Thursday, December 31, 2009

Texas Tech's Footprint and Other Quick Hits from Texas

DALLAS - I'm sitting in one of the five terminals at the sprawling Dallas/Ft. Worth airport complex, and I've got just a few minutes before my connecting flight to San Antonio boards. With that, let me throw out a few quick hits that may be of interest to TOSSS readers.

I thought that Texas Tech fans would be out in force in Dallas, connecting from points around the country to come to San Antonio. Nope. So far, I've seen fans of the following schools: Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Air Force and, of course, MSU. No Texas Tech.

The shops at DFW carry a range of shirts - U Texas is the biggest seller, according to shop stewards, followed by the Cowboys. I didn't see any Texas Tech gear, and two different shop attendants told me they think the airport doesn't carry any.

They've just called boarding for my flight, so let me leave you with this - Reports from TOSSS contributors already in San Antonio say that the pep rally earlier today was packed with MSU fans, and they vastly outnumbered Texas Tech fans.

Granted, many Tech fans will drive in day of, but so far it's not the fan support I'd expected.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Ethical Question for ESPN and Craig James

By now, you probably know that Texas Tech fired its head coach, Mike Leach, over allegations that he had ESPN analyst Craig James' son (a Tech WR) locked in a confined space for hours on end amidst questions of whether the younger James was really as concussed as he and a physician claimed.

This being a blog about off-the-field things, I won't really get into how much I think this will hurt Texas Tech (a lot, given Leach called the plays), or how this affects the matchup (definitely helps MSU). I want to focus on something that hasn't gotten a lot of play.

Craig James was scheduled to call the Alamo Bowl before all this mess broke. Not before it happened, mind you, not before an internal investigation began. Just before it broke. Of course, as soon as the news broke, ESPN pulled James from the broadcast.

Here's my question: Why in the blue hell was James scheduled to call this game at all? Your son's at the heart of an investigation you very well know could cost the coach his job (which it ultimately did). Your subsequent comments to the media show you obviously think Leach was abusive towards some of his players - your son for one - and that he needed to get canned for the protection of the rest of the men on the squad.

That is a stunning conflict of interest. For one, I don't think parents should call their kids' games. But ESPN obviously thinks that's OK. Set that aside for now though.

As a professional journalist, I can tell you that one of two things happened. Either James didn't tell his assignment editor that this was going on, before or after he got picked to work the game, or the editorial staff at ESPN didn't care.

Michigan State fans who watch the game from home deserve a neutral broadcast booth. Texas Tech fans deserve analysts who aren't out to get their coach. ESPN almost failed their audience and really lucked out that they didn't. Fans deserve more from the "worldwide leader".

I've e-mailed a copy of this post to ESPN's ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer. If he responds to me or on his blog, I'll be sure to post that.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Outnumbered 11 to One, Good Odds for Any Spartan

Michigan State will only sell about half of its 11,000 bowl ticket allocation, while Texas Tech sold theirs out in just two days. As of this writing, Tech fans have bought up 50,000 more, meaning Spartan fans in San Antonio will be outnumbered 11 to 1.

I'm going to tell you right now that won't matter a bit.

Yes, San Antonio is a nine-hour drive from Lubbock, and an easy drive from Red Raider alumni hubs in Dallas, Houston and Austin. It doesn't matter.

Granted, MSU is going in as an underdog. We're already down 14 players, including Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham and Chris L. Rucker. We're so thin at WR, that reportedly Keith Nichol is taking reps at the position. That, plus a 6-6 season and the expense of going to San Antonio caused most Spartan fans to understandably pass on going to the Alamo Bowl. It doesn't matter.

Five friends and I will be sitting in the upper deck, second row in the MSU section. These are the friends who, two years ago at Purdue, literally out-cheered Ross-Ade Stadium for 3/4 of the game. One of these gentlemen, who just so happens to be the co-founder of TOSSS, has been kicked out of the Palace at Auburn Hills for booing so loud a college basketball postgame show was having trouble broadcasting. These are not quiet people.

Texas Tech does not have an Izzone. They do not know what that style of cheering looks like. They'll be sitting down, or cheering when they do well - and no doubt silent for the rest of the game. We live for the second quarter, the third quarter and we'll be there in the fourth quarter whether MSU's up 20 or down 30.

The enemy outnumbers us eleven to one. Good odds for any Spartan.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Airing of Grievances

Today is Festivus, and as astute Seinfeld watchers know, every true Festivus celebration begins with the "Airing of Grievances", where people unload on all the stuff that happened that year that really grinds their gears.

This has been both a great and rough year for MSU athletics, and while TOSSS is usually (and quite correctly) considered a giant homer for the green and white, certain correctable things haven't escaped our notice.

As Frank Costanza would say, "I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it!"

In no particular order:
  • The idiots at Rather Hall - Guys, what were you thinking? OK, so someone jumped your buddy at a club the other night. Call the cops. Tell Mark Dantonio. Tell your leaders on either side of the ball (Kirk Cousins or Greg Jones). Don't go over there with a posse to beat the crap out of the guy. Now MSU is down a ton of players for the Alamo Bowl, and two young men were rightfully kicked off the team.
  • The idiots who started that the night before - Yeah, don't think I'm going to just blame the footballers. I get that you want to be the "Big Men on Campus", but picking a fight with the football team? Really? To me that not only disqualifies you from BMOC, it makes me question why anyone let your sorry self into MSU in the first place.
  • Kirk Cousins - Mate, you played well (mostly), but the off-the-field leadership thing just wasn't there. At all. You want to hold a players-only meeting after a bad loss? Fine. But don't go out and lose the next week in the exact same fashion as the week before. You're the school's first-ever sophomore captain, and that comes with some responsibility. Learn from this in 2010.
  • Dantonio's Depth Chart - You cannot have ambiguity at the QB spot heading into the Notre Dame game. At that point, someone is the clear winner, and someone isn't. And if you've made up your mind (which you had, Nichol never started), let that guy try out the position without worrying that after every mistake he'll get pulled. This Cousins OR Nichol thing is thankfully gone for the Alamo Bowl - and it needs to stay gone.
  • The University of North Carolina men's basketball team. Enough said.
There, I feel better. Now on to the feats of strength!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Big Ten Could Expand to 14 or 16

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Big Ten officials are discussing expanding to 14 or even 16 teams - and that the one-team deal we've all been assuming may be too small for a conference with these grand ambitions.

That would be a huge deal - no major football conference plays with more than 12 teams (SEC, Big 12 are at that number). The Big East plays with 16 teams in basketball, and they have trouble with that system.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say I like 14. It's not unwieldy, but it would allow the Big Ten to add three high-quality schools that would improve the conference's standing nationwide. The general assumption, by the way, is that Notre Dame is still not interested.

So who's a good fit? TOSSS has long advocated adding Pittsburgh, and we stick by that. Others in the mix seem to be Missouri, Iowa State, Rutgers and Syracuse - adding all five gets the Big Ten to 16 teams.

The question then turns to conference alignment - and at bigger numbers it gets easier. Consider these Big Ten East and West alignments:
  • East: MSU, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Indiana, Purdue
  • West: Ohio State, Missouri, Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern
I'm putting Ohio State in the West because otherwise the B-10E is too stacked, especially in the minor sports where Michigan, Penn State and OSU are often three of the strongest. They've got a huge athletics budget, and frankly could handle the increased commuting costs.

If we go to 14 schools, just drop Syracuse and Iowa State, and the alignments still work great. And if it's 12, then just keep Pitt as the only newbie and the numbers still work fine. But looking at these potential alignments, one can see how 14 or 16 might be a better number than 12.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MSU Picked as Away Team for Alamo Bowl

Texas Tech will be the home team at the Valero Alamo Bowl, meaning MSU will likely take the field in it's away whites.

There isn't a chance of color overlap, as the Red Raiders' home uni is black with red accents. MSU has two away unis - white jersey and matching pants or white jersey with green pants. Personally, I'm a fan of the white-on-white

The color palate should make for good viewing, unlike when Indiana and Wisconsin play and it's a red-and-white fiesta. Differing colors just make for a better visual experience.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I'm Going to the Alamo Bowl, Are You?

I have to start this post by saying that my wife is awesome. Less than an hour after we found out that Michigan State would go to the Alamo Bowl, she told me my Christmas prezzie was a trip there.

San Antonio is an amazing place. Actually, amazing isn't the best word for it.

Along the RiverWalk is some of the best Mexican food you've ever had. The bowl game itself is well staffed, smooth running and always a great contest against a great Big 12 team. This year, we'll get all we can handle from Texas Tech, and that was before we lost three starters (and seven others) to suspension stemming from the Rather Hall fight.

Oh, and did I mention it's cheap? I booked a flight from DC for $300 (American does a discount). Didn't do the team hotel (which is right on the RiverWalk, as is the media one), instead got one a few miles out of town for less than $50 a day.

The cheapest tickets to the game are $25. Get into the MSU section for $55 (that's just $6 more than it cost for MSU-Montana State). If you're going, get them through MSU so we sell out our almost-11,000 ticket allotment. The MSU Alumni Association has travel deals as well, which can be found here.

All in all, I wouldn't miss this game. You shouldn't either.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'll be at the Motor City Pizza Pizza Bowl, and I hope MSU is too...

