With yesterday's inebriatingly awesome win we set to the grimy, crappy part of college football. The off-season. In the off-season there will be scandal, there will be boredom, there will be a review of "Death to the BCS"(great book so far, btw).The MSU schedule of events is roughly thus, we'll take a look at the recruiting things in this post.
Recruiting and National Signing Day
To truly capture what work is to be done here this effort needs to split into two pieces. Efforts to retain/recruit current college and JUCO players and then efforts to continue recruiting High School kids.
Current College Players And Their Odds of Wearing Green and White Against BSU on 8/31
I think Worthy is gone. There seem to be two camps on him, one that thinks he's a devastating DT because he just manhandles the opposition and another that thinks he has a weird knack for timing the snap count and that's what makes him good. Whether or not his ability to blow up a play is based on a knack for the snap count doesn't really matter. He still does the work. Worthy is a sure top 10 pick barring injury if he stays another year, but we'll see.
Adams potential draft entry came out of nowhere. He's played well this year, but still has gotten an excessive number of penalties IMO. He's gotten them for talking mess to people, PI when he gets burned on a play and I believe penalties for hitting QBs out of bounds. The PI when getting burned on a play is ok in college, but in the pros it's a spot of the foul play instead of 15 yards. I really think he needs to stay another year and clean that up.
DeAnthony Arnett was granted an unconditional release from Tennessee about two hours ago. In his initial decision, MSU finished second to UT, but this was based at least in part because he said he didn't want to play in a spread. Well, UM at least pretends not to run a spread anymore. Arnett will transfer to either MSU or UM, hence the 50 percent, anyone telling you they know which of the two right now is straight lying.
Recruiting High School Kids
Most have calculated 18 spots available on scholly coming into the offseason, this includes the loss of Worthy but not Adams. MSU currently has commitments from fourteen students and if Arnett joins the class that leaves three remaining. I believe MSU looks to take one more in the secondary, one more WR (if no Arnett), one more DL type to replace Pittman and another OL/DL type if the opportunity presents itself.
The picture of who those kids are will change significantly between now and signing day. Be elated at Defcon 5 if those four kids are: Arnett, JP Holtz(DE/TE) prospect, Demetrious Cox(S) prospect and David Perkins(DE). Knock off one level of excitement for each of those kids MSU does not get.
The 2013 Class
So far MSU has zero commitments for the class of 2013, this is not atypical. Usually the first commitment comes between spring ball and summer camps so fear not. A couple of contenders for first commitment in the class of 2013 are Johnny Reschke(ILB), Riley Norman(OT) and Cameron Dillard(OG). All are Michigan prospects and all have shown good interest in MSU. Norman and Reschke already have MSU offers.
To me, the 2013 class will represent just how far MSU has come under Dantonio in Michigan, Midwestern and National Recruiting. With a revived Michigan program, an OSU head coach from the $EC, Notre Dame looking respectable again and a Wisconsin team that has played in the Rose Bowl two years running, the Big Ten is as strong as ever. For MSU to continue it's success in the past two years, it will have to win some of these recruiting battles against the traditional powers. MSU will have continue to capture the high three star kids, but I think getting a Gholston type in this class is a must. One of the things that set MSU's defense apart this year were the two defensive lineman(Worthy and Gholston) who could blow a play up single-handed. Kirk Cousins put the team on his back several times this year. That playmaker is a must.
Enjoy the offseason folks. It should be a great run-up to the 2012 season. Also, if you don't have season tickets and can afford them, you want to get them next year. MSU plays OSU, ND, Iowa, BSU, NW and Nebraska at home. It should be a great season for a team attempting to get it's third consecutive 11-win season.
Second Half Game Film of UGA-FLA will not be done before the game as a standalone entity. Writing a blog over the holidays is like, really hard work man. The first half is available for your viewing here. You can check out the Q&A with CollegeFootballZealots' Kevin here as well as our replies to his questions, over at College Football Zealots.
Happy New Year Everyone! May 2012 bring merriment, a lack of Mayan-prophesied world destruction and a first bowl victory of the Mark Dantonio era. Georgia is a formidable opponent but perhaps MSU's first foe who did not have a clear advantage over them since Mark Dantonio came to MSU. If you'll recall in the 2007 bowl, MSU played Matt Ryan, in 2008 it was Matt Stafford, in 2009 it was our missing WR corps from Rathergate and in 2010 it was playing an Alabama team where literally half that defense starts in the NFL now. This last run-on sentence looks excuse-y and to a degree it is, but it also helps explain Mark Dantonio's 0-4 bowl record.
