Purdue has looked okay at times and down right bad at others. Michigan State has…well…we’ll leave that one alone. Perhaps the firing/resignation will spark something in Sparty, but I’m not looking for it. One thing I am looking forward to is seeing if JLS lets everything loose. When teams and coaches have nothing to lose, games become very interesting and entertaining. Something to keep in mind, the Boilers were shutout for the first time in Tillers tenure last weekend and I think that will be the motivation that drives this weeks winner. Purdue 24 @ Michigan State 21

Penn State at Wisconsin
Easily the Game of the Week in the Big Ten. This one decides who goes to Orlando for New Years Day and who goes to Tampa. Penn State has found new life with Paul Posluszny back in the lineup and is getting it done with fantastic work from its defensive front seven. Wisconsin has managed to quietly march out to an 8-1 record despite coming into the season with no proven playmakers on offense outside of quarterback John Stocco. These are two teams that are doing it the old fashioned way this season – on the ground and with fierce defense.

P.J. Hill got banged up against Illinois and if he goes out early in this game there will be big trouble for the Badgers. Penn State doesn’t exactly strike fear in opposing defensive units when it has the ball, but there are enough playmakers there to get it done. In recent weeks both have struggled at home against Illinois and dominated Purdue on the road. Penn State has played a tougher slate but Wisconsin has the Camp Randall crazies on its side. This should be a fantastic game. Wisconsin 20 – Penn State 14 in OT.

andrewj1313 says … This is one of the best match-ups in college football this week outside of Louisville/WVU (again, sorry BTSF, Ball St. /Michigan is not). Penn St. is not the team they were last year, but they are still a good Big Ten opponent with a great defense. Wisconsin had a scare last week, but pulled out the win. Will this week be the same? I can’t wait to see how Hill matches-up against PSU’s defense. A bruising back against a hard nosed D; ah, college football is the greatest. Wisconsin pulls out the win with some last minute heroics at home. A side note: if Penn St. does indeed lose and Indiana wins at Minnesota, Indiana will move into fourth place in the Big Ten! Penn State 17 @ Wisconsin 20

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John L. Smith calling it quits...
Word out of East Lansing is that John L. Smith, the embattled MSU coach, will resign after the season after being told that he would not be back at the helm for 2007.

Let the search begin. MSU needs sizzle. MSU needs a proven winner in a big program. MSU needs someone to keep up the good work Coach Smith did off the field and in the classroom with his team but also needs a motivator and a hands on coach.

MSU needs a guy like Nick Saban.

Again, I offer my personal candidates:

Butch Davis, Greg Schiano, Ron English