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B1G 2021, Michigan State Potluck #2: Cherries and Pits

Grab a bowl of northern Michigan's finest fruit and...yeah, let's talk Sparty offense.

Women harvesting sweet cherries. Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

TUESDAY: The Pits of Despair

Food: Celebrate the State

Look, there are some potlucks where you are out of ideas, so you just play the hits — and only two weeks into B1G 2021, it’s time to go back to the old familiars. For Michigan, of course, we’re talking tart cherries.

It’s no surprise to most at OTE that Michigan produces a lot of ‘em, growing 70% of the U.S. supply to the tune of 201 million pounds and $280.1 million dollars in 2018. There’s a lot of /nopolitics happening in the cherry game right now, of course, that surely involves no face-eating leopards, but rest assured that we believe, as the 1985 Iowa Hawkeyes and an American Farm Bureau desperate for good publicity did, that America Needs Farmers.

So, much as Michigan State likes to Celebrate the State, we want to celebrate the tart cherry and northern Michigan. What better way to do that with a potluck from the Traverse City-hosted National Cherry Festival Cookbook? Actually, sorry...first we’ve got to laugh at this:

Please do not, under any circumstances, mix cherries with your wild leaks.

Instead, writers, sing the praises of the Michigan tart cherry and offer your favorite cherry-based food or drink (recipes encouraged).

RU in VA: I hate almost everything that has to do with Michigan. The Kentucky of the north.

But, Bells is okay in my book. Their Cherry Stout is good. 7/10. I won’t complain about drinking 6 at a wedding between two second cousins in Eaton Rapids.

My favorite cherry beer is a local-from-the-tap Delirium Red. Having spent some time in Belgium, it’s worth the 6 hour plane ride there to sample in one of those 8 ounce tulip glasses.

WSR: I don’t give a damn about the whole state of Michigan either, but I do love cherries. I’ll even use this as an opportunity to say one (1) nice thing about wisconsin: the New Glarus Belgian Red is an outstanding beer. There, that takes care of all non-contempt I have to show that state for the 2020s.

Kind of…: Well, isn’t this just annoyingly precious. Yesterday I praised Caribou Coffee and today WSR is throwing love New Glarus’ way. What the hell is happening in this world. But, come on, if WSR is going to praise Wisconsin beer, you know it HAS to be good. And it is.

And, of course, while in a Wisconsin frame of mind, feel free to throw a couple of tart cherries into the bottom of your old-fashioned instead of the maraschino monstrosities. Really, it will be fine.

Thumpasaurus: Oh hey you know what it’s okay to admit there’s some nice stuff in Michigan, it’s just virtually all outside of Lansing and Ann Arbor. For instance, Ferndale’s B Nektar Meadery produces Zombie Killer cherry cyser, which is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. The Traverse City Whiskey Company has a rather nice cherry-flavored whiskey that’s wonderful for sipping. Traverse City is just fantastic, and of course everyone wants to go either in the summer when the Cherry Festival happens or in the fall right when the leaves change color but it can be pretty fun to go during the winter when you can actually get into the wineries easily without reservations. Off-peak Traverse City is still some beautiful countryside.

HWAHSQB: My favorite way to eat cherries is just to eat them. Boring, but when they are in season, ⅗ workday mornings, I’ll grab a bowl of cherries and eat them while I’m driving to work. But I do find the process of harvesting cherries fascinating.

MNW: I’m with HWAHSQB. And I learned something today. I hate this website.

The Football: Tarts and Pits

That, of course, provides a seamless transition into the 2020 Michigan State Spartans football team, whose offense was...the pits.


Anywho. Rocky Lombardi—he of the 5.4 AY/A, 53.5% completion rate, and 8:9 TD:INT mark—is gone, off to Northern Illinois for one last spin of the wheel under Thomas Hammock. In his wake, it’s...just Payton Thorne, the redshirt sophomore QB, and a trio of running backs in Connor Heyward, Elijah Collins, and Jordon Simmons, who contributed to a rushing attack that ranked 122nd of 127 teams at 91.4 yards per game, which Mel Tucker described as “putrid”.