Georgia is a very young and talented team. Unlike MSU they are young on both sides of the ball where MSU's defense is young, but their offense is extremely experienced. Like MSU, Georgia lost in their conference title game and let up 42 points to their opponent. Both teams have outstanding defenses ranked in the top 16 in total scoring defense. MSU and Georgia have less respectable, but still very good offenses ranking 37th and 34th respectively. On paper, this game looks to be about as evenly matched as a fan of good college football could hope for.
Georgia Passing Offense vs MSU Passing Defense
UGA's starting offensive line averages 329 lbs. They will have a huge task ahead of them working to give Aaron Murray time to throw. Murray appears to be inconsistent against top 10 passing defenses. He threw for 4TD's and a pick with a 176 passer rating against the nation's number two passing defense South Carolina. He threw for 2TD's and a pick with a 99 passer rating against Florida and a 1 TD and 2 picks with a 72 passer rating against LSU in the title game. I'm inclined to think the Cocks surrendered so much to Georgia because Future Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney was still getting situated to college and Stephen Garcia sucked turning the ball over twice for SC.
MSU's defensive line has shown the ability to adapt to an offensive scheme quickly, but not usually until they've surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive this year. They also have a knack for shutting down the run and forcing their opponent to throw. I expect you'll see this tomorrow, the defensive gameplan being to make Aaron Murray win the game under blitzing pressure. The patented Narduzzi double-gap blitz will be deployed early and often. I think MSU forces Murray into a few bad decisions.
Georgia Rushing Offense vs MSU Rushing Defense
Georgia has the 41st ranked rushing attack and MSU has the 12th ranked rushing defense. Georgia has a pair of running backs that MSU should keep a bead on. Isaiah Crowell, the freshman phenom and Carlton Thomas a 5'7" and 163 pound speedster. MSU hasn't really played anyone that small and fast yet this year, so it's a bit difficult to guess how well MSU can handle someone that quick and shifty. Crowell on the other hand, they played someone similarly built and fluid in Montee Ball I think.
The matchup of MSU's run D vs UGA's run game will determine how successful the Georgia offense is. MSU has held it's conference opponents to an average of 75 yards below their season rushing average. If that trend holds, that would mean 95 yards rushing for UGA on the game, that's probably not enough to turn the game for Georgia.
MSU Passing Offense vs Georgia Passing Defense
The game hinges here for how many points MSU's Offense will score. Cousins has been brilliant on the road and terrible on the road. Cousins brilliance will depend on his ability to get a couple seconds to throw, which means that both offensive tackles will need to have a great game. Keeping the linebackers out of the backfield is going to be a difficult task for France and Fonoti.
That said, the short middle of the field was and has been filthy open in the half of the UGA-FLA game I saw. Exactly the kind of stuff that Keshawn Martin and our Tight Ends feast on. Exactly the kind of 5 yard checkdown throw that Cousins will make on the 3rd and 8 that makes the twitterverse explode into a fit of armchair QB rage. I think Cousins makes his reads well enough to throw to the vacated blitzer protection, but if the UGA pass rush can get home, it'll be a long day.
MSU Rushing Offense vs Georgia Rushing Defense
Hey, who lost their conference title game and finished one spot ahead of MSU in the total rushing defense? UGA. Guess who has the 75th best rushing game even with the late season emergence of Le'Veon Bell? MSU.
FG - Blair Walsh 19/31 , Dan Conroy 15/21
P - Drew Butler 44.3 , Mike Sadler 39.8 per punt
They have the better punter, although I can't find "inside the 20" punts, which is something Sadler does really well. We have the better kicker. I think MSU has the upper hand in Special Teams, although not in a dominating way.
UGA is a very, very good and very young team. They were the beneficiaries of an extremely nice in-season schedule not playing the best three teams in the SEC and only playing LSU in the conference title game. They do remind me a bit of the 2010 Spartans with the favorable schedule and great outcome. They will not get crushed like the 2010 Spartans did although I can always dream.