If you want to find me on Dec. 26th, my friends know to just look somewhere in downtown Detroit. I've enjoyed the Motor City Bowl almost every year, and not for the stellar matchup on the field. It has just been an event, a gathering of my friends, and often the last live football game I see each year. Plus it's cheap.

On years where there is a chance that a Big Ten team will be in it, I often buy my tickets several weeks before the end of the season, forking over the higher ticket money for some pretty good seats. This season you'll see me sitting on the 40 yard line. And hopefully, I'll be cheering on Michigan State.

Why would I want MSU to go to this game this year? First and foremost, my personal selfish reasons: It would save me a lot of money, and I already have great seats! It's hard to argue with that, right? If I have tickets either way, I would be pretty weird to be rooting for Middle Tennessee Atlantic Gulf Academy against Central Michigan. But my rational makes sense for a lot of people: It's close and it would save money.

First, lets look at the general fan perspective. There is no possible bowl location this year where more MSU fans could cheer on their team. Look at the Final Four as an example. Detroit turned green that weekend, and there were three other teams supposedly playing too. Sure, the importance of the Motor City Bowl isn't on par with the Final Four, but if MSU can sell fans 74,000 tickets to see them play Montana State in East Lansing, they should be able to sell 50,000 tickets to play someone better in Detroit. Where travel, hotel, tickets, food, other attractions and souvenirs for either the Alamo Bowl or the Insight Bowl would place a trip out of price range for many Michigan families, a day trip to Detroit with dinner at the Coney Island after the game is not much more than going to the movies on a Friday night.

Plus, if you are a hard core State of Michigan sports fan, you could decide to catch MSU in the noon game, and then either the home Pistons or home Red Wings game that night. You'll probably not even see those on TV if you traveled down to Texas or Arizona. The City of Detroit could use the extra tax dollars, and if we want a Motor City Bowl to be around much longer, at some point it would be nice if it actually sold out, or even came close. And the only way that is likely to happen is with Michigan State, Michigan, or perhaps Notre Dame in attendance. Weren't all of those feel good stories on TV about how great it was for Detroit that MSU was in the Final Four nice? You could get your DVR ready for a whole bunch more of those!

Now, lets look at a school perspective. Even before this week's embarrassing "excuse me for a minute Mom while I run across the street and kick the crap out of some short guy" episode, Detroit was not a bad option. Financially speaking, MSU spends a lot of money to play in a bowl. Sure, I'll buy your argument that MSU makes a lot more money, and the bowls pay a lot of expenses. Plus money goes to the Big Ten and is then split between the teams to help everyone. But even with a smaller overall payout to MSU coming from the Detroit game than another possible game, MSU could choose to dramatically save money on their expenses. Just look at all of the people we travel: Football team and staff, athletic department staff, administrators and Board of Trustees, University Relations, SAF (Sparty), Spartan Marching Band, cheerleaders, Spartan Radio, high level donors, Alumni Association staff. We could treat a trip to Detroit like any other bowl game, where many of them get sent days early and put up in hotels, many receiving per diem for every meal. But if MSU plays in Detroit, we wouldn't HAVE to. Many of these people wouldn't need a hotel at all, and if they did it may only be for one night, not three or more. You can forget the cost of the chartered airline plus the additional airfare for all of the people who are not on the chartered flight, plus the cost of the semi trucks of equipment driving across the country (Yeah, we truck the helmets and pads and tubas).

There is a fair argument for the element of prestige. Playing in Detroit is simply not as cool as playing in Texas or Arizona. It may not look as appealing to recruits, to fans hoping for that trip to warm weather, or to the high school student whose looking for a school to apply for college (and is not as interested in how great the Math department is). But I'll make this argument for prestige: It is more prestigious to sell out your ticket allotment and then another 30,000 tickets than to leave half your section empty. It is more prestigious to compete and win a game than to get blown out by 50 against Oklahoma or Texas Tech. It is more prestigious to have your team take the field to thunderous cheers than the boos from the sea of Orange or Red that would far out-number those wearing green. And it is more prestigious to look at this team's goals from the beginning of the season, and be able to say "accomplished." A big goal this season was to WIN a bowl game, not just go. No matter where MSU goes, they will have gone to three straight bowl games, something that has not been done in a long time. That's pretty prestigious too.

So even though I have been hoping for their destination to be Detroit for a while, my mind was firmly made up this week after "the incident." The effect on fan enthusiasm for traveling to a bowl could simply be devastating. If this had happened a few weeks earlier, or a week later, it may not have mattered as much. But the site is announced Sunday, and it came out this week. The timing simply could not be worse for trying to excite fans and trying to sell tickets.

The scenario I fear is that MSU will draw the Alamo Bowl and have to play Oklahoma. For the third straight year, MSU would play the top QB prospect going into the NFL Draft. Winning that game would be difficult at best, and with 6+ starters possibly out for the bowl, it would take darn near a miracle. Knowing this, a large number of fans that may have attended the game now stay home, and our reputation as a school that travels well is hurt badly. That hurts our future bowl selections. And losing the game badly doesn't impress recruits or anyone else. So we would spend a lot more money to go and hurt our recruiting, our future bowl selection chances, and our pride.

Now picture what I've been picturing for the last month: 65,000 screaming fans in green, a bowl victory, family and friends all around, tailgating with hot chocolate and snow football, and an athletic department that can save enough money on the trip to avoid having to make cuts to Volleyball and Wrestling. Recruits with smiles on their faces, and TV stories about how this MSU team has adopted the City of Detroit, lifting it from the ashes one more time, instead of TV stories about our how we didn't travel half our team cause they are thugs.

Either way, I'll be at the Motor City Bowl on December 26th. I just hope MSU is too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Suspensions Could Cost MSU in Bowl Hunt

A fight between Michigan State football players and members of a fraternity, coupled with the dismissal of two players and indefinite suspension of eight more, will almost certainly play into the decision process over where MSU goes bowling.

The only question is how much.

Alamo Bowl spokesman Rick Hill said in an interview here last week that the makeup of the team on gameday is a factor in the selection. His remarks came in the context of Minnesota losing all-everything WR Eric Decker for the season. Well, now MSU has lost starters Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham, Chris L. Rucker and a host of backups. Actually, we didn't lose them, per se, they took themselves out by being morons last week. But I digress.

Ask yourself, who is the better matchup for a Big 12 team with a prolific offense like Oklahoma or Texas Tech? Minnesota, without Decker, or MSU, without Dell, Cunningham and Rucker? Not such an easy question.

And then there's the question of fan enthusiasm. Before this incident, I would have bet serious cash that MSU would out-travel Minnesota. Now? Who knows. San Antonio didn't get any less cool as a destination, but how many alums will pay to see a disappointing team going through the worst scandal since the days of Damon Dowdell and Eric Knott?

Will it all matter? Yes. Will it be enough to keep us from San Antonio? That remains to be seen.

Monday, November 30, 2009

MSU's Bowl Chances: Final Draft

By Sunday evening we'll know where Michigan State is going bowling. It could be San Antonio, it could be Phoenix or, if unlikely events converge, it could be Detroit.

Currently, there are just two big questions remaining. First, will the Big Ten get two teams in the BCS? If they do, then the Big Ten won't have enough teams to send one to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Under that scenario, the Alamo Bowl would pick between MSU and Minnesota, with MSU seen to be the favorite.

That scenario seems most likely. There are six conferences that automatically get BCS invites, and undefeated TCU will qualify for an automatic slot as a high-ranking mid-major. That leaves just three spots open. One goes to the loser of the SEC Championship, leaving two. The options remaining are a second team from the Big Ten, (likely) undefeated Boise State and, maybe if Cincy loses to Pitt, the Bearcats. Given how much the Fiesta Bowl wants Iowa, and how much the Orange Bowl wants Penn State, one of them will get picked.

That much is certain, unless Nebraska upsets Texas in the Big 12 championship. In that case, you've got to like Texas' odds of picking up an at-large spot, leaving a big-time bowl the option of choosing between Iowa, Penn State and Boise State.

Question two is more difficult: Who do you like between MSU and Minnesota? Both teams are 6-6 and Minnesota won the head-to-head matchup. On the other hand, MSU finished stronger and travels MUCH better.

Should the Big Ten only get one team in the BCS, I think George Perles and Lloyd Carr will find a way to talk the Insight Bowl folks into taking the Gophers, possibly by guaranteeing their entire ticket allocation. That way, they could have an in-state team and a possible MSU-Central rematch. Of course, if the Big Ten can't send a team to the Detroit game, there's a good-sized chance that Notre Dame might fall there as an at-large, and ND-Central would actually be a pretty good game.

As it stands, with no more games to be played by State and just one more week to go, the guess here is that MSU winds up in the Valero Alamo Bowl. I'll say that's an 85% chance, with a 10% chance we go Insight and 5% that we fall to Detroit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A New Argument for Notre Dame to Join the Big Ten

After yet another season of mediocrity, a Chicago Sun Times columnist has taken an interesting tack to the question of whether or not Notre Dame ought to swallow their pride and join the Big Ten.

The argument in many ways makes sense, and it's what you've heard before. It's better for the non-football sports - especially men's and women's basketball. It's better for academics.

