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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Dantonio’

Notre Dame Pushes Back Against M.S.U.

Earlier this summer, I wrote of Notre Dame’s ability to “push back” against more physical opponents – in the widescreen view, I wrote of Notre Dame’s quest for a tougher mentality, a sort of rediscovery of the bullying, confident mindset that propelled the program for generations. I thought that the Irish were close; I thought that under the surface, behind the negativity, the program had made clear and steady progress in nearly every facet of the game. No one game can possibly encapsulate this idea more so than Notre Dame’s dominating victory over Michigan State.

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    No. 7: Michigan State

    Last fall, Michigan State beat Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan in the same season for only the second time in program history; the first, in 1987, came during the Spartans’ last outright Big Ten title. Rare? Beating all three of those conference rivals in one year is as rare as 11-win seasons, of which the Spartans have two in as many years. But none before 2010, a point that the rest of the Big Ten pointed out with glee prior to Michigan State’s current resurgence under Mark Dantonio. Now, after 22 wins over two years, those same rivals have only questions: How have the Spartans done it? How can we copy it? The simple answer: Take a system, add a serious heaping of patience and throw in a helpful dash of senior leadership. Add more patience. Wait, and don’t watch: it’ll never boil, or something to that end. And now that the Spartans have lost last year’s senior leaders — along with a number of other key contributors — the program has a question of its own: Can we maintain this sort of pace without our stars? Again, it’s time to have faith in the system.

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      Revisiting the Coaching Class of 2007

      We’re now five years removed from the coaching class of 2007. This 24-member group included Neil Callaway, who was discussed yesterday today as part of the U.A.B. preview, as well as more than a few coaching luminaries: Nick Saban, Brian Kelly, Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh, for example. Callaway, who won 18 games over five years with the Blazers, is the impetus for the idea behind the post, as well as just one member of the class of 2007 who never came to close to matching the promises made at their initial press conference. No coach loses his introductory press conference; for many, however, it’s all downhill from there.

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        The Year in Review: Michigan St. (11-3, 7-1)

        Last fall, Michigan State beat Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and a team from the SEC in one season for the first time in program history. This isn’t surprising: Michigan State has won only six games against SEC competition in its history, with four of those wins coming from 1929-1947. What is surprising, however, is the fact that the Spartans beat the Buckeyes, Badgers and Wolverines in the same season for only the second time in program history; the first, in 1987, came during the Spartans’ last outright Big Ten title. Rare? Heck, beating Ohio State and Michigan in the same season is rare enough for Michigan State.

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          All’s Fair in Love, War and Recruiting

          Forget about the fact that Urban Meyer has only been at Ohio State for two months, because it doesn’t matter. Ignore the fact that he’s still seven months away from actually leading the Buckeyes onto the field in a game that counts, because it doesn’t mean a thing. Meyer may be new in town, but that hasn’t stopped him from climbing into the head of nearly every coach in the Big Ten, thanks to a national signing day haul that left all but Michigan’s Brady Hoke in the dust. It’s Hoke, after all, who went toe-to-toe with Ohio State’s newly-minted recruiting giant and more than held his own; it’s also Hoke, reached for comment yesterday, who told an Ohio television station that recruits who have given another program their verbal commitment are still fair game.

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            In Quest of a Perfect, Perfect Month

            Each has a loss, but Michigan State had the good luck to lose in September, outside of Big Ten play, while Nebraska’s setback, at Wisconsin to open October, was of the conference and prime time variety. Not all 6-1 records are created equal, basically. For the Spartans, a loss in Lincoln would be painful but not an insurmountable hurdle to overcome. For the Cornhuskers, a home loss to a team looking to make it four straight marquee wins would end any hopes of participating in the Big Ten title game in the program’s first year in the conference. For Nebraska, it’s a new conference with the same rules: as in the Big 12, head-to-head tiebreakers often cause the deciding blow.

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              Is Tressel an Aristotelian Tragic Hero?

              I thought Michigan’s Brady Hoke had the best quote from today’s Big Ten festivities, when he responded with incredulity to a question about whether Michigan was rebuilding: “I don’t think we’re rebuilding. Period. I mean, we’re Michigan.” That’s the sort of confidence the Wolverines need after three disastrous seasons under Rich Rodriguez. But the quote of the day came from Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, who uttered the following when asked about one of his mentors, Jim Tressel:

              “Every person he’s come in contact with as a player and a coach, he’s made a positive impact on their lives. To me, it’s tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my respect, in my view. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it all in the end and that’s what I’ll look for in the end.”

              Jim Tressel, tragic hero?

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                No. 41: Michigan State

                Is it better to be lucky than good? Who knows. It most definitely is better to be lucky than a little better than average, however. Michigan State ended last season ranked among the top 25 nationally in two significant categories: passing efficiency and punt returns. The Spartans ranked higher than fourth in the Big Ten in only four categories: passing offense, pass efficiency defense, net punting and punt returns. The Spartans tied for the conference title yet led the Big Ten in only net punting and punt returns. Not to hammer the point home, but Michigan State finished fifth or lower in the 11-team Big Ten in the following categories: rush offense, total offense, scoring offense, rush defense, pass defense, total defense, turnover margin and kickoff returns. Regardless: 11 wins.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.