Posts Tagged ‘Michigan State Spartans’

weber_mike_vsOklahoma_090917 (5) TOP UNITS

Ohio State running back Mike Weber

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini – Mike Epstein was Illinois leading rusher when a leg injury ended his season after five games last year. Ra’Von Bonner is the power back, while Reggie Corbin is the slasher. Epstein is a combination of the two. All three must prove they can remain healthy in the physical Big Ten.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes – Iowa has to replace two 1,000 yard rushers this year and every tailback on the roster is an underclassmen. Toren Young started one game and has power at 220 pounds. Ivory Kelly-Martin saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman and is a good change-of-pace for Young. This is a vastly inexperienced unit.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Jon Hilliman was added as a grad transfer after starting 29 games for Boston College. Despite being 225 pounds, Hilliman has good speed. Raheem Blackshear averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last year and is quick and explosive.

11. Indiana Hoosiers – Morgan Ellison broke his left leg as a Sophomore and his right leg as a Junior in high school, which hurt his recruitment. He led the Hoosiers as true freshman last year with 704 yards and is naturally strong. Cole Gest provides the change of pace with great burst and explosion, while Mike Majette is a combination of the two.

10. Northwestern Wildcats – Northwestern is replacing their all-time leading rusher in 2018. Jeremy Larkin averaged 6.0 yards per carry last year and John Moten averaged 6.0 yards per carry in 2016. Jesse Brown is similar in size to Larkin and provides track speed.

9. Purdue Boilermakers – Tario Fuller started the first three games in 2017 and averaged 6.1 yards per carry before an ankle injury ended his season. Markell Jones has rushed for over 500 yards in each of his three seasons and has excellent hands out of the backfield. DJ Knox returned from an ACL injury in 2016 to average 6.2 yards per carry in 2017.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers – If this list only pertained to the starting running back, then Minnesota would be ranked higher. Rodney Smith followed up his 1,000 yard season in 2016 with 977 yards last year, battling thru a couple of concussions. With Shannon Brooks sitting this season out due to injury, Mohamed Ibrahim, Dominik London, and Jonathan Femi-Cole provide quality depth.

7. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Just how deep is the Nebraska running back unit? So deep that Devine Ozigbo, who has led the Huskers in rushing each of the last two seasons, will likely have three others in front of him for 2018! Greg Bell is the newcomer that was a two-time Juco All-American, Tre Bryant began last year as the starter before a knee injury ended his season after two games, and Mikale Wilbon is a multiple back that is also a receiving option.

6. Maryland Terrapins – After rushing for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman, Ty Johnson was the focal point for many defenses in 2017 as Maryland was devastated at the QB position. Lorenzo Harrison is elusive and powerful, while Anthony McFarland is fully healed from a high school injury that resulted in him taking a redshirt last year and has sprinter speed.

5. Michigan State Spartans – LJ Scott would’ve likely been an NFL draft pick in 2018, but opted to return to East Lansing for his Senior season. He’s a 230 pound bruiser. Connor Heyward is the son of the late “Iron Head” Heyward and has tremendous explosiveness and great hands. Weston Bridges brings a change of pace and has great vision, but can also run through would be tacklers.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions – Miles Sanders will have the difficult task of replacing Saquan Barkley as the feature running back, but is similarly built and is also a great receiving threat. True freshman Ricky Slade was ranked as the No. 3 running back in the 2018 recruiting class and has elite acceleration. Mark Allen is the veteran of the unit and will be the change of pace running back.

3. Michigan Wolverines – Michigan still ranks this high even after the recent news that Kareem Walker has decided to transfer to Juco. Karan Higdon earned Third Team Big Ten honors last year that can run inside or bounce outside. Chris Evans averaged over five yards per carry in 2017 and is the fastest of the running backs. O’Maury Samuels has great stop-start ability, and Berkely Edwards was added as a grad transfer that has excellent quickness.

2. Wisconsin Badgers – While Wisconsin just may have the Heisman Trophy winner for 2018 in Jonathan Taylor, this list is about the entire unit, not just the starter. Backup Bradrick Shaw is coming off an ACL injury, Taiwan Deal is coming off an ankle injury, and Chris James was limited to nine games last year and injured his ankle during spring practices.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes – No team in the Big Ten has more talent at running back than Ohio State. It can be argued that JK Dobbins and Mike Weber, who each has ran for over 1,000 yards in season, are the best combination in the nation. Add a pair of very highly touted true freshman to the mix along with Demario McCall, who will also play the H-Back position and it’s easy to see why this unit is ranked where it is.


cotton bowl

This is the Playoff semi-final. Alabama won the only prior meeting, 49-7 (-8) in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. The Crimson Tide were in a similar spot last year as they were nearly a double-digit favorite against Ohio State and lost, 42-35 (-8). Head coach Nick Saban is is 5-3 SU/ATS in bowls at Alabama and was 4-5 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at LSU and Michigan State (first meeting against Sparty). Michigan State is bowling for the ninth straight season. They beat Baylor, 42-41 (+2.5) in last year’s Cotton Bowl and head coach Mark Dantonio is 6-4 SU/ATS in bowls.

