Michigan State Preview 2006

Posted Aug 6, 2006

Who goes 1-3 in the last four games against Northwestern? Who loses to teams like 2004 Rutgers, 2003 Louisiana Tech, and 2004 Hawaii?

flak·y also flak·ey  (flk)
adj. flak·i·er, flak·i·est

  1. Made of or resembling flakes.
  2. Forming or tending to form flakes or thin, crisp fragments: flaky pastry.
  3. Slang. Somewhat eccentric
  4. Michigan State football

Name another team with the offensive firepower and overall athleticism to blow up a 9-0 Wisconsin team 49-14 in 2004, beat Notre Dame in South Bend last year, hang punch for punch with Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, and also be able to get annihilated at home by Northwestern, destroyed by Minnesota, and be the one decent team a horrible Purdue team could beat.

What's so tantalizingly annoying about Michigan State is how it finds ways to battle in the huge games, but it can't get up for every game. It hasn't been able to for years. It hasn't mattered if it's Nick Saban, Bobby Williams or John L. Smith coaching; this program can't put it all together and keep its focus for an entire season.

Head coach: John L. Smith
4th year: 18-18
18th year overall: 128-78
Ten Best MSU Players
1. QB Drew Stanton, Sr.
2. DT Clifton Ryan, Sr.
3. RB Javon Ringer, Soph.
4. WR Matt Trannon, Sr.
5. WR Jerramy Scott, Sr.
6. OG Kyle Cook, Sr.
7. LB David Herron, Sr.
8. LB Sir Darean Adams, Jr.
9. P Brandon Fields, Sr.
10. CB Greg Cooper, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Idaho
9/9 Eastern Michigan
9/16 at Pitt
9/23 Notre Dame
9/30 Illinois
10/7 at Michigan
10/14 Ohio State
10/21 at Northwestern
10/28 at Indiana
11/4 Purdue
11/11 Minnesota
11/18 at Penn State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-3
2005 Results: 5-6

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Kent State W 49-14
9/10 Hawaii W 42-14
9/17 at No Dame W 44-41 OT
9/24 at Illinois W 61-14
10/1 Michigan  L 34-31 OT
10/15 at Ohio State L 35-24
10/22 Northwestern L 49-14
10/29 Indiana W 46-15
11/5 at Purdue L 28-21
11/12 at Minnesota L 41-18
11/19 Penn State L 31-22

Since 2000, MSU is 17-6 in September, and 4-16 during the crunch-time games in November. What's the hang up? How can this million dollar team have such a ten-cent head? One word: Michigan.

You could analyze to death the Jan Brady syndrome Michigan State faces trying to outdo the big brother over in Ann Arbor. Look at the track record and it appears there really might be an obsession with the Wolverines that kills MSU year after year.

Last season, MSU was 4-0, lost to Michigan, and went 1-5 the rest of the way. In 2004 the Spartans were 4-3, lost to Michigan, and went 1-3 to close out. Since 2000, the Spartans have gone 8-18 after the Michigan game and have gone 2-5 over the last seven years in the game after the in-state showdown.

With 12 returning starters, a legitimate All-America quarterback candidate in Drew Stanton leading one of the nation's top offenses, a potentially better, more active defense, and special teams that can't be worse than last season's group, there's the chance to finally put together an even year and come up with the second winning season in the last five years.

There might be problems coming up with that tough win following the Michigan game with Ohio State coming to East Lansing, but there's no excuse to fall off the map over the second half of the year thanks to ... 

The Schedule: There are four brutal games against Notre Dame, at Michigan, Ohio State, and at Penn State, but the other eight aren't just winnable, they're must wins. The Spartans will come out strong, but they can't sulk if they lose the back-to-back early Big Ten games at Michigan and against Ohio State. At Northwestern might be a bear trap after playing the two conference heavyweights, but they can handle a few early losses and still make a run with a favorable late schedule before gong on the road to face Penn State. Missing Iowa and Wisconsin is a huge break.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Drew Stanton. If he played for a top ten team he'd be mentioned in the Heisman race. He's 6-3, 230 pounds with 33 games of experience, 4,717 career passing yards, 1,067 rushing yards, and has been among the nation's most efficient passers. If he cuts down on his interceptions and avoids the injury problems that plagued him in 2003 and 2004, he could be the type of player who could carry his team to a shocking season.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Clifton Ryan. The 304-pound defensive end will move to tackle to not add more bulk on the inside, but to also create some semblance of an interior pass rush. He'll move back to the strongside on occasion to beef up the run defense.

Key player to a successful season: Senior CB Greg Cooper. The former safety brings experience, size, and speed to the corner in the hopes of being a desperately needed number one, lockdown defender. The Spartans have to come up with more big plays against the pass, pick off more passes, and be better on third downs. Cooper will be responsible for the improvement.

The season will be a success if ... the Spartans win nine games and goes to a bowl. This is hardly a great team, but there's no excuse to not win at least eight with a win over a power like Ohio State or Notre Dame thrown in there. Being a rock at home against Purdue and Minnesota is a must.

Key game:
Oct. 7 at Michigan. With Ohio State coming up followed up by road trips against Northwestern and Indiana, a loss to the Wolverines could be the start of a rough stretch if the team isn't able to keep its focus. A win would shoot the confidence sky-high and should mean a 2-0 Big Ten start with a chance the week after to make a major statement for the Big Ten title against the Buckeyes.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Field goals: Opponents 5 of 9 - Michigan State 5 of 16
- Third down conversions: Michigan State 69 of 146 (47%) - Opponents 67 of 150 (45%)
- First half scoring: Michigan State 219 - Opponents 157

The Last Time Michigan State…
…played in a bowl game…2003 (Alamo Bowl v. Nebraska)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…1999 (Northwestern)
…was shutout…2000 (Michigan)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Illinois)
…went undefeated…1966
…won a conference title…1990 (share, Big Ten)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Drew Stanton)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2001 (T.J. Duckett)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2002 (Charles Rogers)
…had a first-round draft choice…2003 (WR Charles Rogers)

Related Stories
Michigan State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Michigan State Preview 2006 Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Michigan State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006

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