But as veteran writer Herb Gould points out, the best incentive for joining the Big Ten is that it would reduce the pressure on Notre Dame. "At Notre Dame, having no conference pretty much puts the Irish on a jittery tightrope from the opening kickoff every season. The Subway Alumni need to realize the days of Rockne and Leahy and Ara -- and even Holtz -- are over. Everybody's on TV. Everybody can recruit and play a national schedule."

Gould said the money issue with NBC could be worked out, and there's a really sensible way to do that. Give NBC the option on taking the #1 Big Ten game every week that Notre Dame is at home, and first choice of Big Ten games that don't involve the Irish when they're on the road. NBC would pay more and, in return, get the occasional Michigan-Ohio State, Penn State-MSU or Iowa-Wisconsin, big games that drive national ratings.

That said, Gould also calls for ND to fire Charlie Weis and hire Cincy's Brian Kelly (the guy MSU would have hired had it not been for one M. Dantonio). And that would make sense - so don't worry about that happening. Still, we can dream can't we?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alamo Bowl Official: MSU an Attractive Candidate

Given that present discussion that's dominating among MSU football fans - that being where MSU will be going bowling - I thought we'd talk with someone who could shed some light on that. So I called up the good folks at the Valero Alamo Bowl, whose pick is likely to decide the matter. Should they pick us, we'll go there. If they don't, we're headed to Phoenix.

The Alamo Bowl is preparing to pick between Michigan State and Minnesota, assuming two Big Ten teams make a BCS bowl, Alamo officials confirmed today. Rick Hill, vice president of marketing for the Valero Alamo Bowl, declined in an interview today to say who the favorite was between the two, but said MSU was an attractive candidate.

Key among the factors is the ability to quickly mobilize fans to buy tickets and book their flights. "We’ve learned that within 48 hours of the announcement, if your fan base hasn’t decided, they're probably not going."

Several factors are working in MSU's favor. For one, MSU has a higher average home attendance, though Minnesota sold out every game in the new TCF Bank Stadium. Secondly, MSU has a strong history of traveling well to bowls - both the last two years in Orlando and in 2003 to the Alamo Bowl. Officials in San Antonio haven't forgotten the sea of green that descended on the town then, and that works in our favor now. Lastly, MSU has a massive alumni base in Texas, which could just drive to the game.

Given that MSU and Minnesota are both a disappointing 6-6, and the options from the Big 12 are largely between nearby Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Hill said they're expecting the Big 12 to carry the day in terms of ticket sales. While Alamo Bowl officials want both teams to sell out their allocations, the large base of fans from the Big 12 will allow them tilt further in favor of the team that will give the best game.

Bowl selections based on competitiveness don't hinge on who necessarily beat whom during the regular season - though that does matter. Instead, Hill said, it's who will give you the best game on January 2.

It's a little tougher there - especially given that Minnesota beat MSU in Minneapolis on Halloween. However, the Gophers have fallen precipitously since then and continue to be without their star wide receiver, Adam Decker. MSU, on the other hand, has come to play against two heavily-favored squads the last two years that both featured legit NFL prospects (Boston College, led by Matt Ryan, and Georgia, led by Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford).

I asked Hill again who he thought might be there - if he'd put a percentage on MSU's likelihood of being involved. He, quite politically correctly, declined so to do.

It's worth noting that if only one Big Ten team makes the BCS, MSU is all-but certain to miss the Alamo Bowl. Hill said they'd have to add in either Wisconsin or Northwestern to the mix and, while he wouldn't say it, I'd put money down that we won't jump either of those squads.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Coverage Map: MSU-Penn State

Michigan State's regular season-ending clash against Penn State will be the national game across most of America Saturday, the only exception being a small swath of ACC country from Georgia to Washington D.C.

The battle for the Land Grant Trophy is the ABC national game in most major alumni markets like Michigan, Chicago, Orange County, Texas, Denver and New York. Alaska and Hawaii, not pictured at left, will also get MSU-Penn State on ABC.

ESPN will carry the game for the rest of the country, but strangely enough, only in standard definition. ESPN News will run on ESPN's HD channel.

I don't really understand that call, but apparently someone in Bristol thinks the rest of the country doesn't need to watch football in high def, but needs their studio news recap in crystal-clear HD.

FYI, the game opposite ours is Virginia @ Clemson.

Monday, November 16, 2009

U2 Tickets On Sale Tuesday

Tickets to U2's June 30 Spartan Stadium show go on presale to Spartan fans Tuesday at noon, and you can get them if you know the secret passcode. Luckily enough, it was e-mailed to everyone and their mother today, including certain blog writers.

To get your tickets, click here and enter the passcode GREEN.

There is a presale for paying members of U2's fan club, which starts two hours earlier, but I think most of our readers have better things to do with their cash than pay to join a band's fan club. Just saying.

By the way, we're hearing that U2's opening act has been confirmed as the Black Eyed Peas. So that's something.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Equipment Manager Gets Game Ball for Making Nike Uniforms Look Good

It had to happen, just like a stuck clock happens to be right once a day, but someone has finally figured out how to make a new Nike uniform look good.

The person who did was Texas Christian's equipment manager, who came up with this look. The front of the jersey says "Horned Frogs", inside the collar says "Don't Back Down". There are two red lines on the helmet, representing the twin streams of blood a horned frog shoots from its eyes as a defense mechanism. And, of course, there's the incredible charcoal gray pants - a highly underutilized color in uniforms, I think. For comparison, compare the new uniform at left to TCU's old uniform. It's not even close.

In fact, the change was so good that TCU's coach gave a game ball to the equipment manager who designed the new unis.

I'm not usually a fan of changing MSU's traditional home uniform (green shirt, white pants, green helmet with the Spartan logo) too much, but I am one of those Spartan fans that doesn't mind a third color in the black/gray scheme - and wouldn't mind us trying those charcoal gray pants.

MSU's men's basketball squad occasionally rocks the newest Nike designs - those tight-hugging shirts for example - and while sometimes they'll have a few nice features, you'll never look at the jersey and go "whoa."

Perhaps that kid from TCU would be free to lend a hand on a new design.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gameday Forecast: Michigan State @ Purdue

The sun just rose over Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana where the temperature is already 47 in route to the predicted high of 70. Slight winds of 10-20 MPH won't do much to cool the air and spoil what might be one of the last beautiful weekends before winter. You'll see some clouds roll past but nothing should be too permanent, and the sun should stay out most of the day. The first tailgating lots opened about 40 minutes ago, and you can already hear that annoying train horn.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, November 13, 2009

MSU's Bowl Chances: Two Weeks Out

We'll start this week by outlining the rules. Slight update from the last post: The Champs Sports Bowl picks before the Alamo Bowl this year. Also, if a 6-6 team gets picked before a 7-5 team, the 7-5 team must have an affiliated bowl to land in. With that, let's get to it.

To me, the Big Ten splits into three levels at this point. Iowa has one loss, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have two. Iowa is @ Ohio State this weekend, and the winner of that will almost certainly go to the Rose Bowl. Realistically, the loser probably isn't going to get picked for the BCS. Penn State closes home to Indiana and @ MSU and if the Nittany Lions win both then they and their massive fan base will have an in at a second BCS bid. Should TCU lose to Utah, but especially if Boise State loses to Idaho, that shot would become almost automatic.

However, for these purposes, I'm assuming that Iowa/OSU gets to the Rose Bowl and that Penn State doesn't get picked as an at large. Three reasons: I think the MSU game may actually go our way. I also think that it would be next to impossible to pass on an undefeated Boise or TCU. Finally, Oregon and Arizona have the inside track on winning the Pac 10 and a two-loss USC would get picked ahead of a two-loss Penn State.

Given that, I've got Penn State in the Capital One Bowl, the loser of Iowa @ OSU (the guess here is Iowa) in the Outback Bowl and Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.

That leaves the second tier schools: MSU, Minnesota, Northwestern and Michigan. Purdue, Illinois and Indiana can only finish 6-6 at best, and none would get picked ahead of the four second-tier schools.

Minnesota is an almost near-mortal lock to finish 6-6. Their next game is against South Dakota State, a good FCS school, but an FCS school nevertheless. Their final game is @ Iowa. 'Nuff said.

Northwestern and MSU both have a game they'll be favored in followed by a game they'll be picked to lose, though both are winnable or loseable. For NW, it's @ Illinois then home to Wisconsin. For MSU, it's @ Purdue then home to Penn State.

Michigan has by far the toughest road to a bowl, finishing up @ Wisconsin then home to Ohio State.

So who gets in? Well, we'll start by assuming that Minn., NW and MSU all finish up at 6-6. I simply don't think Michigan has another win left in them, and will finish 5-7. Their chance to get bowl eligible died when they let Purdue come back from two touchdowns last weekend.

Minnesota beat both Northwestern and Michigan State, but that doesn't matter at all compared to who will fill up the Alamo Bowl best. Frankly, that's probably Michigan State. Add that to the fact that MSU traveled very well in 2003 to the Alamo Bowl, and you'll see MSU headed to Texas once again.

That leaves Minnesota and Northwestern for the Insight Bowl, and conventional wisdom says Northwestern goes to the Insight Bowl. I wouldn't pick that way, but I think that's the read people much closer to the situation are getting, so I'll defer to their wisdom. That leaves Minnesota with a trip to Detroit and the Little Caesars Bowl.