Michigan State entered this year a legit National Title contender and haven’t disappointed. They got past Oregon, despite being outgained by 104 yards and got a miraculous win at Michigan on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. They lost at Nebraska on a questionable non-penalized touchdown pass (receiver came back from being out of bounds) with under thirty seconds left. Quarterback Conner Cook was injured in the win over Maryland and missed the Ohio State game. Despite alternating two backups at quarterback, the Spartans beat the defending champs, holding them to just five first downs and 132 total yards (game-winning field goal with no time left). They beat Michigan and Ohio State without leading a single second in regulation. Michigan State beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game as they went 82 yards in 22 plays, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. They are No. 13 in the FBS, allowing 88 yards per game less then their opponents average and their strength is along both lines of scrimmage.

Alabama lost to Ole Miss via a deflected pass, but then steamrolled the rest of their foes in a rare down year for the SEC. Running back Derrick Henry broke Herchel Walkers conference record for most rushing yards in a season and won the Heisman Trophy. They are No. 1 in the FBS, allowing 155 yards per game less then their foes average and held eight of their opponents to either their fewest or second fewest yards.

While Michigan State has one of the top offensive/defensive line combinations in the country, Alabama’s is even better. The Crimson Tide have better talent at every position with the exception of quarterback. Dantonio is 12-1 ATS as a ‘dog, winning nine outright! The Spartans also play their best in big games. Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa combined to average 219 (5.2) rushing yards per game, but Michigan State held them to 81 (2.5), so they matchup well against Henry.

There is no shortage of great boxers in action this weekend.  While the matchups could be better, it’s great to see these guys in the ring again.  Here are my breakdowns of the notable fights!

Friday, October 15th

Buffalo Run Casino, Miami, Oklahoma (Showtime) 

The Main Event:

Heavyweights (10 Rounds) – Former Light heavyweight Champion of the World, Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (27-6, 19 KO’s) will take on Nagy Aguilera (16-4, 11 KO’s)

  • Tarver is coming off a 12 round decision loss to Chad Dawson last May.  His last win was in 2008. 
  • Aguilera is coming off a 12 round decision loss to Maurice Harris in August.  He’s 2-2 in his last four fights.
  • Tarver is campaigning as a heavyweight for the first time in his career for this fight.  He’s picked the right kind of opponent to debut against as a heavyweight and shouldn’t have a problem.

The Co-Feature:

Welterweights (10 Rounds) – Cleveland Welterweight prospect “Showtime” Shawn Porter (16-0, 12 KO’s) will go up against Hector “The Hurricane” Muñoz (18-3-1, 11 KO’s)

  • Porter is coming off a 10 round unanimous decision over Ray Robinson in July.  His only two scheduled 10 round fights have gone the distance.
  • Muñoz is coming off a fifth round knockout loss to Mike Jones in April.  He’s been stopped early in back to back fights and hasn’t won since 2008.
  • This fight is a major mismatch.  Of Muñoz’s 18 wins, four have come against guys with a winning record.  Porter is going to smoke this cat, who shouldn’t even be in the same ring. 


Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California (Telefutura)

The Main Event:

Super Featherweights (10 rounds) – Eloy “The Prince” Perez (18-0-2, 5 KO’s) will fight Dominic Salcido (18-2, 9 KO’s)

  • Perez is coming off a fifth round knockout over Derrick Campos in August.  He’s won 10 straight. 
  • Salcido is coming off an eight round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Guillermo Sanchez in May.  He’s 2-2 over his last four bouts. 
  • Perez is a great boxer-puncher and will utilize those skills to get by Salcido, who will put up a valiant effort.

The Co-Feature:

Heavyweights (10 rounds) – Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell (18-0-1, 12 KO’s) will battle Derrick “D-Train” Brown (13-5-3, 11 KO’s)

  • Mitchell is coming off a first round stoppage over Derek Bryant in July.  Five of his last six bouts have ended inside the distance, including three straight.
  • Brown is coming off a second round knockout loss to Jeremiah Graziano in March.  He hasn’t won a fight since 2006, a span of five fights.
  • Golden Boy Promotions is being cautious while they bring up Mitchell, who only started boxing in 2006.  He was a legitimate linebacker in college for the Michigan State Spartans before several knee injuries derailed his football career.


Bell Center, Montreal, Canada ( live, delayed on ESPN on Sunday)

The Main Event:

Super Middleweights (12 rounds) – Ring Magazine #1 Super Middleweight Lucian “Le Tombeur” Bute (26-0, 21 KO’s) takes on Jesse Brinkley (35-5, 22 KO’s)

  • Bute is coming off a third round technical knockout over Edison Miranda in April.  Five of his last six fights have been stopped inside the distance, including three straight.
  • Brinkley is coming off a twelve round unanimous decision over Curtis Stevens in January.  He’s won nine straight.
  • Bute is arguably the best super middle in the world right now, along with Andre Ward.  That is the real fight in the division, but until the Super Six Tournament is over, Bute will have to continue to dispatch overmatched opponents like Brinkley.