That running back room was bolstered with the addition of Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III and should no doubt benefit from a veteran in Heyward (and summer in-transfer Harold Joiner III from Auburn), while there’s some intrigue in the QB room with the addition of gunslinger-but-human-statue Anthony Russo of Temple. They’ll have a full complement of their 2020 receivers, with all four of Jayden Reed, Jalen Nailor, Ricky White, and Tre Mosley returning, plus Purdue transfer Maliq Carr and Louisville transfer Christian Fitzpatrick. Oh, and tight end AND FORMER WALK-ON PUNTER Tyler Hunt.

With all this and the Jay Johnson OC Experience as the glue holding it together, writers:

1. Give us your sense of the Michigan State offense’s ceiling with these playmakers—and the...pit-falls. Can they take a step forward?

2. Thinking here of the Northwestern offensive experience, tell us about a time when a bad offensive unit for your team returned most of its playmakers. Did they take a step forward or backward?

Thumpasaurus: Are you familiar with the concept of the Michigan Basement?

It’s basically just an unfinished basement with floor drainage, often with little overhead clearance. Not suitable for anything other than storage. My house has one, being a 1901 construction. You know what the best part of this basement is? Andrew can’t stand up in it. Most of this basement has between 70 and 78 inches of height, and while tall people can often find their way in between the pipes/wires/beams/other crap overhead, it’s a different story in the under-my-front-porch part of the basement. If I stand up anywhere in that particular solid block of concrete, my head hits the ceiling.

My point is, Michigan State is staying true to their regional heritage and imposing a Michigan Basement ceiling on their offense: painfully and oppressively low to the point where all you can hope for is that it meets storage needs or runs clock effectively.

Kind of…: Anybody who thinks they have a sense of MSU’s ceiling is making shit up. Who knows? Gotta think they will bear an unfortunate (for them) resemblance to Maryland. Hang 40 one week; shut down entirely the next. Though, 40 might be ambitious given that 29 was the high last year. Then again, what does last year matter given all the turnover? I don’t have a clue. But I wouldn’t mind a cherry turnover.

The last time UW didn’t make a bowl was 2001 (just sayin’). In 2002, Brooks Bollinger returned for his senior season at QB, and Anthony Davis was back at RB. UW went from scoring 26.1 ppg to 26.6 ppg, but made a bowl despite going 2-6 in the B1G. Verdict: Not better.

More recently, 2018 UW fell on their face, making a mockery of sky high expectations. In 2019, most everybody was back, except for Alex Hornibrook, who opted to transfer. A division title and Rose Bowl bid ensued. Weird, huh?

The 2020 Badgers were atrocious on offense, and bring most everybody back. They WILL be markedly better. Book it.

MNW: The 2020 Wildcats won the Big Ten West, and they were...uh...looks like 89th on offense. They also notably don’t return the QB that game-managed them to the Big Ten Championship Game, though, so...

...who am I kidding, that doesn’t matter in the West. Have a good defense, you can show up in Indianapolis.

As for Michigan State? I think #transfertime is the right game to play. Peyton Thorne’s rock-hard nipples might grace the cover of a bodice-buster novel, but I don’t know that he’s the answer. That said, I don’t know that Anthony Russo is the answer either. But start getting playmakers in, at least, rather than the staid old nonsense Dantonio brought. At least until the defense is back to its 13-10, Mark Hollis weather machine-winning ways.

HWAHSQB: Let’s see if I can remember a time with a lot of people returning...Well, all the way back in 2020, Illinois was returning more than just about any team in the nation. They had 86% of their offensive production returning from the lofty heights of 2019’s 6-7 campaign. Does anyone recall how that turned out?

Yeah, so for players returning to matter, you need two things. First, players with some level of talent. Second, you need good enough coaching to make that experience mean something. Otherwise, you’re just reheating the same crap for dinner you had last night and if it wasn’t very good last night, it’s probably going to be pretty crappy again for lunch today.