In the UGA-FLA game I watched I saw several missed tackles that were directly responsible for extending drives and overall was left with the impression that MSU might be equally as talented as Georgia, but their ability to play consistent and fundamentally sound football will be the thing that pushes MSU over the top in this one. Add to that the fact that Conroy is automatic inside of 40 yards and only missed one inside of 50 this year minus two bad holds in the YSU and FAU games and I forsee MSU outplaying Georgia significantly in the Special Teams phase of the game. MSU wins this one comfortably.
Final Score: MSU 34, Georgia 21
I wanted to do a Behind Enemy Lines piece this past year with every team we played, but really only got to it once. It is our good fortune bowl-wise that MSU plays Georgia this year though because our friend Kevin over at CollegeFootballZealots loves all college football, but is a Dawg at heart. He agreed to do a few questions with us. You can check out our responses to his questions here and follow him on Twitter here.
Just like MSU, UGA lost the conference title game and got kicked all the way down to the fourth best bowl appearance in it's conference. Does the team appear to have a bit of title game loss hangover?
CFBZ: I don't think they do. Georgia played LSU better than anybody else in the country for one half. Georgia had some great opportunities in the first half that they didn't capitalize on and then in the second half they just got caught in an avalanche and were a bit shell-shocked as the #1 team in the country poured it on like they've done against everybody but Alabama.
Georgia has a very young team. They only have two seniors on the two deep depth chart on defense, they have a soph starting at QB, their leading receiver is a true freshman and their leading rusher is a true freshman. I don't have any inside knowledge but I think Georgia sees this as a chance to cap off a really good year and set themselves up for next year.
Of your 10 wins this year, which would you identify as being UGA's highest quality win taking into account both performance and quality of opponent.
CFBZ: Auburn. Auburn came into the game ranked 20th and had recently beaten #10 South Carolina (before Lattimore got hurt for the season) and Florida. Georgia just thoroughly dominated them from start to finish. Auburn came into the game averaging 191 yards rushing per game and 354 yards per game. Georgia held them to 51 yards rushing and 195 total yards (76 of these yards came on Auburn's first drive). Georgia dominated time of possession holding the ball for over 40 minutes. It was 35-7 at half-time and it was over at that point as Georgia eased off the gas en route to a 45-7 win. Murray threw 4 TDs to 4 different receivers, two RBs went over 100 yards, Jarvis Jones had two sacks, Bacarri Rambo took an INT back for a TD. It was the most complete game Georgia played this year and to dominate a rival like that was very satisfying.
There was some scuttle that Richt was interviewing for the A&M job. While it appears that this was false, do you think there is/was truth enough to even be a little concerned about his future with UGA?
CFBZ: No, I really don't. The A&M thing was all smoke. Richt and AD Greg McGarity seem to have a really good working relationship and getting back to double-digit wins did nothing but cement that. I have no concerns about Richt leaving. He's at Georgia as long as Georgia wants him and as long as he has that fire to coach college football.
Later Georgia self-reported a violation that Richt was paying his assistants under the table (only in the NCAA could paying your employees a bonus being a violation), have either of the two aforementioned things appeared to have any impact on the team leading up to the game?
CFBZ: Basically what happened is the athletic department decided not to pay bowl bonuses to non-coach staff due to economic conditions back in 2009. Richt asked for a list of who would not be getting their bonuses and paid them out of his own pocket.There were some other instances where Richt felt that his coaches compensation was inadequate compared to like positions and petitioned the athletic department for increased compensation but was denied so Richt paid them out of pocket. It should be noted that this all happened under the watch of the former AD Damon Evans (the one that got canned). If anything, I think this would have a positive impact on the coaching staff. I mean, who doesn't want to work for a boss that has your back?
Aaron Murray filed draft paperwork but claims to be not interested in leaving after this year. My question is do you believe him?
I do believe him because I simply don't think he'd be a high pick (probably somewhere in the middle rounds) and I think he's too smart to go pro simply to go pro. I think he's just trying to see where he's at so that he can make an informed decision next season (which will be his red-shirt junior year). Murray has had games this year where he's looked like he can play at the next level but he still struggles with consistency from quarter-to-quarter and from game-to-game and he doesn't have that prototypical QB height that makes him a sure fire first rounder. I'm not sure what his NFL future is but I think he still has a lot to prove in the eyes of pro scouts.
