Kevin Thomas has a guest article with a mix and match collaboration of thoughts.

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 “THIS AND THAT”


MSU BOWL TALK:


First, let’s talk about MSU’s bowl game. First and foremost the most important factor in considering where the Spartans should play is the kids themselves. These players overcame much and didn’t quit all season. They played with fire in the belly the last couple of games and this entire senior class deserves a chance to play in a warm and sunny location in either Florida or Arizona, and I am sure that many supporting MSU want this to happen.


However, there is a case to be made for all three bowls the Spartans are pursuing. The bowl the Spartans probably most desire in terms of recruiting and overall prestige would be the Champs Sports Bowl in Florida. This is not a slight to Ken Hoffman or George Perles or the Motor City Bowl. I just think this team, both coaches and players, deserve better. If MSU was 6-6, and competing with Northwestern or Iowa for one open slot in Detroit, then I would love for the Motor City Bowl people to bail us out. However, MSU loses several key seniors this year, so what if MSU goes 6-6 next year, would the MCB want us back if we played in their bowl this year? Not likely. That’s why I think MSU needs to do the best they can to send these deserving kids to a better bowl. Plus, MSU has been especially attractive to Florida recruits in the past like Lorenzo White, Gari Scott, and Sedric Irvin among others.


However, the Motor City Bowl is attractive for many reasons as well. Since it is a local game, the Spartans would save money on travel costs, and the game will also be televised on ESPN. In addition the savings in money could be helpful to pad an athletic budget that has been hit recently with rising costs and of course the several million dollar buy out from the Cowboy.


 I also understand the Insight Bowl is on the NFL Network and is not readily available on T.V. and that the convenience of driving down to Detroit to see the game would be easier on some fans. However, it certainly helps in recruiting if MSU is playing out West or say, in Florida as well. The paydays for these games are quite different as well, but that is not a factor. The Motor City bowl pays $750,000 for its game, while the Insight Bowl pays out $1.2 million, and the Champs Citrus Bowl is paying out $2.25 million, but the money is pooled so even Minnesota gets a cut, so the pay out for an individual bowl won’t have much bearing in deciding what bowl MSU chooses.


So what it comes down to is the financial considerations of the Motor City Bowl versus the status, prestige and recruiting implications of the Champs or Insight bowl games, so only time will tell how this will play out.


UM FOOTBALL COACHING:


Michigan’s Lloyd Carr has called it quits and honestly, he shouldn’t have gone. With UM fans, it’s all about what have you done for me lately. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Carr wrote in his contract that the assistant coaches would be held over for a year, or that Athletic Director Bill Martin has been gathering names to replace Carr since September. The fact is, had Michigan finally beaten Ohio State and played in the Rose Bowl, Carr might have delayed retirement for another year. The last couple of years, Wolverine “fans” have compared Carr to former OSU coach John Cooper with the inability to beat their hated rivals with the frequency demanded by rabid and flustered alumni . Carr told his players on Sunday he still loved the game. So if he still loved the game, why quit? His answer on Monday was obvious as he seemed to almost be answering his critic’s in saying he wanted to do the right thing for Michigan, and that he quit at this time instead of after a bowl game to benefit Michigan in the recruiting wars. He never wanted to be accused of not doing the right thing for the Michigan program and so he left because he felt he was letting people down.


I am a Spartan, but coach Carr is a class act and deserved better. Oh sure, he has his faults, like picking on a few newspaper reporters or the handshake debacle after MSU beat them in 2001, but for the most part, he has served Michigan well. If Bo was still alive perhaps he would have gone on, but perhaps he got tired of the criticism, of which wife Laurie alluded to. She said he handled it well, but was also deeply hurt by it. Can you blame him?


This brings us to our next subject. Who should Michigan hire as their next coach? Look, I know all eyes are on Les Miles, but there are things that have to concern the UM faithful. The first one is, the LSU fans don’t seem to be to heart broken over the prospect of losing him. Miles has the advantage of recruiting in a hot bed of prep talent and the state of Louisiana has produced as many if not more NFL players than any other state. Despite this,

Miles has lost two games in each of his first two seasons with superior talent. This was after he went 4-7, 8-5, 9-4, and 7-5 at Oklahoma State as head coach. You may say that’s not Oklahoma, but that is not a bad program either. In fact, if you take away his LSU and assistant coaching experience at Michigan, the other programs he has been involved as a head or assistant coach have gone 88-100-1 in the other 15 years he has coached. That doesn’t sound Bo Schembechler-ish to me. I am sure that LSU being number one in the country has some Michigan fans giddy about having him as coach, but as Nick Saban found out, LSU has superior resources and talent.


