Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. August thunderstorms remind us it’s time to prep our grills for another season of tailgating. Taking in the fall colors, downing your share of ale and smelling the aroma of well done brats is only weeks away! Of course there IS the matter of occasionally cheering at seven home football games. Fortunately for Spartan fans who endured the tenures of John L. Smith, Bobby Williams and Nick Saban, pregame festivities aren’t the only thing worth anticipating.
In just five seasons, Coach Mark Dantonio and staff have completely altered the climate of expectation in E. Lansing. The Spartan faithful have gone from pleading for an invite to the latest bowl game in Nowhere, Nevada, to checking Priceline for flights to sunny California. Think I’m kidding? Quick, answer this one. Which Big Ten football team has the most regular season conference victories the last two years? Nope, not Ohio State, not the Badgers either, not even those high and mighty Wolverines…give up? It’s your Michigan State Spartans!
Since 2010, the Green & White are 14-2 in conference play. Coming off of last year’s inaugural Legends Division Championship and thrilling 33-30 triple O.T. Outback Bowl victory over Georgia, the only thing missing from Dantonio’s resume is the elusive outright Big Ten Championship and trip to the Rose Bowl. With a defense that returns eight starters from a unit ranked sixth nationally last year, Dantonio and company may finally have fans smelling roses this year.
Led by returning second team All-Big Ten[i] defensive end William Gholston (Jr.), and Big Ten Defensive Freshman MVP[ii] of the Year Marcus Rush (So.); this defense is primed to blow up plays with jaw dropping hits and eye popping quickness. By the time the Spartans defense is done with Boise State, you won’t hear any complaining this year that Smurf Turf was left out of the B.C.S. mix. No doubt, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has plenty of talent to create multiple looks to stress opposing quarterbacks.
Conversely, Andrew Maxwell (Jr.) the new Spartan signal caller will feel like he’s on Spring Break when not facing his own defense. Maxwell will benefit from the return of seven experienced offensive lineman and star running back Le’Veon Bell (Jr.). The only point of concern entering this season is the lack of production returning from the receiving corps. Dion Sims (Jr.) is the only returning tight end with significant playing time, while wide receivers Bennie Fowler (Jr.), Keith Mumphery (So.), Tony Lippett (So.) and Tennessee Volunteers transfer DeAnthony Arnett (So) will do their best to replace Keith Nichol, Keyshawn Martin (4th Rd. -Texans) and B.J. Cunningham (6th Rd. -Dolphins), the all-time school record holder for receiving yards and receptions.
No doubt, this team has the ingredients to help celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the last M.S.U. gridirons team to win the Rose Bowl with a trip of their own to Pasadena. And that’s an expectation that’s been awfully rare for the tailgating faithful.
About the Author
Written by Andre' Wiegand
A life long Michigan State University Spartan fan! My grandfather played on the Spartan O-Line back in 1951 and my family has been Spartan fans since. 1999 M.S.U. graduate (JMC). Currently live in Grand Rapids, MI with my wife and two sons.