Saturday, September 12, 2015

MSU vs Oregon. The epic that wasn't

Since even before the season started, college football fans (at least in the Michigan area -- maybe not so much in Oregon) have heard the hype. The game in Week 2 pitting Oregon against Michigan State was sure to be an epic, the pundits crowed. After all, it was a rematch of Top Ten ranked teams. Last year, MSU held their own in Eugene for the first half before getting run out of the building in the second. But this time it was in East Lansing, home of the Spartans. A clash of the titans that might rattle the football world to its core, suggested the usual suspects.

Common sense dictated otherwise all along. Regardless of the outcome, this would not be an earth-shaking occasion. It was a #5 team (MSU) playing a home game against #7 (Oregon). Michigan State was a predictable 4 point favorite. Typically, the bookies consider home field worth 3 points, and the Sparties got an extra one for being ranked a mere two slots higher. Sounded about right. In the end, MSU prevailed 31-28. They didn't cover. The over/under was 65 and the two teams scored 59. Some bettors won, some lost, but the aggregate score was hardly noteworthy. It wasn't like it was a 6-3 game, or 72-65. Either would have raised a few eyebrows. 

But one thing this game was certainly not was "epic". Both teams had their fair share of miscues. WAY too many stupid penalties and bone-head plays. 

As a senior, MSU quarterback Connor Cook is supposed to be a seasoned college veteran. Instead, he made several poor decisions and a few horrific throws. This will not help his NFL draft stock. The scouts are surely watching. Cook could have "came out" last year and maybe been a first round pick, or certainly a second. To be sure, most of the attention was on Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta, who went 1-2. Regardless, Cook would have been drafted fairly high by somebody and been a multi-millionaire by now. But he chose to go back to MSU to be the Big Man On Campus for one more year. This was a foolish move. Cook and MSU will certainly go to a bowl game in January, but have little chance at winning the national title. And if he blows out a knee or suffers another serious injury along the way, his draft stock will plummet. In other words, Cook had little to gain and a whole lot to possibly lose.

Conversely, Oregon QB Vernon Adams looked like a deer in the headlights at times. Sure, nobody expected him to completely fill Mariotta's shoes as a "rookie" QB, but a starting quarterback at a major college football power is supposed to be able to process information quickly as it happens on the field. When an obvious blitz is coming from the defense, one doesn't get to drop back and count a-thousand one to a-thousand five before throwing the ball. And trying to scramble with 6-7 defenders swarming around him is a recipe for disaster every time. Adams needs to learn to see the obvious before it happens, and adjust according. A-thousand one, and throw it NOW. To boot, he overthrew a wide-open receiver late in the game for an easy touchdown that may well have made the difference in the outcome. He's going to hate watching that play on film. 

So OK. Some will say it was an exciting game. In the respect that the final outcome was in doubt until the closing seconds -- they have a point. Yet the same could be said of Podunk U playing a down to the wire nail-biter against Hoodat State. Such contests happen every week in the world of college football, but go unnoticed. And hey, those games are everybody bit as important to the Podunk and Hoodat faithful as this game was to the Duck and Spartan fans. 

Bottom line? #5 played #7. Number five won at home -- barely -- in a game that was sloppily played by both to boot.

There was nothing epic about it. 

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