Nine Wins is Both Amazing and Quite Unexpected
Behind closed doors and over telephone conversations, the number 9 was talked about before MSU started the season. My brother and I kicked it around in August. Hondo and I talked about it before the Cal game. Even my best Spartan friend Pete considered it a stretch. The number that seemed to dominate the message boards and the conversations of people who really follow the MSU football team was eight. Eight wins was a realistic goal. When number 8 arrived against Wisconsin with two games remaining, it was an amazing achievement. Nine was frankly unexpected and gave our Spartan men the label of overachievers. The only writers and publications to pick MSU as a five or six-win team had an agenda to pack blue bubble gum into the crumbling wall that seems to be falling down around the â€˜Big Holeâ€™ on a weekly basis.
A question was posed on the Phalanx Forum a couple days ago. How are we a nine-win team? Nine wins was a long shot and yet I believed before the season started that it was a possibility. I didnâ€™t want to believe the unthinkable only to try to sell everyone on the idea that seven was good enough for a second year staff. Nine wins have come about largely because of team unity, staff continuity and inspired play by those who have done the unthinkable. Player development and talent identification have been a huge part of the MSU formula. When the bowl game is in the books and Spartans look back at this season, they will remember Javon Ringerâ€™s record setting season, but theyâ€™ll also remember numerous unsung heroes.
Did anyone believe that the answer to losing Devin Thomas largely lied in the hands of former walk-on Blair White? In all fairness to Blair, we recognize that he isnâ€™t high on anyoneâ€™s draft board, but he has done everything he can to help his team win.
Like most of you in the Spartan Nation, I didnâ€™t see Danny Fortner arriving on the scene the way he did either. Dan stepped in for Davis-Clark at safety in the Cal game and the rest is history. He has proven to be a plus player for the defense and should have All Big Ten in his future.
How many of you believed Marcus Hyde was capable of stepping in and playing winning football? Did you see much of a drop in performance from Wiley to Hyde? I am not taking anything away from Otis, but Hyde showed me he is every bit as good. Marcus Hyde made a couple of key stops on Shonn Greene. I donâ€™t think weâ€™d have won the Iowa game without him.
Did anyone really believe before the season that weâ€™d be talking about Brett Swenson as an All American? I certainly didnâ€™t. He has been MONEY!!!! Other than his first attempt at Cal, his three misses at Michigan (bad snap, bad block and a fifty-yarder with swirling wind) and his miss from forty-four last week with Category 4 conditions, he has been perfect. He has given MSU two more wins with his leg alone. There is no better kicker in the country.
Could the left side of the offensive line possibly be as good as last yearâ€™s group? Cironi and Foreman / Bacon have answered the bell. Cironi has kept Hoyerâ€™s blindside protected and he has been really solid driving defenders off the ball for Javon. Treadwell has not hesitated to run directly behind the left side when they needed tough yards. This is a real compliment to these three men considering that Martin and Miller have anchored the right side for three seasons. The most ironic thing to consider is that Foreman will be the left guard for another three seasons as he is only a redshirt freshman. Before MSU offered Joel, it was thought heâ€™d be destined for a MAC school. Whoâ€™d have thought heâ€™d be a starter and regarded as the best lineman in the state for the class of 2006?
Johnny Adams was a quarterback and a linebacker in high school a year ago. He came to MSU a semester early and has been a starter for all intensive purposes. When his teammates (Weaver, Davis-Clark and Chris L. Rucker) got banged up, Adams was thrust into duty quickly. He has been a fantastic coverman as a freshman. He has not avoided contact; this is really saying something when you consider that Johnny is only 165 pounds. Adams and Rucker will be regarded as the best corner tandem in the Big Ten next season.
Did anyone believe that Charlie Gantt would make us forget Kellen Davis? I have not forgotten Davis, but I donâ€™t seem to miss his contributions with Charlie galloping down the field. Gantt has had a few miscues, but he has been a really solid blocker, a real weapon catching the football and a classy teammate.
The defensive ends have not been quite as productive as last yearâ€™s group. However, Long and Anderson have been better in other areas. Anderson seems to flush the QB out of the pocket, which allows his backers and DBâ€™s to register some stops behind the line. Letâ€™s not forget that he leads the Spartans in sacks. Long is one of those players that needed Gill and Narduzzi from the start of his career. Long is a gifted athlete and plays extremely hard. He pursues with the speed of a linebacker and has thrown running backs for losses when they looked as though they would turn the corner with ease.
Some of you will look to have me committed after I say what I am about to say. If Ryan Allison wants to play on Sundays, I think he will have the opportunity. How is this possible? Well, he is one of the most versatile players on the roster. He can play linebacker, safety and receiver. He loves contact. He is 225 pounds and has speed. He may be one of those special teams gurus in the NFL and could very well be a competent third option on the depth chart at safety and OLB. Allison is another guy that needed four years of Tressel and Narduzzi. He was outstanding against Northwestern, Michigan and Purdue. He could be the difference between and W and L in two weeks.
Michigan State will not be favored to win their two remaining games, as they will likely play Georgia or LSU in a bowl after playing Joe Pa in his final game at Beaver Stadium. Can MSU beat Penn State? Certainly. Could they beat a good SEC team? The stars would have to align just perfectly, but they have already accomplished the unthinkable so I am not going to bet against them. Emotions will run high in Happy Valley two weeks from now and MSU is playing for a share of the Big Ten title. Do I want Michigan to upset OSU as to give MSU a shot at an outright title? Absolutely NOT!!! I donâ€™t want those woodchucks claiming any responsibility for our success. MSU played OSU a few weeks ago and lost to a better team. If MSU wins in two weeks, sharing the title would be both appropriate and unexpected.