In hindsight, I'm not sure we gave the Michigan State Spartans nearly enough credit for last year. Yes, we talked up their good record and that bowl win over Baylor was about as exciting a finish as one could have hoped for, but as I looked back at the year for research for these questions, I realized that the Spartans were really impressive. They only lost to playoff teams Oregon and Ohio State, and even so, they played them about as close as you could expect. Going into 2015, I guess the hope is that they can finally cash in on all of that momentum, right? Sure, we'll go with that...
Anyhow, I'm really excited that we're now 13 teams in and that this marks our second-to-last potluck. While I've enjoyed our time this summer, the end of B1G 2015 means we have managed to make it through the crazy offseason time and real football will be back. That in mind, let's try to finish strong. This week, I decided that our menu should honor the Spartans and their ever creative cheering section. We're calling this the, "Go Green, Go White" Potluck where every recipe features either Green and/or White. Seems fitting that we give MSU fans an opportunity to post that in context, right? So today we dive into the underrated aspects of Michigan State football, the offensive juggernaut that seems to be happening, defensive changes, and we even talk apples. It's another pretty great potluck if I do say so myself. As always, all recipes are featured in the title. Click on the links to jump to where they come from. Cool? Cool. Let's do this.
Appetizer: Fried Green Tomatoes via Food Network
There is an argument to be had that Michigan State is underrated going into 2015. For a team that has 24 wins in its last two seasons, returns arguably the best traditional QB in the Big Ten, has a feisty defense with all-conference talent up and down the ranks, and a coach who has proven he can win, there does not seem to be the appropriate buzz surrounding this team. On one hand, it could be that the last time we saw them, they were laying down for dead for three quarters against Baylor only to remember they wanted to win. Conversely, they won that game and lost only to playoff teams. What do you think the reason for all of the lack of hype surrounding Michigan State? On paper, this looks like a National Champion contending team, no? Am I crazy?
Candystripes for Breakfast: Well, the Buckeyes still exist, so that's part of the hype problem. Also, Baylor definitely had a lineman score a receiving touchdown on Sparty, which is generally not a thing good teams allow to happen. I won't say you're crazy for thinking they could contend, but I just don't see it happening right now.
Andrew Kraszewski: That's not an absurd thought, which means an MSU team which I'm generally seeing ranked #6 is considered a bit underrated. Man oh man times have changed and I can't get enough. Anyway. The lack of hype has 3 pretty straightforward caused: OSU is a leviathan parked squarely on the path to all of MSU's goals; this is never a program that gets a ton of press; and yes, the sociopath-coach who's taken up residence down the road has flailed around enough to attract a lot of attention. I do think MSU has the talent to win a title, but with OSU in the way, it's hard to predict that.
Lincoln Park Wildcat: Lack of hype surrounding MSU? It’s because of Harbaugh and OSU. I think this team will challenge OSU for the east division title and beat Michigan with ease.
Thomas Speth: Because OSU is obviously the best team in the division. I'm sure the lack of respect will cause MSU to go on a rampage and maybe even cause MSU fans to start referring to the Urbz as Vincent Van Go Fuck Yourself.
Aaron Yorke: You're not crazy, Jesse (at least regarding Michigan State)! The Spartans fell under the radar last year thanks to their September road loss to Oregon, and they lost their once chance to rejoin the title hunt when they lost to Ohio State at home. The hype machine doesn't care that both Oregon and Ohio State played for the national championship. The problem this year is that MSU probably has to beat the Buckeyes on the road to win the East. The better news is that Sparty gets the Ducks at home in September while Mark Helfrich is breaking in a new quarterback.
insertname: /starts rant
I really like how MSU has built its program in a slow-and-steady fashion. I am optimistic that Jerry Kill can blend the MSU and Wisconsin methods of winning to turn the Gophers into a top program. My company hires a disproportionate amount of MSU grads but you would think they matriculated from Ann Arbor with all of the Wolverine and Harbaugh talk. The incessant bitching about lack of respect mixed with constant gloating about every positive aspect of the program has lead me to loathe the Spartans and hope they lose every. single. game. Their hockey team is really fucking bad and if it wasn't for Hildebrand doing his best brick wall impression, they would challenge Wisconsin for the league doormat. Who the fuck hires the former president of a failed conference to be their head coach?
