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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan State Spartans’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Football season commences in about three weeks, and Chicago is the capital of Big Ten Country, so it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. Of course these rankings are highly subject to change. In-depth previews of Chicago’s two teams (Illinois and Northwestern) coming soon!

1. Ohio State

Once again it’s re-loading, not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a wholILLINIROSEBOWLe slew of new talent filling in at key defensive positions, the scarlet and grey will have a new look this fall. Although the Bucks have looked terrible in January bowls lately, they’re still the class of the league, and look for the “sweater vest” to maintain that.

2. Penn State

Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game” and the 82 year old Joe Paterno and his staff have innovated the “Spread HD” enough to make the Nittany Lions consistently win again. QB Darryl Clark, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements at OL and CB, the BCS could come calling.

3. Michigan State

It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback, but you can tell the new QB, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. Throw in an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, and they’ll be solid.

4. Northwestern

Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade. With a QB rushing record already on his resume, he’s more of a dual threat (and less of an interception risk) than C.J. Bacher. Not to mention the heart and soul of this team (the defense) returns mostly in tact from last year- when they set a school record for stopping the run. And the easy schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, no Ohio State or Michigan) just screams ten win season.

5. Iowa

They have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line who can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their defensive playmakers (and trying to replace RB Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified, not a Cubic Zirconia 8-4 or better looks reasonable.

6. Illinois

A program with no consistency. The orange and blue often falter under high expectations and only seem to thrive when people don’t take them seriously. This fall, projections are mixed, so 7-5 and a third-tier bowl sounds about right. With the combination of QB Isaiah “Juice” Williams and WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn (go to 7-to-9.com), the offense will shine brighter than the diamond in Juice’s right ear. However, defense was lacking last season, and they lost their best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.

For the Full Conference Power Rankings click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Before it was an environmental clarion call spouted by business and government leaders everywhere, the phrase “go green” was the Michigan State Spartans’ battle cry. For those lucky enough to be in Detroit this weekend (Yes, it’s weird describing Detroit as a coveted destination) you’ll hear lots of “go green” and “go white” as MSU becomes the first team to play in the Final Four in their home state since Duke laced them up in Charlotte in 1994. When Tom “H to tha” Izzo brings his Spartans to Ford Field, a venue 92 miles from their campus, his resume will include 11 straight NCAA appearances, 5 Final Fours in those 11 years, a National Championship in 2000 and a 30-10 overall tournament record. With the recent collapse of the Indiana Hoosier program, Sparty has become the Big Ten’s (and the Midwest in general) finest program. No other team from the heartland is a March Madness fixture like the Spartans, with Izzo preparing each and every one of his recruited four-year players for Final Four glory. But this success is a more recent phenomenon.izzo_at_midnight_madness

State wasn’t admitted into the Big Ten until 1995 and the nation didn’t really “Meet the Spartans” until the Jud Heathcote era (1976-1995). They weren’t considered a power until the 1979 National championship- when Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser and company defeated Larry Bird’s Indiana St. team in the highest watched game in college history. This established East Lansing as a haven for stellar guard play. The list includes Steve Smith, Scott Skiles, Eric Snow, Shawn Respert, Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, Jason Richardson, Shannon Brown, Drew Neitzel and current Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas. Lucas spoke about his conversations with Mateen Cleaves, the floor general on the last Spartan championship team. “Mateen tells me this is my team and I have to be the general, I have to run the team, I have to give guys shots, but I also have to get my shots,” Lucas said.

The hard-line Izzo leads teams that get better as the season progresses and excel in rebounding (currently first nationally) and defense. “Defense can be measured in a lot of ways: points allowed, opposing field goal percentage, but it’s almost like what Jay Bilas says about heart, you measure it when things are on the line. And I thought down the stretch our defense is getting better, it’s been pretty solid when we’ve had the right lineups in there,” Izzo said

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the NBC Street Team, the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

In December, the Northwestern Wildcats got off to an 8-2 start, the best beginning during head coach Bill Carmody’s time in Evanston. The Cats’ pre-conference performance yielded votes in the polls and a national RPI climbing as high as 11 that month.

But that hot start turned as cold as the recent weather when NU dropped their next five, including the first four of Big Ten play. On Sunday, the Wildcats stopped the slide by upsetting #18 Minnesota who came into the game 16-1.

Click here to read the rest of this story on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank By winning at Iowa a couple weeks ago, the Northwestern Wildcats extended their best start in 46 years. In 1962, Northwestern began the year 6-0 and was ranked No. 1 nationally for two consecutive weeks. The Wildcats’ five-game winning streak is their longest since 1996, the senior season of current Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald. Experts are comparing this team’s defense to the “Purple Pasadena” season of 1995. Halfway into the season however, the ’08 team has accomplished one thing that all three (’95, ’96, ’00) modern era Conference Championship teams did not. All three Big 10 championship squads dropped an early pre-conference game to an inferior opponent: 95-Miami of Ohio, 96-Wake Forest, 00- TCU/ This year’s squad, by contrast, won all the games they were favored to win. And it’s created a bit of a buzz on campus.

“I’ve seen some people on campus decide to jump on the bandwagon. We don’t want to be known as only an academic school; we want to be known for great academics and athletics. We want people to stop wearing Michigan or Ohio St. shirts, and start representing our school and bleeding purple. It’s ok to have bandwagon jumpers, but we also want people who will support us all the way from an 0-11 season to a 12-0 season,” senior tailback Tyrell Sutton said.

That buzz is poised to grow when you consider that Northwestern is one of just 15 unbeaten FBS programs, and that status brought them into this week’s USA Today Coaches (22) and Harris Interactive (23) national polls. Their opponent Saturday, Michigan State, also found themselves in the top-25 (No. 23/19/21, AP/USA Today/Harris). The Spartans, winners of their last five, feature a Heisman trophy candidate in senior tailback Javon Ringer. Nationally, he’s second in rushing yards per game and first in touchdowns this season.

“When I look at the tape it doesn’t take long to see the success their offensive line has had in opening holes for arguably, if not the best back in the Big Ten, then one of the best, and also in the country. He’s a very physical back with great patience, plays well behind his pads and seems like he gets stronger as the game goes along,” Fitzgerald said.

The winner of Saturday’s game will remain unbeaten in Big Ten play and also gain bowl-eligibility. Plenty of good tickets remain and can be purchased by calling 847-491-CATS or visiting NUsports.com

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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