I think you may hear this guy's name a couple of times in 2012.
I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
I live in Alabama and on April 27, 2011, a rash of tornadoes touched down all across the state. A large majority of the damage occurred in Tuscaloosa, but many people all across the state were seriously affected. I have been involved with an organization that raised money, volunteers, and supplies to help the victims of that horrendous day so I have repeatedly heard the phrase "new normal." As in, it is impossible to get people back to exactly where they were before the devastation, but instead we have to help them find a "new normal."
I have thought about this phrase quite a bit in relation to the B1G. In the past two years alone, we have added one of the most successful programs in college football history (Nebraska) to our conference. We have seen the changing of the guard at another of the most storied programs (PSU) in the sports (if not sport's) history due to a scandal that I will not recap here. Finally, we've seen another of the most storied programs in conference (and yes, college football) history succumb to its own scandal, fire one the most successful coaches in their history (OSU) and yet, somehow make one of the most talked about coaching hires in the past decade.
Generally, the best programs, the national programs do not stay down long. They have inherent advantages due to their size, due to their history, due to their fanbases, that do not allow for long-term failure. So, is there a "new normal" for the B1G? Was Michigan State's success over the last two seasons an aberration due to the problems at some of the other historical conference powers (UM under, recovering from Rich Rod, OSU and the TAT6, Nebraska becoming acclimated to B1G play)? Alternatively, is MSU's ascendance to the top of the conference part of a "new normal"?
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, I am sure that many of you believe that success of the Spartans in 2011 and 2012 were due to the struggles of more historically formidable conference opponents. You can correctly point to losses on big stages that were not close (Iowa and Alabama in 2010, Notre Dame and Nebraska in 2011) over those two seasons. You will note that all four of those games were road games and if you include the proximity of the state of Alabama to Orlando, Florida, they were all effectively home games for our opponents. That is not to say that good teams should not be able to win on the road, they should, but just to note that these were not home losses to Louisiana Tech.
I looked back over what Mark Dantonio done since he arrived in East Lansing in 2007. He has won forty-four games and he has lost twenty-two games. It is those twenty-two games I would like to focus on since they tell the more important story of where MSU is as a program. Of the twenty-two teams that have beaten the Spartans since 2007 (I am counting each game as a team, since each season is relatively unique) only one of them has finished a season with a losing record and not a single one of them has finished the regular season with a losing record. The average season W/L record for these teams is 9 and 4, while half of them have won at least 10 games in the same season they beat the Spartans. Five of these teams played in a BCS game to end their season. Nineteen of the twenty-two played in a bowl game, although all were bowl eligible.
As I compiled this information, I noticed there were no big upset losses. No home losses to Indiana, no road losses to Rutgers or home losses to Illinois while they were in the middle of a 2-30 conference run. You might suggest that losing to Minnesota was in 2008 an upset, but in that one, two 4-4 teams coming off losses matched up and the home team won by eight, both squads finished 6-7 as well. The same season, MSU dropped a home tilt to CMU, but that CMU team finished 12-2 and needed the luckiest of lucky bounces to pull that one out over the Spartans.
During this time, MSU has also won in Iowa City, South Bend, Ann Arbor, Columbus, and State College. The Spartans good seasons have not been built on smoke and mirrors, but on crafty play and a sustainable foundation. In four of the five seasons Dantonio has been coach, the Spartans have been playing for at least a share of the B1G title in the last game of their regular season.
A. What We’ve Written About Michigan State This Offseason
- B1G 2012: Michigan State Cocktail Party Preview
- B1G 2012: Michigan State's Smartest Guys in the Room
- B1G 2012: OTE's Michigan State Potluck
- B1G 2012: Don't wake the Giant
- Presnap Read: Michigan State #7 - Not ours but a worthy addition to this list.
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
If we took a poll, how many people would vote for MSU to win 11 games in 2012?
I'm sure that number is pretty low.
Still, if you see below in my emotional plea, all it has to be is possible.
III. Emotional Plea
Some people seem to think that once again there is no way that MSU can repeat the successes of their previous season in the current year. The loss of our starting quarterback along with all the starters at wide receiver and tight end, preclude the Spartans from finishing at the top of the Legends division again.
I would like to point to another school in recent history that had to replace the greatest quarterback in their history and what happened to them. The 1998 Tennessee Volunteers. They replaced Peyton Manning with Tee Martin who, like Maxwell, was a junior who had spent two years in the program backing up Manning. All Tee Martin did was go out and win every game he started in 1998.
So sure, you can point a host of quarterbacks who came in and replaced legends and failed. However, you can also point to Tee Martin.
IV. The Verdict
A. I have MSU going 11-1 again this season. Losing to Wisconsin at Camp Randall and winning the B1G championship game. While I am clearly the most taken with this Spartan team, ten of the twelve OTE writers have MSU winning at least 10 games. Two others besides me have the Spartans coming in at 11-1 (second only to UW in the number of times that was picked) and six of us have picked MSU to win seven conference games (tied with UM for the most times this was picked for any B1G school). Clearly, I am not alone this year in my belief that MSU can have a special season.
B. Staff Picks
OTE Average 10-2 (6-2)
Jon:11-1 (7-1) loss: UM - BCS at large
Ted:10-2 (6-2) losses: UM, UW
Chad:11-1 (7-1) loss: UM - B1G champs over UW
MSUlaxer27: 11-1 (7-1) loss: UW - B1G champs over UW
Jesse: 10-2 (7-1) losses: ND, UM - loss in B1G championship to UW
Paterno Ave: 10-2 (7-1) losses: ND, UW - B1G champs over UW
Jeff: 10-2 (6-2) losses: UM, UW
Hilary: 8-4 (5-3) losses: BSU, UM, UW, UN-L
JDMill: 10-2 (6-2) losses: UW, UN-L
Graham: 10-2 (7-1) losses:
MIke: 10-2 (6-2) losses: UM, UW
Brian: 9-3 (6-2) losses: BSU, UM, UW
V. Bonus information
Please note that MSU is second to last in the B1G with 8 points. The only school "better" than us is Northwestern and we all know that those guys never get in trouble...it's beneath them.