That in mind, if I didn't have to hear my coworkers relive EVERY SINGLE CALL that goes against the Spartans I would feel bad that they might be underrated.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: A national title contender? Sure. It's not going to be easy for anyone to beat tOSU, but I think they've got the best chance of anyone in the East. If they can do that, they go to the playoff, where nobody has touched the B1G yet.
Raise your hand if you saw Michigan State as an offensive powerhouse three years ago. Now everyone put your hands down because you're all lying. Me and Andrew wrote articles not even two years ago laughing at Michigan State's ineptitude on offense, and yet here we are staring at a Connor Cook led group that looks to build on a strong 2014. MSU averaged 6.55 yards per play last year which was good for 17th overall and was just behind powerhouse offenses like Baylor (6.64) and TCU (6.68). This was due mostly to Cook and his abilities as a passer. MSU trailed only OSU in YPP and passer rating, and the ground game wasn't too shabby at all either. It helped to have a stellar OLine who will be anchored this year by returning starters Jack Conklin and Jack Allen. There are holes with WR Tony Lippett and RB Jeremy Langford gone, but this is a unit poised for greatness. Will they be as good as last year? Is this some weird dream we are going to wake up from? Is this the best non-OSU offense in the Big Ten?
C4B: I just took a look at the MSU depth chart, and I recognized none of the names on offense besides the ones listed in this question, so I'm going to say they aren't quite as good as you think, but might end up near the top because Dantonio reasons.
AK: An excellent returning senior QB and a potentially elite line in front of him make for a pretty promising start. I'm fairly optimistic the offense can be close to last year since it's easier for skill players to jump from anonymity to stardom than it is for linemen or QBs, though a new #1 WR is a big need. But for me to predict that they'll be as good as last year would require them to match the school's best-ever offense, which feels- no, you know what, I feel good about this. They'll not only be as good as last year, I'll say Cook's command of the offense makes it a shade better.
LPW: Yeah, they’re the best non-osu offense. Who woulda thought it with BOLLERUS coaching?
TS: No Wisconsin's offense is better. I'm not saying we invented using the run game to run up the score, but we were the first to realize its potential as a tactical offense.
AY: When you have so much talent at tackle, center, and quarterback like Michigan State does, it's easier to get production out of skill positions. I have faith that the young crop of tailbacks led by Madre London will find enough holes to make up for Langford's absence. The passing game is a little more of a concern with both Lippett and Keith Mumphery gone. However, if Macgarrett Kings Jr. can step up, there's no reason why this MSU offense can't be as good or better as last year's balanced unit.
insertname: I liked MSU fans a whole lot more before they turned into what they loathe. Their offense was fucking putrid on the ice last year. Holy fuck, you can't win if you don't score.
WSR: Can we just point out that they're the best offense in the state of Michigan and then stop talking about their offense?
Side Dish: White Pizzas with Arugula via Food Network
Defensively, Michigan State loses longtime Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi. That's sort of a big deal as he's been the architect behind the beast machine that has been the power behind this MSU run as of late. There is obviously talent left at all phases of the defense for the Spartans, but between scheme changes and overall ability to rely on Narduzzi's defensive design, will there be a dropoff for Michigan State? How important was Narduzzi to the Spartan's defense, or rather, how important was he to Coach Dantonio?
AK: Well, he was Dantonio's DC and right-hand man for about a decade, so at the very least he had intimate familiarity with the whole scheme and how to implement it. We're about to find out how important he was to making the whole thing go, though it's worth noting the rest of the staff is still around and still knows the scheme. Narduzzi leaving isn't going to cause MSU to switch to a 3-3-5 or Cover 2. You'll still see man press quarters, aggressive zone blitzing, and some more exotic stuff on 3rd down.
LPW: I think Dantonio was the master and Narduzzi his latest apprentice. I think Dantonio’s defense will be fine.
TS: MSU defense? I can't hear you over the sound of the collective giant throbbing erection of the MSU fan base.
AY: It's always hard to tell how much a coordinator or coach means to his team until you see them play without him. In this case, it's going to be even harder because of how many starters the Spartans are returning, including five members of the front seven. They're going to stop the run again, and Shilique Calhoun is going to take advantage of 3rd-and-long again. That's going to make it tough for 10 of the teams on MSU's schedule to stage an upset. The real tests for the defense will come in two games: Oregon and Ohio State: Hold these teams under 30 points and we've got ourselves a title contender.
insertname: Hopefully really important so I can enjoy the sweet taste of schadenfreude every Monday at work.