Looking at this game, where do you think Georgia matches up most favorably?
CFBZ: I like the match-up of Georgia's front seven on defense against the Michigan State OL.Georgia's DL has been getting better and better as the season has progressed. JUCO transfer (NG) John Jenkins has really started to make his mark in the second half of the season and Sophomore DE Garrison Smith is another guy that has really started to show up on film recently as he's gotten more playing time. The LB corps has been a work in progress for Georgia this year because of injuries. Alec Ogletree is the best player on Georgia's defense and he broke his foot in the Boise State game (was it a coincidence that the Broncos had 0 points when he was in the game?) and was out until mid-season. Couple that with other injuries, Georgia was playing walk-ons and true freshmen early in the season. Since Ogletree has come back, he and Jarvis Jones have been reeking havoc on opposing teams and back-ups have stepped up since they've had real game experience. If Georgia can make Michigan State one dimensional by stopping the run (which Georgia has done a really good job of this year), it could be a long day for the Spartans.
The other match-up I like for Georgia is Orson Charles against who-ever he is matched up against. Charles is one of the premier Tight Ends in college football. He's too big for a Safety to cover and too fast for a LB. Georgia's OC Mike Bobo sometimes forgets Orson is on the field, but since this might be his last game as a Bulldog I think Bobo will make an effort to get the ball to Orson and if he does it will open up the field for everybody else.
What concerns you most about playing Michigan State?
CFBZ: To be honest, I'm not as concerned about Michigan State as I am about certain areas of the Georgia team. That's not a knock on Michigan State as much as it is the confidence that I have in the talent that Georgia has put together but talent doesn't always win football games (just ask Florida).
The first area is Special Teams. We came into the year with arguably the best kicker/punter combo in the Nation in Blair Walsh and Drew Butler. Butler has been solid this year except for a couple of times where he out-kicked his coverage (can you say Honey Badger?). Walsh on the other hand has been awful. As a soph and junior, Walsh made 40 of 45 FGs. This year he's only 19 of 31 (including a miss in a 3 point loss to South Carolina). Georgia has also given up 4 returns for TD this season. Georgia has been working on Special Teams a lot going into the bowl so I expect coverage to be better but practice isn't going to help a FG kicker who is in a funk. The other area of concern is our offensive backfield but I will get to that next...
Who needs to step up and have big games if Georgia wants to win this game?
CFBZ: The answer here is the entire RB corps. Georgia has done it with smoke and mirrors at the RB position a lot this season. They've had multiple suspension (Crowell, Thomas, Malcome) and injuries (Crowell, Samuel) galore. It looks like everything is now taking shape for everybody to be healthy going into the bowl game. True Freshman Isaiah Crowell is the one who gets all the hype but he's been somewhat of a disappointment to Georgia fans because of his constant nagging injuries and repeatedly asking out of games. When Crowell is healthy, he is a game changer. I'm of the mind-set that he's a 15-20 touch a game back (he's not a workhorse type back like Marcus Lattimore) and if he gets that in this game then he could be trouble for Sparty.
Just when Richard Samuel (who switched from RB to LB and then back to RB this year due to lack of depth at RB) hit his stride against Florida, he was lost for the season with an injury. He should be back for this game and if he can run with the bad intentions that he did against the Gators then he will help to open up the play-action game for Aaron Murray. Another guy to keep an eye on is RS Frosh Ken "Boo" Malcome (he was highly recruited out of HS and had offers on the table from Bama, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia, etc). Malcome has struggled to get on the field this year (30 carries for 123 yards) but is currently taking snaps at #1 RB. Maybe a message is being sent to Crowell from the coaching staff but Malcome has been good in the minimal action he's seen in the last three games (Kentucky, GT and LSU) and I expect him to get a chance to run the football some in this game. He's a hard runner and more of an inside the tackles guy than Crowell is. They actually complement each other fairly well.
Between these three guys (and change of pace back Carlton Thomas) if Georgia can establish a running game then Aaron Murray can do what he does best and that's spread the ball around (12 different receivers caught TD passes from Murray this year, 7 of which caught at least 2 TDs) and keep Michigan State's defense off balance.
Finish this thought..... Georgia wins this game if....