Should Penn State get picked to go to a BCS bowl, who would go to Detroit? Well, another team would have to qualify, and of the other three schools, Purdue has the easiest road. They finish home to MSU and @ Indiana, and I think it would be easier for Purdue to win both than for Michigan to beat either Wisconsin away or Ohio State at home. Indiana has to win @ Penn State before that Purdue clash, and Indiana has never beaten Penn State, ever. Illinois closes out with winnable home games against Northwestern and Fresno State sandwiching a game they won't win - @ Big East leader Cincinnati.

With two games to play, the pick is MSU to the Alamo Bowl.

Live Sports Radio?

So I have to assume that many of you season ticket holders, as well as those of you fortunate to be on MSU's sports mailing lists (probably from ordering a ticket in the past at some point) have been receiving the email blasts every few games touting Live Sports Radio. First they wanted you to simply trust and buy, but now they are offering a "free sample" which I can only assume is something to the effect of: Here, try the radio for the Penn State game. If you like it, just keep it and we'll charge you.

My understand of this radio (from my limited attempt at research) is that it basically is a um... radio. It gets the local broadcast of the MSU game, which I'm sure we all love. Thing is, everyone's radio gets this. It's on 1240AM, and it comes in pretty good in Spartan Stadium.

Where I could see myself really enjoying this is at away games. When I visit Purdue this weekend, there is no chance I'll be able to hear George Blaha's "Touchdown, MSU!" If I had this product, my understanding is that it should work.

Their website suggests that it will work at every stadium, but is being broadcast on low power so if you head out early, or are coming late, you may not get reception at your tailgate. They also are very heavily mentioning that there is "No Delay." Is this a current issue when listening to local radio?

One other item of note: The website mentions that it will work "all season." It also mentions that new radios may be available in coming seasons. A FAQ on their website asks about turning it in at the end of the season, and the answer is "There is no need to turn your radio in, once you purchase it is yours to enjoy. It will continue to be useful as an FM scan radio." Notice they did not say something like "It will be useful again next season." Finally, in the FAQ's is a mention that it will need to be reprogrammed for each upcoming season in order to work. Cost: Currently $10.

There are many questions I have with this, but I will be looking at one during the Penn State game. Has anyone used this? What was your experience? Is the value at home games significantly greater than using a normal AM/FM radio? What about away games?

Right now, my instinct says that this is only a product I would want if I needed it at away games to hear George Blaha.

Twitter Hearts Shannon Brown

Former Michigan State basketball star Shannon Brown has become an absolute phenom online, thanks to his sensational aerial acrobatics, including thundering dunks that seem to come from the rafters.

Brown outdid himself Thursday, with a breakaway jam from almost the top of the key against the Suns. That dunk helped make his name the third biggest trending topic on Twitter after the game concluded. The dunk in question can be seen here:

About the only question left is whether or not Brown is the best former Spartan in the NBA - which is precisely why we've got polls on this site. Check the right rail and let us know your opinion.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Steps to Becoming Duke

The Lansing State Journal ran a great package this week comparing MSU basketball to Duke, noting that the last great hurdle to clear in MSU's rise is to get it into the conversation of the absolute top-tier basketball programs in America.

North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke. That tier.

Tom Izzo told the LSJ's Joe Rexrode that his goal was to take care of every notch between now and that level before he retires. Filling up Midnight Madness was one such notch, but there are more. Izzo's remaining notches are unknown, but here are my thoughts.
  • Sell out every home game. There are still tickets left for our opener against Florida Gulf Coast, for example.
  • Move the Izzone so the TV cameras see it. It boggles my mind that the head-on section the main TV camera sees is the only one in the lower bowl without the Izzone in it. At Duke you see the Cameron Crazies in all their glory. Should be the same at Breslin.
  • Get big games on big TV every year. We're doing that already, with games against Texas, UNC, Gonzaga and Illinois getting the big TV treatment. That has to continue
  • Win those games. The two big losses against UNC hurt, and can't become a trend. You don't want to become the Ohio State football of the college basketball world. With all our injuries, that game against Gonzaga actually scares me.
  • Second round or better every year. Getting to the tournament is key for any school. This year we should go a bit further, but in a bad year we should get to the second round of the tournament.
This is the biggest one though: Don't change how we recruit.

MSU has never recruited a one-and-done player. We never should. Let the Greg Odens and John Walls and Kevin Durants of the world go to Ohio State, Kentucky and Texas, respectively. MSU cannot try and out-sexy these folks. We need to keep that blue collar attitude and the four and five-year players that make MSU what it is.

There are a lot of shady characters in prep basketball and on college basketball coaching staffs (ahemJohnCalipariahem) and thankfully MSU hasn't been mentioned in connection with any of them. Tom Izzo is the biggest reason why it hasn't been.

Actually, not changing how we recruit isn't the biggest thing. Keep Tom Izzo - that's the biggest thing. If Tom Izzo becomes our version of John Wooden or Joe Paterno, that's more than OK by me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Suzy Merchant Expecting Two Bundles of Joy

MSU women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant is expecting a big season from her 10th-ranked Spartan team, followed by a big summer capped by the expected birth of her second child.

Merchant told the team she before the season, which began with a big exhibition win over Wayne State, that she was pregnant. Merchant has a two-year-old son Tyler.

Big things are expected of the Spartans, who are led by 6'9 center and All-America candidate Alyssa DeHaan. Last year's season ended in the Sweet Sixteen with a crushing come-from-ahead loss to Iowa State. This year's team is talking Final Four. Making it there would be the first "bundle of joy" referred to in the headline.

After the season closes, Merchant will add another member to the Spartan family. Let me take this chance, from all of us at TOSSS, to wish nothing but the very best to the entire Merchant family.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lowered Expectations

There used to be a sketch on MadTV titled "Lowered Expectations." In it, characters who haven't had luck in the dating scene decide that the only way to finally find "The One" would be to go on TV and talk about what they're willing to settle for.

That's this football season for me.

At the beginning of the season, we were Rose Bowl bound. After the loss to Notre Dame, it was that we could still make a New Year's Day bowl. Before the Iowa game, it was back to win out and make the Rose Bowl.

Now our best case scenario is a middle-tiered bowl game.

At the beginning of the season, the predictions were that MSU would go 10-2 or 9-3. The lowest available selection in one media poll was 7-5 - predictions below that being dismissed as wild, pessimistic antifantasies or the results of some online Wolverine trolls.

Now we've got to win out for 7-5. Just to make a bowl game we'll have to either beat a surging Purdue team on the road or take out #11 Penn State at home, not to mention take care of Western Michigan on Saturday.

Michigan State football is like that pudgy guy at the bar who only has eyes for the former cheerleader in the far corner. Well, she shot him down, her two friends followed suit and now, an hour before last call, he's slumping in a corner, beer spilled on his shirt, talking about the banalities of his job to some poor sop who couldn't find another open seat.

But there's still time left on the clock. This season, like that poor guy's night, can still be a success. Just with lowered expectations.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sellout Uncertain For Western Game

About 1,000 tickets remain for Michigan State's must-win clash against in-state rivals Western Michigan, MSU football officials announced today.

Tickets are priced at $49, and that could be a problem given how cheap they are online on resale websites. As of this writing, a pair of tickets in Section 9 (opposite the press box, between the 50 and south side 30) were going for $40. The cheapest tickets available were listed for $18.

Tickets are available through the athletic ticket office. Here's hoping for a sellout.

Monday, November 2, 2009

MSU's Bowl Chances: Three Weeks Out

Michigan State is sitting at 4-5 with three games to go, the upcoming one being against 17-point-underdog Western Michigan. Following that are games away to Purdue (3-6 overall) and the final at home to #11 Penn State (8-1).

MSU needs to win two games to become bowl eligible and three to guarantee a bowl bid. Assuming that happens, what bowl is MSU likely to make? Well, let's start with the position MSU might have in the pecking order.

The top three, in some order, are almost certainly Iowa, Penn State and Ohio State. Wisconsin, at 6-2, is riding high and will likely claim the fourth spot. That leaves us on the next tier with Minnesota, Northwestern and Michigan, all at 5-4, while MSU and Indiana sit at 4-5. For argument's sake, since Indiana's remaining schedule is @ Wisconsin, @ Penn State and home to Purdue, I'm going to guess that IU won't win two games, thus making them ineligible.

That's eight teams for seven bowl games. Minnesota's remaining schedule (vs. Illinois, vs. South Dakota State, @ Iowa) is favorable, while Michigan and Northwestern are even money to, like MSU, finish 6-6.

So let's allocate the bowl games, for the moment assuming that the Big Ten sends both Iowa and Penn State to BCS bowls. The Capital One and Outback, the other two New Year's bowls select Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively, while Minnesota goes to the Alamo Bowl. By rule, a 7-5 team must get picked over a 6-6 squad, so the fact that Minnesota is a terrible traveling team won't hurt them in this scenario.

The Champs Sports Bowl gets to choose next, between MSU, Michigan and Northwestern. MSU beat both squads, but that doesn't matter nearly as much as which school will travel best. Michigan does travel better than MSU, however we've done well two years in a row bringing fans to Orlando. Still, Michigan hasn't gone bowling in a year, so there's a little more pent-up demand on their end.

