I believe the Michigan State Spartans were four-touchdown favorites in their 2013 season opener Friday night against the Western Michigan Broncos. I read one prediction in which Sparty would beat WMU, 47-13. Others read that even a shaky MSU offense would be able to put up points on a below average Broncos defense, and that eventually, the offense would feed off of the defense, making plays and scoring points of their own. Well, any prediction that MSU would win was accurate. Any prediction that they would walk all over WMU was simply not.
The Spartans began their 2013 football season Friday night at Spartan Stadium, in East Lansing, Michigan. A Broncos team without its former offensive mastermind/head coach Bill Cubit and stud QB, Alex Carder, marched in hoping to obviously upset the Spartans, but more than likely use the game as a gauge of where they’re at, talent-wise.
MSU won the game, 26-13, and it was one of the uglier offensive affairs that I’ve been able to witness on a football field. Sparty’s offense, which lost workhouse RB Le’Veon Bell to graduation, racked up 297 yards of total offense, 181 coming on the ground. Junior RB Jeremy Langford carried the ball 20 times for 94 yards and had a 2-yard 2nd quarter touchdown run that gave MSU a lead that they would never relinquish. Senior QB Andrew Maxwell got the start, but was pulled in favor of sophomore QB Connor Cook after just three less-than-stellar drives. Cook fared slightly better than Maxwell, but not by much. Maxwell finished the night 11-21 for 74 yards and Cook ended the night with a line of 6-16-42. Fortunately, neither did anything that would cost MSU the game, even against a middling MAC school.
Luckily, MSU’s defense brought their elite selves to Spartan Stadium Friday night, limiting a once-potent WMU offense to just 204 yards of total offense, all but 11 of them coming through the air. Senior WMU QB Tyler Van Tubbergen was 6-20 for 73 yards and 2 INT before he was injured and replaced by freshman QB Zach Terrell, who actually looked decent, completing 12 of 28 passes for 2 TD against only one INT. WMU got nothing from their run game, as senior RB Brian Fields was held to 24 yards on 12 carries. Senior MSU LB Jairus Jones had two interceptions, and after the first, lateraled the ball to junior S Kurtis Drummond, who took the ball in the remaining 21 yards for six. Those were the first points of the game for either team. The Sparty defense also caused 4 turnovers and registered 8 quarterback hits and 5 sacks, with DE Marcus Rush registering 2 of the 5. While the WMU offense has the potential to be a good one, it isn’t nearly great. However, Spartans were flying to the quarterback and ball all night and Drummond made what by the end of the season will still be one of the top defensive plays all year.
MSU head coach Mark Dantonio admitted after the game that despite the win, his team still needs to get better, and that has to go double for things on the offensive side of the ball. Langford appears to be a steady RB and if he falters, it’s nice to know there is a relatively deep stable of backs that Dantonio can choose from. I counted 4 drops from MSU receivers, not a good number at all, but two of those passes were borderline knuckleballs. The MSU offensive line allowed only one sack, but we’ll really have to wait until conference play before we can accurately grade them.
Next up for Sparty are the American Athletic Conference’s University of South Florida Bulls, led by rookie head coach Willie Taggart. South Florida is best known for going to South Bend, IN, two years ago and upsetting then-16th ranked Notre Dame in both teams’ season opener, 23-20. The team hasn’t done much of anything since, and yesterday was hopefully a sign of what will come next Saturday. The Bulls were walloped at home by FCS school McNeese St., 53-20, in a game that was uglier than the final score. USF was picked apart through the air, on the ground, and when they had the ball, couldn’t do much against one of the Southland Conference’s best teams. While they weren’t shut down, they couldn’t do much against an average-at-best football team. I can’t see a way in which USF finds a way to reverse their fortunes against Sparty in East Lansing this upcoming Saturday.
A few takeaways from the first weekend of 2013 college football:
- Clemson beat Georgia, 38-35, in a doozy of a football game. Arguably the ACC’s best team, Clemson is no longer “sneaky scary” and they showed why last night. Going up against a Georgia team that everyone wants to believe is better than what they truly are, Clemson was able to match Georgia, play for play, until Clemson QB Tajh Boyd threw a 9-yard TD pass Stanton Seckinger with 7:40 left in the 4th quarter to give them a 10-point lead which Georgia would not be able to overcome. Georgia takes on South Carolina next, while Clemson will next play South Carolina St. Georgia could easily find itself out of national title contention after only their second game while Clemson must be looking to build on their huge win over a vaunted SEC opponent.
- Johnny Manziel is gon’ Johnny Manziel. Manziel was suspended by his school, the NCAA, his parents or a combination of all three for the first half of Texas A&M’s season opener yesterday against Rice University. This came after he signed his name and allegedly received payment for it. Moving on… Yes, Manziel did indeed sit out the entire first half of yesterday’s game. Yes, Rice did go into the half trailing the 7th-ranked Aggies by 7, 28-21. And it’s also true that once Manziel started the second half, it was “night night” for the Rice Owls. In just one half, Manziel completed 6 of 8 passes for 94 yards and 3 scores, and the Aggies outscored the Owls in the second half, 24-10. On top of making a few nice plays to help his team win a ballgame, Manziel was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and also appeared to taunt an opponent in another incident. Folks may not like him, or think he’s overrated, but the kid simply makes plays. And now that he’s soaking up the limelight, he could be truly scary on a college football field.
- New unis. I don’t know the exact number, but I’ll guess that at least 25 FBS schools will wear new uniforms for
the 2013 season. Sometimes the new digs are hit, but most times, they’re miss. Ignoring that some of these football programs haven’t ever come close to winning anything, but continue to use funds on uniforms, one can be either appalled or mesmerized by the newfangled designs and colors. A few new unis that got my attention: Ole Miss, Baylor, West Virginia, Cal, and my favorite so far, Georgia State. No, I don’t care that Georgia St. became an FBS football program about 23 seconds ago. The color scheme is simple, as well as the design. And that all-blue alternate makes me want to attempt to walk on the GSU football team just so I can get an ill-fitting jersey and pants. Michigan State has come down with the “new uni” bug over the last few years, and I haven’t objected. Some schools definitely go overboard (ahem, Oregon) but most are just trying to find a new way to identify themselves. More power to ’em.