CFBZ: If Special Teams takes care of business, Georgia is able to establish a running game and the offensive line (I'm looking at you Justin Anderson) does an adequate job of protecting Aaron Murray.
Today we sit down to Know Thy Enemy. I've completely beat to death the past few weeks that the MSU-UGA game should be two teams playing each other in a mirror statistically. That hasn't changed. I was able to get some screencaps on the UGA - FLA game from earlier this year. For those of you who read my Film Review of MSU-Wisky earlier this year. I'm messing with the format a bit. Defensive narrative notes, then picture examples, repeat for offense. I think it flows a bit better.
Florida is a poor man's Michigan State this year. They had the 25th scoring defense, and the 71st scoring offense. Michigan State had the 9th ranked scoring defense and the 38th ranked scoring offense. So while the gap in total production was significant, the trend of a team with a markedly better defense than offense seems reliable. So too is the Weis-ening. Which involves putting the burden of NFL playbook on the QB's shoulders and then yelling at him when things don't work out. Weis ran a pro-style offense at ND and obviously his time in the pros.
Florida runs a 4-3 and is a decent defensive analog for MSU. MSU finished 12th in rushing defense compared to 39th for Florida. In passing defense, Florida finished 10th and MSU finished 12th. So again the pattern of a team that has a strong D that performs very strongly against the pass and well against the run holds true. Both defenses rely on their D-Line to drive their pass defense.
Game Notes(UGA)(per @CFBZ)
Narrative Defensive Observational Notes
Oh Dan France, You Are Going to Have Your Hands Full
Dan France. Jarvis Jones. Jarvis Jones. Dan France. This is what Jarvis Jones did to Florida's poor left tackle just a couple months ago.
Jarvis Jones has a red arrow around him at all times. Not a bad idea for the offense if they can swing it between now and Monday.
The ball snaps and Jarvis just straight rushes the QB. The LT drops back into pass protection.
The LT engages Jones and it looks like the FLA RB joins in the fun, but he actually sneaks behind this world collision to try and get open in the flat.
LT engages in some pretty serious hands to the face, but whatever man.
A whopping 3 tenths of a second later, Jones gets his feet wide and gets underneath the LT which throws him off-balance.
Jones shoves LT to his right, your left and does a quick little redirect and then sacks Brantley.
This was a display of athleticism that I think only young Mr. Gholston can really represent for MSU. Jones straight up manhandled this dude. France and Roushar are going to need to figure out an answer for Jones that doesn't involve bringing the RB over to stop the pass rush. We will need to count on our RB and TE's to be open for safety throws.
The Middle of The Field is Open Like 7-11
The Gators go five wide. You see this look on 3rd and 2 all the time MSU fans.
The 3 down lineman and one of the edge rushers go, I believe it's Jarvis Jones stays back in pass coverage. Weirdly the dudes to the left with the red arrows pretty much stand still.
Jones has to pick between one of the two Florida dudes and decides to go with the one to the right, for obvious reasons.
Player cuts to the inside which is filthy wide open, there is literally no one for five yards.
The UGA coverage comes up and SHOULD make a tackle here, but through a combination of using the Umpire for a pick and a kind of eh tackle by the Georgia guy allows the WR to get out long downfield and turn this into a 20 yard pickup.
Narrative Offensive Observational Notes
Isaiah Crowell: He's Got Talent
Run out of the I-formation
Crowell runs into the pile, which looks stupid until you see the Grand Canyon open out on the other end of the pile.
He comes shooting out, and number 22 for Florida sees that Crowell will read his block and head for the sideline
Here's where this showcases the talent part of Crowell's talent, the DB #14 to the far left disengages his WR target and also heads for the sideline.
Crowell ends up beating both 14 and 22 to the sideline and ends up getting forced out by his own momentum. He had 14 and 22 beat.
Michael Bennett: Nice Catch
None too shabby.
I'll work on the second half over the next few days to have ready before the weekend. I was not real impressed with Murray, was very impressed with Crowell and their defense is quick. They're missing two starters I might add. Cousins will need to get the ball off quickly.
Work has been soul-crushingly busy leading up to the Holidays and is over for the year tomorrow. My wife suggested that I do something that I enjoy in the middle of the day today to avoid leaving a trail of end users in my jail-bound wake.