Whoever doesn't get picked is likely the favorite to go to the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., with Northwestern headed to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

Right now, the most likely scenario would see Michigan State head to the Insight Bowl. That prediction assumes we'll win two of the next three games, likely against Western Michigan and @ Purdue.

Granted that it's not the destination we were all hoping for in August, but I could do with a New Year's Eve in Arizona, couldn't you?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gameday Forecast: Michigan State @ Minnesota

Today's game in Minneapolis won't just end under the lights, it will be a true night game from start to finish. Sunset is expected at 6:02 p.m. Central time, with kickoff starting after 7 p.m Central (8 p.m. Eastern).

Game time temperature will be about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, though it'll feel like 32. Winds will stay around 10 miles per hour all game. There's barely any chance of rain at all.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Final Four Friday: Halloween Costumes for the Minnesota Game

Michigan State will be the first Halloween visitor at Minnesota's new TCF Bank Stadium, and if you're going to go you might want to dress the part. But what Halloween costume to wear? That's where we come in, and that's this week's Final Four Friday.

Eric Decker - Minnesota is generally an hospitable destination for visitors, but this outfit might be pushing your luck. The Golden Gophers' best player, wide receiver Eric Decker, is out of the game with a foot injury. Make the costume with a pair of crutches, and exaggerated plaster cast on your left foot. Problem is, you'd have to wear Gophers colors to pull off the outfit, and it is a bit subtle unless you've got a Decker jersey, and that makes it a very expensive costume indeed.

King Leonidas - It's a typical one for Spartan fans since the movie 300 came out, but King Leonidas is always a popular getup. Roman sandals, a Spartan-style helmet, short shorts, leg and arm shields are mandatory for this one. Most costumes come with a red cape, you'll want a dark green one instead. Be careful because some folks consider a shield a weapon - and every stadium security guard will take issue with a spear.

Mark Dantonio - This is probably the easiest costume on the list. Start with a green MSU sports polo or hoodie and khaki pants. Complete the ensemble by finding an old set of aviator headphones with a mouthpiece (check your local thrift or pawn shop) and removing one of the earpieces.

You'll want to make sure to have a constant scowl on your face, or people won't quite get it. For extra oomph, find a gaudy ring to double as his 2002 Ohio State national championship ring.

Lou Anna Simon - This is one of the best ladies costumes, and very very easy to do. The key is to find a green suit, and again I'd check the thrift stores for that. Put a black turteneck under it and a simple piece of chain jewelery, preferably with an MSU charm on it. Glasses are optional.

The nice thing about the Simon costume is that it's a ladies costume that doesn't have the word "sexy" in front of it. Typically, good costumes are either sexy or funny/creative, with the trend for women going toward sexy at all costs. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, but it's nice to have alternatives like this one. However, if you decide to make a sexy President Simon costume, be that on your own conscience.

And the winner is... King Leonidas.

Anyone willing to stand in Minnesota weather in late October wearing little but a Speedo in the name of MSU should get a medal - and a psychological evaluation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Would Publicly Accountable Refs Clean Up Bad Calls?

The Lansing State Journal published an unsigned editorial today calling for Big Ten football officials to attend post-game press conferences as one of a two steps it said could help clean up officiating mistakes in the conference. The other move the Journal is key on is hiring full-time referees to lead the otherwise part-time crews (currently all refs are part timers).

The idea of media (and therefore public) accountability is one that has been traditionally shunned by most sports leagues. No major U.S. sports league has referees make public statements after games. And some European sports leagues - the English Premier League for example - gives stiff fines to any player or manager who dares to harshly criticize the referees who worked their match.

That attitude may be changing, however, and it has started with a league not known for being on the leading edge of progress - Major League Baseball. It started with a terrible call in game four of the American League Championship Series by third base umpire Tim McClelland, when two Yankees were standing off third base, both were tagged out yet only one was called out. McClelland, who has a fairly good reputation among MLB officials, decided to sit down with the media afterwards, take his medicine and explain how he botched the thing.

The Southeastern Conference has begun exposing referees to scrutiny as well, publicly reprimanding and suspending the officials who worked the Arkansas-Florida game this year and missed calls that wound up helping Florida on its winning drive. Such public reprimands are anathema to the Big Ten, which by its internal policy doesn't comment on officiating.

Could such scrutiny help clean up officiating? Perhaps. But it certainly won't help MSU after the fact when it gets hammered by a non-existent personal foul call and a non-review of a clear fumble. No one is going to go back and change the result and Sparty doesn't get a do-over of the whole Iowa game.

I'd love to see penalties be reviewable under the current replay system, particularly if they are large, drive-sustaining ones late in the game. Subjecting officials to post-game press conferences does nothing to change egregious errors on the field.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Confirmed: U2 to Play Spartan Stadium

It's official. Bono, the Edge and the rest of U2 will play Spartan Stadium on June 30, 2010.

The band is planning to use a central stage, which would allow for the use of all the seats, plus the possible addition of floor seats. U2 is the first rock supergroup to play Spartan Stadium since the Rolling Stones did so in 1994.

The best news for MSU football fans in all this: Playing in late June should give the turf time to recover - or give MSU officials time enough to install new grass - before the first game of football season in late August.

An Actual Terrorist Threat on Campus

Those MSU fans who attended a game before 9/11 will recall the vast difference in security procedures before and after the terrorist attacks. The thought at the time was that terrorists might target dense groups of people like those at football stadiums in their next attack.

To this day, there have been no credible terrorist threats on campus, until now. A 17-year-old freshman was arrested last week for making a terrorist threat. That student is now no longer enrolled at MSU, university spokesman Terry Denbow told the State News.

So far there's no information as to what threat was made, or how close to execution it was. That information is critical before adjusting any security protocol at sporting events.

But rest assured that there will be an increase in security at on-campus sports events. There always are after these sorts of scares. We'll be tracking this case as it continues, as well as any event security changes that may be made as a result of it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gameday Forecast: Iowa @ Michigan State

Today will best be described as damp in East Lansing as the cold air will turn colder and wetter throughout the day. Expect the morning and early afternoon hours to be high 40's and cloudy, but mid afternoon should see a drizzle start as the temperature drops.

By game time, expect temperatures in the low 40's and that cold drizzle to continue into the second half. Winds should be moderate, between 10 and 20 MPH. Look on the bright side: Rain always looks cool under the lights!

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tickets Available for Tomorrow!

If you are interested in seeing MSU's only home night game this season, in what may end up being the biggest game of the season, tickets are still available here.

This is such a big game that I find it very surprising that any tickets are still available. This game needs to be a sellout.

One other note: MSU has closed Munn Field for parking tomorrow due to weather. This is probably a good thing since this is one of the worst places to tailgate anyway...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MSU-Iowa, UFC in Bar TV Fight

If you're outside East Lansing and planning to head to a sports bar to watch MSU-Iowa you might be out of luck - not just to find a TV with the game on but also to find a seat at the bar.

The reason for that is an unfortunate match up with the most popular sports bar destination programming today, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC 104, featuring a Light Heavyweight title fight between Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

Typically UFC events start at 10 p.m., which one wouldn't think would be an issue going up against a first kick in the MSU-Iowa tilt at just after 8 p.m. There are two problems with that logic, however.

First, the UFC event is on pay per view, meaning that if any bar is showing it they're paying a cover fee against the estimated total capacity of their venue. Since they're literally on the hook for you watching the UFC anyways, many sports bars refuse to change even one television to alternate programming. Second, in order to up their buy rate, the UFC broadcasts some preliminary bouts free on Spike TV at 9 p.m. Before they did that, most bars showing the fights were full at 8:45. Now, you're lucky if you can get a seat by 8.

For some Spartan bars, like the Capitol Lounge in Washington, D.C., this won't be an issue. The basement of the bar is packed to the gills for any MSU football game, and the crowd goes from "standing room only" to "packed like sardines" for the bigger games.

However, if it's just a small group of Spartan fans attending, you likely won't be that lucky. Don't make the mistake of showing up to watch a game that won't be broadcast. Call ahead to make sure, and be sure to speak with a manager who has control of the televisions to make a reservation and arrange which TV will show the Spartan game.

By the way, there are two MSU alums who fight in the UFC - former Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans and lightweight contender Gray Maynard. Neither are fighting at UFC 104, so you won't have to worry about missing a Spartan in action.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Broadcasting at the Breslin Center

I don't need to tell any Michigan State fan just how magical a venue the Jack Breslin Student Events Center can be. The banners in the rafters attest to the iconic players and teams that have graced its floors. And for broadcasters, calling a match at the Breslin Center is as sure a sign as any that you've officially made it.

The MSU volleyball team will take to the hallowed floor of the Breslin Center tonight at 7 p.m. when they face arch-rival Michigan. It's likely to be the largest home crowd volleyball crowd this year - and no wonder since anyone with an MSUFCU membership or credit/debit card gets in free, while the first 500 fans get a free "Bust Breslin" shirt.

With all that in mind, we asked the nation's best volleyball broadcaster, MSU's own John Kreger, what it's like to call a game at the Breslin Center, and what it means to be doing so for a game involving the always-hated Wolverines. His remarks are reprinted below.


