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Now the real season begins

Andrew Mouranie
andrew.mouranie@gmail.com

To nobody’s surprise, the Michigan State Spartans opened their 2009 season with an easy 44-3 victory on Saturday against Montana State at Spartan Stadium.
The two quarterbacks were sharp, combining for five touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Bobcats’ secondary had no answer for the Spartan receivers or tight ends, especially Blair White who had a career-high nine catches for 162 yards and a pair of scores. The running game was okay, with Caulton Ray leading the way with 71 yards on 12 carries. However, the rushing attack is still a work in progress and needs to improve to truly balance out the offense.
The defense was also impressive against the other MSU. Greg Jones, who if you were at the game like I was seemed to have his name announced on practically every tackle, finished the game officially with 14 stops, including three for loss. The 14 tackles was one short of his career high. Jones has now recorded double-figure tackles in eight straight games dating back to last year, averaging 12.5 stops during the streak. He is the first player to record double-digit stops in eight consecutive games since Josh Thornhill in 2001.
He definitely lived up to his preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year accolade.
The secondary held the Bobcats to under 100 yards passing (98 to be exact), a rare feat in today’s spread offense college football.
Special teams, as expected, were also very good. Brett Swenson connected on two field goals, giving him 54 for his career, which is third all-time in MSU history. With his two field goals and five extra points, he moved into third place on the all-time MSU scoring list. With the score out of hand, even backup Dan Conroy got an opportunity and nailed a 43-yarder. Punter Aaron Bates had two punts... both 57 yards.
So, as you can see… plenty of bright spots for the Spartans after week one. Now, the real fun begins.
The Central Michigan Chippewas invade Spartan Stadium on Saturday with arguably the best player in the state (regardless of school) in QB Dan LeFevour. The dual-threat signal caller will give the Spartan defense a much-stiffer task than the Bobcats did on Saturday. Don’t look at the ugly 19-6 loss they had in Arizona on Saturday as a real barometer of this team in terms of skill and coaching. They present plenty of problems to any team and will come into Spartan Stadium with something to prove. Many of those players were bypassed by MSU (and other Big Ten programs) coming out of high school and it is common for in-state MAC teams to raise their performance level to show off for the bigger school. Butch Jones is one of the best young coaches in the country and will have his team prepared for the challenge.
That said, I don’t see the Spartans losing this game. In fact, I’d be surprised if they don’t win by double-digits. But from this point on, there are no more ‘cupcakes’ on the schedule. If the Spartans have dreams of once again playing on New Year’s Day, the quest really begins now.

OTHER WEEK 1 THOUGHTS/WEEK 2 PREDICTIONS:
· I was impressed with Michigan during the first half of their game against Western Michigan. Tate Forcier seemed to have a good grasp of the offense and Denard Robinson can fly (he needs to tie his shoes though… I don’t want to watch them every week and have to hear the story behind his nickname. It could become almost as annoying as hearing about Matt Trannon playing on the MSU basketball team. Ahh the John L. days…). But anyway, the second half was kind of boring as the Broncos actually scored the only points of the half. By then, the game was already over so it’s hard to judge from that point on. However, the competition should be taken up a notch this week when the Wolverines host the Fighting Irish (who also impressed in their opener). In what should be a high-scoring affair, I will take the experienced QB over freshman QB any day of the week. PICK: Weis 31, Rich Rod 28
· Ohio State escaped their opener against Navy. Were they looking ahead to this week’s huge matchup with USC? Maybe. But they could of blown out Navy by 100 and I’m still taken the Trojans. Freshman QB Matt Barkley won’t be asked to do too much and the USC running game will be the difference. Plus, even for a non-math major like myself, this equation is pretty simple. Ohio State + big national game = take the opponent. PICK: Trojans 34, Buckeyes 24
· What the hell happened to Illinois? Ron Zook has some work to do, that’s for sure.
· Iowa Hawkeyes… whew
· Nice opener for Purdue’s Danny Hope… have fun next week against an angry Oregon team in Eugene.

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