The Defense of Isaiah Lewis
It looks like Dantonio spent a deal of time in today's presser defending Isaiah Lewis' play in the Big Ten Title Game. Despite my twitter barf in the minutes immediately following the game, there's really no defense needed. He had two bad plays in the most critical moments of the game. The one below, eh, he might have been blocked into the punter, but it wasn't obvious. If it should have been called back it's because of the punter's obvious flop, there's no way the refs could have caught the below.
If you'll recall, Lewis was responsible for the interception returned for a touchdown to make the UM game 28-14. Further, he caught Wilson's moonball in the fourth quarter of the MSU-Wisconsin game. These are two I can think of off the top of my head. There are certainly others. No defense needed Lewis nets out as a plus player for MSU by a lot.
As with every bowl practice season, there are rumors of position changes. It sounds like Tony Lippett has been practicing at WR this off-season and that will be his position next year. I really hope this is because he is filthy talented at WR and that CB is coming along nicely. The idea of moving our third best corner to WR makes me a bit itchy.
There are rumors that Darien Harris has been playing at RB, this was the position he played in HS. I'm not really sure what to make of that. MSU didn't take a running back in 2011, but like, the Bell, Baker, Caper, Hill logjam will still be right in front of Harris in 2012. By 2013, it'll still be Bell and Hill and Tompkins and others should be making some headway by then. Hopefully, this is some college experimentation in a consequence free environment.
Micajah Reynolds is back at DT with the injuries to Pickelman and Strayhorn. Huge dap to him for being able to play whatever position needs help. I do hope they settle him somewhere soon, he'll be a junior next year, the clock is starting to tick.
The Changing Recruiting Landscape
Seriously, go home and make sure your loved ones haven't bolted for OSU.
Well, Urban Meyer makes phone calls and brings kids to OSU. The Pittman thing, was, crappy. The following will sound a bit like denialism, homerism, etc. That's fine. This is a Michigan State blog, so I write it that way.
Here's the first couple sentences of Pittman's recruiting article from SpartanMag.
"Michigan State landed what can be deemed a surprise verbal commitment from Canton (Ohio) McKinley four-star defensive end Se'Von Pittman on Sunday afternoon. "
When did it hit you that Michigan State was the right choice for you?
Pittman: If you would've asked me this question yesterday, I wouldn't have had no type of answer for you. But just sitting there with my parents (on Sunday) and we just talked about my top five and colleges that best fit me, and my mom kept telling me that she felt Michigan State was and she gave me some reasons and stuff like that, and I agreed. So we made the decision I should commit a couple hours before I committed.
The following is a timeline for the majority of MSU summer commits.
I'm not going to graph this, no one wants to see a single bar of me being right on this. It's pretty solid if you follow MSU football recruiting at all. There were several things about this commit that seemed a bit fishy. One, the whole we just talked about it on Father's Day and now I'm committed to MSU thing seems and seemed weird to me. Two, the whole snagging an Ohio kid with a real Ohio State offer thing seemed fishy. OSU would have needed to be down for a couple years for me to feel like we weren't stealing one. Finally, he and Adolphus Washington for months talked about playing together despite Washington showing no real interest in MSU. The writing was on the wall a bit before Meyer became the Mayor of C-bus. Afterwards, Meyer is the Unicron of good midwestern recruits.
Which brings me to my next point. Meyer should absolutely fight to get every Ohio kid he wants that is not going to school at OSU next year. Recruiting committed players to or from schools with coaching changes has always made sense to me. When a new coach enters the equation, they haven't had their shot yet. Still, anyone who coached in the SEC isn't above commit poaching and I think he better be careful he's not TOO successful at it in the 2013 class. If a half dozen schools put elbow grease into negative recruiting it will add up at some point.
Our Struggling Pretty Average Offensive Line
I have to say, the most improved position group from Youngstown State to Wisconsin Part Deux: The Cheese Filled Nightmare was the Offensive Line. The pass protection of our offensive line at year end was a plus and the run blocking improved quite a bit and was probably average. MSU's depth at Offensive Tackle is still frighteningly thin. Interior line has better depth, but loses Foreman next year. MSU returns four starters next year though and this group should pick up right where it left off.
Enjoy the hot MACtion of the bowl games, film breakdown coming soon.