I'm very excited to get the chance to broadcast another match at the Breslin Center. As someone who has a great respect for the traditions at MSU, to be able to call matches from a building that has seen so much success makes the Michigan-Michigan State match mean even more. I'm also at the scorers table, as opposed to in the upper deck at Jenison, so I'm right on top of the action, and I feed off of that. It makes for a fun night.
The Michigan-Michigan State matches are the highlight of my broadcast year. This will be my 17th State Pride match (The annual competition between the two schools) and the energy I get from being a part of these matches is unlike any other. I think, however, that's because I get to enjoy them as a fan. When I've asked the two coaches I've worked for about their feelings on the match, they've told me that playing Michigan presents unique challenges. It's important to do well against your rival, and understand the tradition that goes with competition between the two schools. That said, they do their best to keep the routine as normal as possible. Athletes sometimes rely on routine to get them ready for a match, and so they keep things relatively static no matter who is on the other side of the net.
Last year's UM-MSU match was one of the top 5 matches of my nine years behind the Spartan microphone. When you factor in the fact that MSU had just lost Jenilee Rathje for the season with an ACL the night before, the heart showed by Cathy's team as they won in four sets ranks as one of the all-time grittiest performances I've ever seen.
The crowd at the Breslin will be key. Last year a school record 5200 plus fans packed Breslin, and believe me, they had an impact. You could see the players being lifted by the crowd all night. The student presence was HUGE, and we need that again this year.
What does Michigan State-Michigan mean to me personally? When it comes to sports, If I could only watch two teams play against each other, in any sport, for the rest of my life, I'd choose Michigan State-Michigan. I have been on both sides of this rivalry. One of the reasons I got in to broadcasting was listening to longtime Michigan football play-by-play man Bob Ufer. My Grandfather on Mom's side lived and died with the Wolverines, and my mother has three Michigan degrees. On my dad's side, eight members of our family, including my father and myself, over three generations, have called MSU home. To have the rivalry I hold most dear also be a part of my profession is a true blessing.
Michigan brings the #11 team in the nation into Breslin tonight. They are the second of three straight ranked teams we'll play, and they present a stern challenge. The Wolverines were within 3 points of ending Penn State's 80 plus match win streak this past weekend, and are the only school to take the Nittany Lions to 5 sets this year. They say though, that when these two teams meet none of that matters, so the only thing I'm sure of is that both sides will leave everything on the floor.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Things a Mascot Should Never Do

Mascots exist to help rile up a crowd, pose for pictures with little kids and, during games, lightly piss off the other team's players. Minnesota's Goldy Gopher, it seems, took that a step too far.

In the clip, Goldy is mimicking a Penn State player while holding his nose. No one really has a problem with that. Then the Penn State player takes a knee and begins a pre-game prayer. Goldy mimics him throughout the prayer and gets up to again hold his nose at the player. Not cool.

There are just some things that are off limits for mascots to poke fun at. Generally, racial stereotypes are the biggest no-no. Disability is high up there too and I think religion has to be as well.

Unfortunately, MSU is sitting in a bit of a glass house on this one as I'm sure many universities with mascots are. Back in 2003, Sparty did a "blind ref" sketch video for a mascot competition that the Council for Students with Disabilities found out about (because he happened to stumble into a CSD event at the Union while wearing a ref jersey and using a cane). Full disclosure, while at school I was a member of CSD and, while I wasn't there for this incident, fully supported their condemnation.

On balance, however, the Sparty program is one of the university's biggest successes. Multiple national championships and even a video game cover have been awarded to the most recognizable college mascot in the world. Negative incidents are, thankfully, rare.

However, when they do happen the folks in charge of the Sparty program promptly apologize and change their behavior. The folks running the Goldy Gopher program at Minnesota would be wise to do the same.

Update: The University of Minnesota has issued an apology, which is reprinted in full here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sorry Folks, No College GameDay for Iowa Game

After beating Northwestern, some Spartan fans took to the blogosphere wondering if MSU might have a shot at landing its fifth College GameDay broadcast.

As Lee Corso might say, not so fast my friends.

GameDay will originate live from the "Battle of the Believers" in Provo, Utah, where #10 Texas Christian takes on #16 Brigham Young. I call it that not just because it's going to be the highest-ranking clash between two faith-based schools this year, but because the winner of this game will still have faith it can crash the BCS.

Michigan State has hosted the football version of GameDay four times, in 1997 and 1999 against Michigan, in 2004 against Notre Dame and in 2005 against Penn State. MSU is 1-3 in those games, the only win coming in 1999 against Michigan.

MSU's last shot at hosting GameDay this year will be the November 21 tilt against Penn State which, if both teams win out from here, will be played for a Big Ten title and an almost guaranteed shot at a Rose Bowl bid.

Here's hoping.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gameday Forecast: Northwestern @ Michigan State

Spartan football in October ought to be contested on a clear, crisp autumn day. It just feels right with that nip in the air, the hot chocolate vendors flogging their drinks in souvenir mugs and folks starting to bundle up in their green coats, scarves and earmuffs.

So it will be today, as an overnight low of 34 degrees warms to just 47 in the afternoon under partly sunny skies, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids. Winds will be consistent but not strong, between seven and 13 miles per hour.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Breslin Hits Capacity for Midnight Madness

Midnight Madness has officially attracted a capacity crowd for the first time in MSU history!

The Detroit News reported that a crowd of 14,759 jammed the Breslin Center, which they said was full by 10:30 p.m. The LSJ said the lower bowl was filled minutes after the doors opened at 9:30 p.m. Way to support your team Spartan fans!

Any Chance of a Capacity Crowd Tonight?

Tom Izzo wants a capacity crowd for Midnight Madness and he's got a good argument for getting it this year. The men's basketball team is ranked by almost everyone in the top two or three heading into the 2009/10 year, while the women are a consensus preseason top ten.

Tonight is your the first chance to see a bulked-up Tom Herzog and a slimmed-down Derrick Nix in action. It's also your chance to see what crazy costume Izzo will don this year (my favorite remains his Leonidas from 300 getup a few years back).

But despite capacity crowds being a near certainty at most big-time basketball schools tonight (Kentucky and Kansas, for example), MSU has never had a sellout for midnight madness. Its a streak that shouldn't exist, given the rich basketball tradition at Michigan State.

This year, there's even more to do. In addition to Izzo's usual theatrics, the 2009 Final Four banner will be raised to the rafters before the event begins. If you're planning to get to East Lansing earlier, women's swimming takes on Illinois at 5 p.m., the homecoming parade begins at 6 and women's volleyball takes on the always dangerous Ohio State at 6:30.

For Midnight Madness, doors open at 9:30 p.m. to an autograph and picture session in the Breslin Center concourse. The program begins at 10:30 p.m. and the men's team takes the floor around midnight.

If you're in or around East Lansing tonight, be sure to be there. You'd make Tom Izzo very happy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Could the Big Ten Leave Detroit?

Earlier this week it looked like a done deal that Detroit's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (formerly the Motor City Bowl) would continue to be affiliated with the Big Ten Conference, albeit as the eighth choice rather than the seventh.

However, the Big Ten's official bowl announcement for 2010-13 came and went with no mention of a Detroit game. At that point, the guess was that it just wasn't officially signed but would be worked out quickly.

Perhaps it's not that simple. The latest word out of Detroit, according to the Associated Press, is that a decision could come sometime next week. However, lost in the story is a little nugget of information that the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is in talks with the Big East to step in and face a top team from the Mid-American Conference should a deal not work out with the Big Ten.

Detroit is the capital city of the Mid-American Conference, as evidenced by the conference's championship game being played at Ford Field and the sheer number of MAC schools located within 3-4 hours of Detroit. However, it's also a huge city for the Big Ten (arguably the second most prominent city in the conference, behind Chicago). Every team but Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State is within a six hour drive.

Perhaps a bigger blow to the bowl's leaders like MSU Trustee and former coach George Perles and former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr, losing the Big Ten affiliation would likely kill the founding dream of the bowl game, that being a contest featuring Michigan or Michigan State.

What a turnaround from a few years ago when folks in Detroit seriously talked about moving up to fourth in the Big Ten pecking order when the Alamo Bowl contract expired en route to possibly crashing the BCS someday. Now, they're in danger of losing a regional tie-in, replacing schools within driving distance with those a flight away. That would likely mean fewer fans and less revenue for a bowl game already not in a traditionally "desirable" destination.

As Perles said, we should know by next week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Some Buckeye Love for Sparty

ORANJESTAD, Aruba - My recent trip to the Caribbean has convinced me that MSU and Ohio State, no matter what ever happens in the future of both football programs, will never be serious rivals. We both hate Michigan too much.

Those of you who know me know that about half of my wardrobe is made up of green or white Michigan State shirts. If you just consider t-shirts and other "warm weather attire" that number jumps to about 2/3 or 3/4. Ergo, it should be no surprise that I was walking around Aruba last Tuesday wearing a Spartan Final Four souvenir shirt.

That green shirt may as well have been a scarlet sweater vest because of the way it attracted Ohio State fans. "Hey Sparty!" one yelled out as I left a duty free store in Oranjestad, "Nice win!"