Most everyone is marking down the Ohio State-Michigan State as the game of the year in the Big Ten. The winner of that does not only have the inside track to the Big Ten East - and arguably the Big Ten in general - championship, but it also has implications nationally as far as playoff berth goes. The Spartans were able to beat Ohio State in 2013 in the CCG, but Urban and company seemed to have none of it last year. The Urban Meyer-Mark Dantonio rubber match happens this year. What will it take for the Spartans to walk out of the Shoe with a win? Is it a foregone conclusion that Sparty loses that game? Is it possible we're simultaneously overrating the Buckeyes and underrating the Spartans? Are those two things mutually exclusive?
C4B: Sparty probably needs Little Giants part 2 to happen if leaving the Shoe with a win is in any way a possibility. Even if the teams are being improperly rated right now, winning at the Shoe is not easy for anyone, especially when Ohio State is good.
AK: As good as OSU is, MSU still has a decent chance, assuming good health. Like with the Oregon and Baylor games, MSU's problem was that its defense broke too often while trying not to bend. The tackling in space has to be better, the line has to fight OSU's OL to at least a stalemate, and coverage in the secondary can't give up shots down the field. Even with OSU's defense returning a lot of talent, I feel ok about MSU's ability to score; it's just a question of if they have to on every possession. That might be a bit much. And, to balance the home-field advantage, MSU has the edge of every Ohio player on its roster playing the most emotionally charged game of their collective career in the building most of them probably wanted to call home. It worked the last time MSU went to the 'Shoe. But no, OSU is and should be favored in that game. I'm just saying that both teams have 10 games to play before we see it, so by then we might feel a little differently.
LPW: MSU has to stop OSU’s offense. Good luck with that!
TS: Anyone who plays OSU is in the danger zone. Something, something, DANGER ZONE! I know. I'm not even trying anymore.
AY: It's really hard to overrate Ohio State with the way they dominated in the College Football Playoff last year. Plus, they have three terrific quarterbacks, a Heisman candidate tailback, and most of their offensive line returning. On defense, Joey Bosa is back as well as linebacker Joshua Perry and the entire starting secondary. Holy cow. Saying that OSU will run the table isn't overrated them. MSU might be a tad underrated, though, if you assume that the Bucks' path to the title will be easy. I don't think Ohio State is as far away from the pack as is presently perceived. The real drop-off happens after Michigan State. That's why I think the match in Columbus will be amazing. However, you're still crazy if you pick against the defending champs who defeated Sparty in East Lansing last year. If they played in the Shoe today, I'd favor the Buckeyes by six. I'm hoping for that number to shrink by November 21.
insertname: Sparty loses, OSU has too many weapons. I don't think MSU will be able to score every drive which they will likely need to do to win... Back to my rant, I don't really want them to lose every game, I hope the only games they win this year are their west division cross-overs. That said, they probably go 10-2 with loses to Oregon and OSU
I still contend that one of the greatest rants in OTE history is SpartanHT going off on Minnesota's apple industry in the name of his home state of New York and his home school Michigan State. In honor of him, the Spartans, and the fact that we've done 13 potlucks now, give me your favorite apple related recipe. Feel free to make it a drink because we're a month away from football everybody and that feels like its good for celebration time.
AK: Got to be the apple pie, yo. Boil down a couple gallons of apple juice, another gallon of apple cider, dissolve generous amounts of brown sugar with a few cinnamon sticks, mix in a fifth of Captain, a fifth of grain alcohol, and you're all set. Monitor carefully as the mixture will catch fire if you leave it on the burner after mixing.
LPW: Give me crispin cider and apple pie.
TS: I only drink drinks with apple in them because I'm worried the collective hangover will kill me.
AY: I don't really cook with apples ever, but my girlfriend does enjoy Red's Apple Ale. That's good, because if I ordered her her own beer, she wouldn't drink it. Then I would have to drink it because who wants to waste beer, and then I'd get twice as drunk as intended. That would lead to me yelling obscenities at Christian Hackenberg even though we're beating Temple by 28 and he only has three touchdown passes.
insertname: Best apple recipe is a pure, unadulterated honey crisp. That's why every single new apple is some type of honey crisp blend. Consumers shell out the big bucks because it is perfect.
WSR: I like honeycrisp apples. They're a pretty good desert on their own. But you know what's really great? The hate piece that the rant originally appeared in. That was magnificent, and the contributor that put it together should be lauded.