The Co-Feature:

Light Heavyweights (10 rounds) – Ring Magazine #6 Light Heavyweight Adrian “The Shark” Diaconu (26-2, 15 KO’s) goes up against Omar Sheika (30-9, 21 KO’s)

  • Diaconu is coming off back to back decision losses against the Jean Pascal, the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World. 
  • Sheika is coming off a third round technical knockout over Jim Strohl in June.  He’s won three straight and four of his last five, albeit against extremely weak opposition. 
  • With Diaconu’s only losses coming to Pascal, his resume looks even better.  The 33 year old Sheika has been in so many ring wars, his boxing age is closer to 43.  He’s well past his prime.


Saturday, October 16th

02 World Arena, Hamburg, Germany ( live, delayed on ESPN on Sunday)

The Main Event:

Heavyweights (12 rounds) – Ring Magazine #1 Heavyweight Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko (40-2, 38 KO’s) fights Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs (51-5-1, 45 KO’s)

  • Klitschko is coming off a tenth round knockout over Albert Sosnowski in May.  He’s won eight in a row, seven by knockout.
  • Briggs is coming off a first round stoppage over Rob Calloway in May.  He’s won three straight, all by first round knockout.
  • These two combine for an incredible 84% knockout percentage.  Someone is getting stopped.  Unfortunately for American fight fans, it’s going to be Briggs, who starts huffing and puffing usually after two or three rounds.

The Co-Feature:

Cruiserweights (10 rounds) – Ring Magazine #9 Cruiserweight Ola “Kryptonite” Afolabi (14-2-3, 6 KO’s) battles Sandro Siproshvili (24-6, 11 KO’s)

  • Afolabi is coming off a close 12 round decision loss to #2 Cruiserweight Marco Huck last December.  He had been unbeaten in 14 straight fights before that setback.
  • Siproshvili is coming off a first round knockout over Siarhei Voron in July.  He’s won nine of his last ten.
  • Don’t let Siproshvili’s record fool you, as only four of his twenty-four wins have come against opponents with winning records.  Afolabi simply needs to get in the ring and fight, and that’s what this fight is for. 


Silver Spurs Arena, Kissimmee, Florida (PPV)

The Main Event:

Jr. Featherweights (12 rounds) – Ring Magazine #9 Jr. Featherweight Wilfredo “WV2” Vazquez Jr. (19-0-1, 16 KO’s) will take on Ivan “Choko” Hernandez (28-4-1, 17 KO’s)

  • Vazquez Jr. is coming off a tenth round stoppage over previously undefeated Zsolt Bedak in May.  He’s scored knockouts in four straight fights, and six of his last seven.
  • Hernandez is coming off a fifth round stoppage over Lizandro De Los Santos in May.  He’s won five of six.
  • Out of all the sons trying to emulate their world class fathers, Vazquez Jr. is the leader of the pack.  He is a legit boxer, despite taking up the sport at a late age.  He won’t have any issues with Hernandez as he looks to climb up the Jr. Featherweight ladder, where there isn’t a legit World Champion.


Estadio De Beisbol, Monterrey, Mexico (Fox Sports en Espanol)

The Main Event:

Flyweights (12 rounds) – Ring Magazine #8 Flyweight Julio Cesar Miranda (33-5-1, 26 KO’s) will go up against Michael Arango (31-9-3, 25 KO’s)

  • Miranda is coming off an eight round stoppage over Ronald Ramos last month.  He’s won four of his last five, all by knockout.
  • Arango is coming off a second round knockout over Nestor Arroyo last month.  He’s 2-2-1 over his last five bouts.
  • Miranda is looking to stay in the ratings and get another crack at Flyweight World Champion and pound for pound elite Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, whom he lost a decision to last April.


Olympic Sports Palace, Chekhov, Russia (No U.S. TV)

The Main Event:

Heavyweights (10 rounds) – Ring Magazine #3 Heavyweight Alexander “Russian Vityaz” Povetkin (19-0, 14 KO’s) will fight Teke Oruh (14-2-1, 6 KO’s)

  • Povetkin is coming off a fifth round stoppage over Javier Mora in March.  Three of his last four fights have ended inside the distance.
  • Oruh is coming off a 10 round decision loss to Manuel Quezada in 2008!  He hasn’t won a fight since 2007!
  • Povetkins trainer, Teddy Atlas, pulled Povetkin out of a scheduled fight with World Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko earlier this year citing Povetkin not being ready for that type of fight in his career.  I don’t see how fighting a guy that hasn’t been in the ring since 2008 can get Povetkin ready.  I call BS.