The guy was a Buckeye alum who just couldn't get enough of how we stuck Michigan with their first loss. "Well, just take care of them when you play them," I said, thinking that would be the end of it. Boy, was I wrong. That exchange repeated itself twice more in Aruba, again in Curacao the next day and even more in St. Thomas on Saturday.

The thing that struck me wasn't just that the Bucks wanted Michigan to lose. It was that they were positively giddy that MSU had done it. I got the impression that these folks weren't just rooting against Michigan, they were actually rooting FOR Michigan State. I guess it's the old axiom of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," but taken to a whole new level.

The feeling is mutual. I mean, have you ever seriously found yourself rooting against Ohio State in football? They own their rivalry with Michigan, which is a good thing. We rarely compete with the Buckeyes for bowl games, but they routinely help Sparty out by knocking off folks we're competing with for good destinations. Once you get to the bowl games, you're rooting for them to win and make the conference look good. Frankly, the biggest problem with OSU I have is that they don't win more often against big-name competition.

So to all the Buckeye fans on vacation last week, thanks for the thanks, I guess. Just make sure you get it done when you play Michigan and we'll continue to get on just fine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Bowl Lineup Not Good News for Fans

The new bowl lineups for the Big Ten for 2010-2014 have been reported, and the first insta-analysis is that they might be better for the Big Ten teams on the field. However, if the conference was looking for a better fan experience, or for more fans to travel for that matter, then I think they missed the mark.

The upshot of the changes are thus: The Alamo Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl depart, replaced by the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the Texas Bowl in Houston and a new game in Dallas as a sort-of sub-Cotton Bowl (like the Champs Sports is a sub-Citrus/Capital One Bowl). All other tie-ins would remain.

For those scoring at home, that's eight guaranteed slots for an 11-team conference. But since the bowl system is all about fan experience and subsequent cash flow from said fans to the bowls and participating schools, it's worth taking a look at what we're giving up and what we're getting.

The Alamo Bowl was always an underrated venue, primarily because the experience of attending the game was so amazing. San Antonio rolled out the red carpet to traveling fans and media, all of whom spent considerable amounts of time on the city's famed RiverWalk. Great margaritas, great Mexican food, great weather, great all around. Oh, and it's consistently one of the most-watched bowl games all year.

The Champs Sports Bowl was cool for two reasons. One, it got you to Orlando between Christmas and New Years. Two, because it was tied in with the Capital One Bowl, attending fans got to experience a big bowl atmosphere with a smaller-tiered game.

Of the new ones, the Gator Bowl is the only one I'm really excited for. It'll be a New Year's game in Florida, which is nice, but there's a significant downside - it's in Jacksonville. All in all, that's a nice enough town, but is it really a major tourist destination? Not really. Would you ever choose to vacation there over other Florida cities like Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale or Key West? Probably not.

The jury is out on the two Texas bowls for me. The destinations are good - Houston and Dallas - but I don't know how many fans are going to want to head to Dallas to watch their team play some random C-USA team. For me, I'd rather MSU go to Detroit and play a good MAC team - it's cheaper for everyone involved.

The biggest problem is the elevation of the Insight Bowl from 6th in the pecking order to 4th or 5th. That's a terrible idea. Some Big Ten schools might be big in Phoenix/Tempe - Ohio State for example - but not many are, and Michigan State surely isn't. Remember two years ago when MSU almost went to that bowl game (but we were saved by the Champs Sports and the Insight's daft idea to take Indiana over anyone else)? The entire Spartan fan base basically said they'd go to Orlando or Detroit, but not Phoenix. That should tell you something.

Now, if these new bowls can provide the same fan experience as the Alamo or Champs Sports bowls, I'll revisit this posting. For now, however, I'll keep up hope that MSU qualifies top three in the Big Ten, so Spartan fans don't have to be the guinea pigs for the new bowl affiliations.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gameday Forecast: MSU @ Illinois

Early tailgaters today had better bundle up, as temperatures will remain in the 30's until around 9:00 A.M. Central Time.

By game time, fans can expect the temperature at Memorial Stadium to reach 50 degrees, and for it to remain sunny throughout the game. A light wind will still feel pretty crisp with today's high of 57. Anyone remaining in Champaign tonight for the post-game celebration should take note of a Freeze Warning expected for tonight, meaning temperatures are expected to drop into the 20's, the lowest since last winter.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Destination: Urbana-Champaign

If you are heading down to the University of Illinois this weekend, we wanted to give you some tips on places to go from an actual Fighting Illini. Luckily, this is where living in Chicago comes in handy. Here were some suggestions:

Campus Bar: Murphy's

Murphy's Pub is a typical Irish bar located on Green Street (Think Grand River.) While it's "pretty popular for your middle of the road good time," you may encounter some youngsters, as many bars here allow 18 and 19 year olds inside. You'll find food, darts and pool here, and the vibe seems similar to The Riv.

Sit down meal near campus: Papa Del's

If you're looking for more of a sit down dinner, walk one block north of Green Street to Papa Del's for some pizza. I'm told to start with the cheesy garlic bread, and then move on to the stuffed Chicago style pizza.

Sit down meal away from campus: Radio Maria

Located in downtown Champaign, Radio Maria's menu is described as a "more eclectic" choice. Here you can get Spanish influenced dishes, and they also have a tapas bar.

Be sure to see: The Campus Quad

You haven't seen campus until you walk around the Quad. Start near this statue, wander south through the Union, and keep going until you reach the Undergraduate Library (hint: a lot of it is underground!) From there, it's just a short jaunt south west to Memorial Stadium.

If you lose a bet: The Illini Inn

If you make some wagers and happen to lose, the Illini Inn is a good place to end up. Described as a "Total dive" bar, you can win back some respect by attempting to join "The Mug Club." You don't wanna know too much, just be prepared to chug a beer. And you may get a card to go in the wallet for your trouble...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Elation, Anguish in Paradise

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The difficulty with flying from Baltimore to San Juan is that the best flight option leaves at 8:15 a.m. It's a four-hour flight and wouldn't you know we found out on arrival that Puerto Rico isn't exactly Big Ten Network country. Ergo, my wife and I saw precisely none of the Michigan-Michigan State football game.

Thank goodness for internet-capable cell phones, and for a certain couple we met Saturday afternoon on the streets of Old San Juan.

She was dressed as a typical tourist, a sun dress with a hat and sunglasses far too big for her face. He was indistinguishable from every other cargo short-and-cap American but for a big blue shirt with maize letters spelling "MICHIGAN" stitched on. So I did the only thing I could do.

"Hey, do you happen to know who won the game today?"

His wife smiled broadly, he winced in pain and started the story. "Well, you see, Michigan tied it up in the 4th quarter..."

"... and MSU won 26-20," his wife interrupted.

At that, my wife went ecstatic. I'm trying to play it cool with a composed look, she's almost jumping out of her teva sandals. So Michigan fan recants the loss, blow by blow, and we reminice about painful losses on both sides to try and make him feel a bit better about having just delivered wonderful news to a pair of now-deliriously happy Spartans.

His wife explained that she's a Spartan too, as is their only child. He, despite going to Western, is a life-long Wolverine fan. I almost felt bad for the guy, surrounded by Spartans and wounded by a final score that would haunt him for the next 365 days. I'm fairly sure that the rum Puerto Rico is so famous for will help him soothe the pain.

I went for some of that rum too. A toast to victory was in order.

Spartan Marching Band on Spartan Radio

Yesterday morning, before MSU's big win over Michigan, John Madden and the Spartan Marching Band joined the Spartan Sports Network pregame broadcast with a quick concert in the North Parking Lot of Spartan Stadium. It was added to YouTube, and is worth a full watch. In addition to the great performance, you can see many of the other guests that were featured on yesterday's broadcast, including Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo, President Lou Anna Simon, and Athletic Director Mark Hollis. Watch to the end for a special treat... Derek will tell you that this is just another reason that the North Stadium Lot is the best place to tailgate...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gameday Forecast: Michigan @ Michigan State

The temperature today should not even reach 50 degrees by kickoff, and it is already a wet one in East Lansing as rain has been coming down since well before tailgating began.

Today's high of 53 degrees at Spartan Stadium isn't much better, and fans in East Lansing should expect steady showers to continue throughout the game. Stronger than normal winds at 10-20 MPH should make today's game even more interesting.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Gameday: Memories of Michigan

Well, now that it's gameday against Michigan, the memories of past games are at their strongest.

Al from Waterloo, IA wrote in with two memories:

1984. I was new to the area working in Ann Arbor (O' joy!) for a nameless business at the time. the Spartans where coming into the game as underdogs @ 1-3 (Record sound familiar) I had stated firmly and directly on that Monday, that the Spartans were going to win. Period. Straight up, no points.

In what started out as a friendly wager, became almost violent with Michigan fans coming to my office from everywhere to see if it was true. That someone would actually take the Spartans.
Man did they love me. It was like they never found anyone in all their years of living in Ann Arbor, willing say such a thing, let alone bet on it.

Well, as we all know, Sparty won that game fair and square. Kicking the Blue Boys right in the teeth, 19 - 7. The next Monday, I never saw so many dead pan faces in my life!

1995. Why so many people skip over this game is beyond me.
It had everything. Spartan Stadium under lights (I love night games the best anyway!). Cold. (Real football weather.) We even had snow.

