Well OK. MSU blistered patsy Jacksonville State in their opening game -- at home. No big surprise. As is well known, next week the Spartans travel to Oregon. The Ducks are ranked #3 in the country while MSU checks in between #6 and #8 depending on different polls.
Typically, Oregon has been a house of horrors for visiting teams. But ya know what? Methinks the Sparties are going to knock them off. Why? Because while the Ducks have become famous for their fast-paced play -- sometimes running other teams out of the building -- the Spartans are a more well-rounded, and certainly more physical team. They can play with anybody on both sides of the ball, and I look for MSU to wear out OU in the latter stages of the game.
But still, MSU isn't even in the top 5 -- right? How can they wind up being champions when only the supposed top 4 qualify for the "playoffs"? Elementary, my dear fellow lunatics. Look at who's in front of them in the pre-season polls.
Reigning national champ Florida State sits at #1, as well they should. But repeating as champs is highly unlikely. In the last 54 years, only one team has won back to back consensus national titles. Tom Osborne's 1994-95 Nebraska Cornhuskers. At that, the Seminoles barely held on to defeat unranked Okla State in their opener. They have a target on their backs -- goes with the territory -- and there's always the complacency thing.
The mighty SEC? Enter Alabama and Auburn -- both ranked above Michigan State. Thing is, when they play each other -- somebody's gotta lose. And in the SEC conference championship game -- somebody's gotta lose again.
UCLA? They were lucky to squeak by unranked Virginia in their opener.
Ohio State? When QB Braxton Miller was lost for the season, so were any chances of the Buckeyes making the "playoffs", let alone winning the whole shebang -- if they ever had a legitimate shot in the first place.
Oklahoma? After beating the equivalent of a girls basketball team from Louisiana Tech, they next face their in-state rival powerhouse Tulsa. Please. They should be ashamed of themselves scheduling such pitiful competition. Nevertheless, when they get into their Big 12 schedule, methinks the Sooners will get knocked off a time or three. They ain't all that.
So it all boils down to Michigan State themselves. Clearly, they're the class of the Big 10, or 12, or whatever they consist of these days. Barring a rash of injuries, there's no reason MSU can't run the table in the conference like they did last year. Head coach Mark Dantonio has done wonders with that program over the last few years. Even if the national pollsters are loathe to give them the respect they are due, the Sparties are for real, and look to be for the near future.
While the other "power" conferences are busy beating each other up over the course of the year, if MSU can continue to play up to their capabilities, they could well make the Final Four. And after that -- it's a crapshoot. At that level -- everybody's really good.
We'll all know how it shakes out around Thanksgiving time, and a lot of things can happen between now and then -- but don't underestimate the Spartans.
They've got a legitimate shot to win the whole deal.
And wouldn't that be something?