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One can never underestimate the loss of continuity to a football team. At this point Mike Debord and Ron English almost sound like after thoughts and token interviews, as does Mike Trgovac, but these guys are more quality than meets the eye. People point at Debord’s head coaching record at Central Michigan. Yet look at Gary Moeller, he was a disaster at Illinois with a 6-24-3 record, but at Michigan was 44-13-3 , had a Heisman Trophy winner in Desmond Howard, and has a higher winning percentage at Michigan than Carr, at .758 compared to Carr’s .752. With the resources that Michigan has, Debord is could do the same, but insiders say he left the CMU program in worse shape than previously reported. Then there are those that feel his creativity, that Carr often reigned in, would be a huge benefit as a head coach. Also, Brian Kelly, is no longer even a viable candidate among among those in the know. If you are a Spartan that is good news, bad news for the Wolvies.


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Ron English had one of the better run stopping defenses in the nation in 2006 and made strides in 2007 protecting against the spread offense after a slow start. This is a guy who has learned from his mistakes. He is a smart guy as well, attending Cal as an undergrad and has a Masters in Education in Administration from Arizona State. A minority coach as the guy in charge would likely bolster their recruiting, as it did when Bobby Williams took over as the head coach at MSU. The difference being however, is that you can tell that English has a clue about what to do or would put people in position to get it done for him. Plus, Williams was never a coordinator at any position, the natural progression for any coach who one day wants to be in charge.


Mike Trgovac bleeds maize and blue and was one of Bo’s favorite players. He coached at Michigan and has extensive experience in the NFL which boosts his resume in my opinion. Most NFL game are decided by three points, so looking for advantages are what NFL coaches need to do and Trgovac is a master at that while putting together an impressive resume. I mean here is a competitor if there ever was one. He played in three Rose Bowls and earned All-Big Ten honors twice for UM. Since joining the Carolina Panthers in 2002, the Panthers have ranked 5th in total defense overall and are usually near the top in forcing turnovers and limiting yardage. This guy is a winner.


MSU BASKETBALL:


It was nice to see MSU get off to good start in the regular season after having an embarrassing exhibition season in which they lost to Grand Valley State. However in recent years a pattern of play continues to repeat itself, MSU goes up by double digits in the first half or early in the second half, and then finds itself either losing or winning by a couple at the end, as was the case in a win over Missouri and a loss against UCLA.


What is surprising is how MSU is losing these games. After making a reputation of controlling the boards during the Mateen Cleaves-Antonio Smith era, UCLA racked up 22 offensive rebounds and MSU played some erratic basketball again down the stretch.


However, give MSU credit, Coach Izzo is trying to inject three freshmen into the rotation and come tournament time they should be much improved and more seasoned. Also, Coach Izzo is not one to make excuses, but he had a young team that struggled with bad fouls and  of course a star feeling under the weather last night.


No one is harder on himself than Coach Izzo, and he said after the game this was an embarrassment to previous Spartan teams and the rebounding deficiency was a lack of effort which angered him. I think what this game showed is if you recruit an impact big man like UCLA’s Kevin Love, he more than makes up for the role-type players MSU has up front. Now that players have to stay in college for one year, look for MSU to go after better front court people in the future. You just cannot recruit worrying about if a guy leaves early.


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The other on court problems are obvious, Kalin Lucas over dribbles, the big men are not boxing out and rebounding on the defensive end, and they don’t value the basketball like they should, but those problems will be worked on come practice. So expect improvement in these areas as well. He certainly has the talent and there is of course a learning curve that is higher at the PG slot.


Izzo is smart, when he had Ager, Brown and Davis, the Spartans tried to run and outscore people and it just didn’t work out. Last year, he felt he didn’t have the horses to run but played some of the best lock down defense in the country. Now, with a longer bench and more depth this year, he once again can run and get up and down the court, except now he will also have to get these guys to lock down on the defensive end of the court and inject some of the great defense they played last year and I am sure that is the angle he is looking at. In other words, he needs the best of both worlds, run the floor to wear down teams on offense, and get back and play lock down defense on the other end.


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Now, I love Tom Izzo, he is the best ambassador MSU has ever had. Yet, unless the Spartans start boxing out, defending the perimeter (especially the three-point shooters), and take care of the basketball, they may not reach all the goals they are looking at this year, but let’s give him a chance to make those corrections.  He certainly has proven that he can make adjustments and fix issues. I am not worried now, let’s revisit that come Big Ten season. Yes, I know it is early in the year and the freshmen are still finding there way, and I know UCLA is ranked number one, but Izzo is all about no excuses, and I also know that UCLA was missing several key ingredients as well, including one of their star All-Americans and were short-handed as well.  Anyway, let’s hope Tom and the Spartans get it going soon.  


Happy Thanksgiving and Go Spartans!