Before 2001 "this" was "the drive" game. Banks, Carter, Mason, Green. All of them making plays when needed. And having the game end on a great defensive stand to finish it, 28 - 25.
Two talent laden teams on the field. With most going on to NFL careers.

For whatever reason, Tony Banks and company have always been one of my all time favorite era's of Spartan football.


For what it's worth, MSU was 1-3 (like Al reminded us) before that 1984 game, and was 4-3-1 before that 1995 game. We ended '84 in the Cherry Bowl, and '95 in the Independence Bowl. I also have fond memories of that 1995 game, sitting under the lights in the upper deck watching the snow come down as MSU drove for the victory. Thanks for the memories Al!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Final Four Friday: Biggest Football Rivalry

It's Michigan week, universally regarded as the biggest weekend for Spartan football each and every year. Or is it?

Michigan State plays a total of four trophy games in football, so using those as a jumping off point, here is the final four of MSU football rivalries:


Everyone loves a winner, right? Well, the Old Brass Spittoon is the only trophy game MSU has won more times than it has lost. In fact, MSU holds a 40-12-1 series edge over the Hoosiers, including wins in the last two. The three biggest things holding back this game? 1) Indiana is usually terrible. 2) Indiana, while close to East Lansing, is arguably 11th on the list of Big Ten must-visit venues, and a good away experience is critical for developing rivalries. 3) The game almost never matters in the context of big-time bowl games.


But for a few exceptions, Michigan has owned this series, both historically and recently. Sure, we had a good run under Nick Saban, and Bobby Williams won in 2001 (thanks in large part to Jeff Smoker, T.J. Duckett and - if Michigan fans are to be believed - Spartan Bob). Since then, however, we've only won one - last year's contest in Ann Arbor.

That said, Spartan fans don't get up for any game like they do for Michigan. It's a singular story line that dominates entire seasons. Last year, despite the run to the Capital One Bowl, was all about whether MSU would get back at Michigan after Mike Hart's "Little Brother" comments. Bobby Williams got fired following a blowout loss. It's the only game on the schedule that carries that kind of weight.

Notre Dame

This one comes close, however. And, it has the added benefit of actually being an annually competitive series.

Notre Dame has always been a big game, but it seems like the rivalry has managed to grow in recent years. The planting of the Spartan flag at Notre Dame Stadium, Charlie Weis' "guarantee", the phantom punch that Weis whined about, all of it. And that's just the last few years. Add in the Game of the Century and you've got a great rivalry tradition that's as good now as it ever was.

Penn State

The Land Grant Trophy is the largest of all of MSU's contested trophies, a metaphorical sign of how big the two schools hope the rivalry becomes. There was some talk last year that this end-of-season game might supplant Michigan-Ohio State as the premier closing game, however MSU has never really held up its end of the bargain by being good enough on a consistent basis.

As is, this is a rivalry most marked by how polite it is. I mean, Penn State fans gave M. Peter McPherson a standing ovation at Beaver Stadium when he retired as MSU's president. Penn State doesn't hate MSU, if anything they barely care. Sure, there's that whole "who was the first land grant university" thing, but it's hard to get really energized about a timing question from 1855.

And the winner is... Michigan.

Notre Dame is a huge rivalry, but nothing comes close to Michigan. Nothing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Renewed Assault on Chanted Vulgarity

Michigan State officials are launching an initiative in hopes of convincing the sellout crowd against Michigan will abandon all vulgarity upon entering Spartan Stadium. No "One, two, three, first down bitch" or songs that begin with "F*** the Wolverines..."

And to do that, they're planning to convince fans with the opinions of... other fans. According to a university study:
  • 84 percent of MSU fans in the stands think it is unacceptable for fans to yell at or insult fans of the opposing team.
  • 80 percent of MSU fans never participate in a group chant that involves swearing or vulgar language directed at the opposing team.
  • 70 percent of MSU fans disapprove of players engaging in prolonged celebrations after a score or big play.
  • 68 percent of MSU fans in the stands think there is at least some need to improve the sportsmanship of fans at college or university sporting events.
Here's the thing I don't get though. Apparently, according to that study, just 73 percent of MSU fans approve of yelling or chanting to make it difficult for the opposing team to communicate.

So about 27 percent of MSU fans don't approve, or are unsure of whether it's OK to yell loudly when Michigan is playing a key third down near the goal line. What, does everyone need to be quiet like Spartan football is the next iteration of Wimbledon or the Masters?

It's ridiculous, and unfortunately it obscures the whole point of the survey, which according to TOSSS readers is a welcome thing. Recall that in a previous poll, a clear majority of fans said the level of vulgarity in cheers needs to be reduced or eliminated.

Regardless, the message was e-mailed to 150,000 Spartan fans today, so we'll see how well it takes. However, if Michigan finds itself down four and driving late, I would hope that Spartan Stadium would be rocking, profanity or no.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Memories of Michigan

Given that this week leads up to the biggest rivalry game on MSU's calendar, we thought we'd take a look at MSU fans' favorite memories of the Michigan football rivalry.

Perhaps it's dialing every Michigan fan in your cell phone after the Appalachian State loss "just to say hi." Maybe it's where you were when MSU beat Michigan in 2001.

Whatever your memory, we want to hear it. Leave it in the comments or e-mail it to In the interest of brevity, please limit it to 200 words or less. We'll post our favorites on Friday.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't Give Up Yet

The loss to Wisconsin hurt, bad. Nevermind the final score, MSU wasn't really in that game at any point. That makes three losses in a row with Michigan up next, and already the Spartan bandwagon seems to be a bit emptier.

I'm not among those bailing on this season - yet. Granted this season has started worse than anyone thought possible, but I just think it's too early to give up. And, given how MSU's preseason goals are still attainable, you shouldn't either.

The goals for every MSU football season are simple. In no particular order, they are:
  1. Make a bowl game
  2. Beat Michigan
Yes, most of us thought that bowl game would be in Orlando, Tampa or San Antonio - maybe even in Pasadena. I know I checked my work schedule before the season to see which ones I might be able to make. But frankly, MSU hasn't made a bowl game in three consecutive seasons since Nick Saban left, so even a date in Detroit in December would be a significant accomplishment.

Teams need to be 6-6 to be bowl eligible, while a 7-5 record practically guarantees it. At 1-3, MSU clearly has its work cut out for it, but such an achievement isn't impossible.

As for goal number two, well the Spartans have a chance to cross that off the list on Sunday. Don't give up hope yet, Spartan fans. There's still plenty of season left.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gameday Forecast: MSU @ Wisconsin

The temperature is supposed to stay in the 60's on State Street for tailgating before the game, and the good news is that the rain shouldn't come until after kickoff.

Madison has a high of 70 today, and is showing a 30% chance of rain, including possible thunderstorms. Light wind at 5-10 MPH shouldn't be much of a factor.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Destination: Madison

If you're going to the Wisconsin game in Madison, you're in luck. Not just because the last two games have been decided by a total of four points, but because Madison is quite simply the best tailgating town in the Big Ten.

The state capital of Wisconsin, Madison is sandwiched between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The capitol dome lies in the center of an isthmus, walking distance down State Street from the university.

No trip to Madison is complete without heading to the student union (which serves beer, but that's not why you're going there). The union building is on the shores of Lake Mendota, and there's a massive multi-level patio facing the lake. Stop by the Badger creamery which makes arguably the second-best ice cream in the Big Ten (tied with Penn State, behind MSU), then take the ice cream and a book and just spend some time near the water.

The walk to the stadium is a difficult, yet rewarding one. Difficult, because a good half of the fans will trash talk you the entire way. Rewarding, because the other half will invite you over to their house for beer and brats. Both of those are Sconnie specialties, by the way.

The brats in Madison are the stuff of legend. It's no surprise, given that the town is home to a working Oscar Mayer factory, while the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum sits just a 20 minute drive from the city. My recommendation for the best of Madison brats is at a joint called State Street Brats, just a few blocks from the heart of campus. Get a red and a white brat, add spicy mustard and relish to taste.

The beer is also sublime, thanks to a preponderance of craft breweries in the area. The pick here is the Great Dane, a pub with a pun name that only true Wisconsinites would get because only they'd know that Madison is located in Dane County.

Speaking of food, let's talk about the press box spread for a moment. Indiana has a burger buffet, MSU gives you two hot dogs and all-you-can-drink soda. Penn State has ice cream. That's all nice. Wisconsin does brats and Amish sticky buns. My friends, that's what we in the media world call game, set, match. I know some folks who will argue for Notre Dame's layout (I had great roast chicken there once), but to me, nothing tops Camp Randall.

Now that we're talking about Camp Randall, let's talk about what happens inside. Wisconsin gives some visiting fans tickets in the first row, in addition to the normal visiting sections. The two things to watch for are the fifth quarter, a great post-game band concert, and the infamous "Jump Around". For the uninitiated, that's when, after the third quarter ends, the entire student section jumps around to the old House of Pain song so much that the entire stadium shakes.

I took my dad to a game at Camp Randall when he lived in Madison and he swore to me that the upper deck would fall down it was shaking so much. In fact, Wisconsin officials have had to ask people in the upper deck not to jump because fans were genuinely concerned about the structural integrity of the stadium. That request is generally ignored.

Needless to say, if you have a chance to go to Madison this weekend, go.