Boise State v Michigan State

Sparty’s defense proves to be the difference against Boise State

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Unless you noticed the different uniforms, stadium and names, you could have flipped on tonight’s game between No. 13 Michigan State and No. 24 Boise State and thought, even if only briefly, that you were watching a replay of Thursday’s game between South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Down to the 17-13 final score, tonight’s season opener in East Lansing shared a few qualities from the SEC’s weeknight introduction: turnovers, huge momentum swings, but little in the way of effective passing games. But, my oh my, can Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell carry the rock. Fourty-four times, in fact, for 210 yards — four more yards than Boise State had all night.

Which leads me to the real difference in tonight’s game: Michigan State’s defense. It was everything as advertised. Sparty kept Boise State to just 37 yards rushing, less than 50 percent completion percentage and no offensive touchdowns. The only time the Broncos found the end zone all night was on a Jeremy Ioane interception returned 43 yards for a touchdown. It was one of three picks made by Boise on the night.

So, yes, Andrew Maxwell struggled mightily at times in his first start replacing Kirk Cousins. That’s where Bell came in to save the day, but that needs to change eventually. Even at nearly 250 pounds, Bell can’t realistically average 40 carries a game. No one can.

Sure, Maxwell needs to improve, but he needs help too. Sparty’s O-line underachieved against an unproven Broncos D-line, and the passing game needs a new name outside of Bell (six catches for 55 yards) and tight end Dion Sims (seven grabs for 65 yards).

The turnover at quarterback and receiver was a concern heading into tonight, and it was certainly validated, but it’s impossible to know just where Michigan State stacks up in the Big Ten Legends division. Not tonight, anyway. For one, no one else in the Big Ten has played yet, but like we mentioned in the Wazzu-BYU post game report, opening week games are terrible gauges for the rest of the season.

All anyone really knows about Michigan State is the defense is much farther along than the offense — but that was expected. What wasn’t so much was how close Boise State kept the score. Again, that’s a tribute to Chris Petersen. Simply put, the guy is one of the best damn coaches in the country.

Think about it. Boise State lost 17 starters from a group that won 50 games together — though it should be pointed out that many on the field tonight played a role in those wins — and (again) somehow managed* to hang with a supposedly superior opponent without a single offensive touchdown.

(*Something about Michigan State turning the ball over four times.)

But I digress…

Michigan State’s defense is good enough by itself to give Mark Dantonio‘s team a shot at a Big Ten title. The focus for the Spartans now centralizes on making a young offense more cohesive.

That simply comes with time. When you have a defense like Michigan State does, that’s a luxury you actually do possess.

The three biggest overperformering and underperformering teams of 2016

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers leads his team on the field before a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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It’s been two weeks since Clemson dramatically was crowned champions of the College Football Playoff over Alabama, putting a close on the 2016 season. The dust is settled and recruiting pushes are the focus across the country, but how about one final look back at what happened last season?

I’m a devoted follower of S&P+, which measures a team’s efficiency, explosiveness, field position, drive finishing and turnovers (it’s pretty intuitive; for a brief primer click here, for a full glossary, click here). I generally use S&P+ rankings as a way to see which teams did the things necessary to be successful, though they don’t tell the whole story — a few bad fourth quarters, strange coaching decisions and/or special teams gaffes can skew a team’s record down, for example (see: Notre Dame).

So let’s take a quick look at which teams over-performed their S&P+ ranking:

West Virginia (S&P+: 29, final record: 10-3)

The Mountaineers were the lowest-ranked 10-win Power 5 team by S&P+, and their No. 29 ranking put them behind two sub-.500 teams that we’ll get to later.

Georgia (S&P+: 68, final record: 8-5)

Georgia finished one spot ahead of fellow SEC East side Mizzou, which went 4-8. The Bulldogs won two games they were expected to lose by S&P+ (over Mizzou and Auburn).

Boston College (S&P+: 86, final record: 7-6)

Steve Addazio’s dudes were the lowest-ranked Power 5 team to finish with a record over .500 and finished only two spots ahead of 2-10 Virginia.

And now, the underperformers:

LSU (S&P+: 4, final record: 8-4)

By S&P+, LSU did the things necessary to get them into the College Football Playoff, though they didn’t show up in three of their five games against top-15 opponents (even if those games resulted in close losses). For a team that changed coaches mid-season, though, eight wins sounds about right.

Notre Dame (S&P+: 26, final record: 4-8)

Seven of Notre Dame’s eight losses came by eight points or fewer, and the toxic combination of awful early-season defense (in losses to Texas, Michigan State and Duke), brutal special teams mistakes (in losses to Michigan State, Duke and N.C. State), head-scratching coaching decisions (in losses to N.C. State, Stanford and Navy) and second-half nosedives (in losses to Stanford and Virginia Tech) were the perfect recipe for a team that did enough things right to at least make a bowl game finishing with an embarrassing 4-8 record.

Ole Miss (S&P+: 27, final record: 5-7)

Ole Miss had a greater than 50 percent win expectancy against Alabama (63 percent) and Arkansas (70 percent) and lost both games. But the Rebels’ final three games were horrid, with win expectancies of 18 percent, zero percent and zero percent against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

Trey Holtz, son of Skip and grandson of Lou, starts coaching career at Ohio State

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Trent Domingue #17 of the Texas Longhorns kicks a 35-yard field goal against the California Golden Bears in the fourth quarter on September 17, 2016 at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.  Cal won 50-43.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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The Holtz family coaching tree just added another branch.

Louis Leo Holtz III, better known as Trey, has joined the Ohio State staff, according to a post on his Instagram account. Holtz is the son of Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and the grandson of College Football Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz.

“Super excited to start my coaching career in Columbus!!,” Holtz wrote, captioning a photo of him making the “O” inside Ohio Stadium.

Super excited to start my coaching career in Columbus!! #GoBucks

A photo posted by Trey Holtz (@treyholtz) on

Ohio State has not officially announced Holtz’s hiring, but it’s a safe bet Holtz will join Urban Meyer‘s staff as a graduate assistant or quality control assistant.

Holtz played his college career at Texas as a walk-on quarterback out of powerhouse Plant High School in Tampa. He did not throw a pass, but played in 23 games as a junior and senior as the holder on field goals and extra points.

Louisville RB L.J. Scott reportedly transfers to Eastern Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 30:  L.J. Scott #27 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after a first down in the second quarter against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 30, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Louisville running back L.J. Scott has transferred to Eastern Kentucky, according to a report Sunday from Kennedy Hardman of WTVQ in Lexington, Ky.

The school has not announced Scott’s arrival, but Hardman reports Scott is already enrolled in classes at EKU.

Scott was a reserve runner in his first two seasons at Louisville and fell out of favor in Bobby Petrino‘s offense in 2016. He carried 29 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2014 and rushed 39 times for 180 yards and four scores in 2015. His numbers dipped dramatically in 2016, though, totaling only three rushes for 15 yards. Scott battled a hamstring injury during the season but saw his usage dip even before the ailment popped up.

Scott will have one year to compete for the Colonels.

Not to be confused with the Michigan State running back of the same name, Scott was a consensus 3-star recruit when he signed with the Cardinals out of Harding, Ohio, in 2014.

Baylor and Houston lighting up the skies for recruiting purposes

Photo credit: Matt Rhule
Matt Rhule
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New Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is absolutely loving being in charge of a football program that has its own stadium to call home. The look on Rhule’s face as he walked on to Baylor’s football turf and soaked it all in after years as the head coach of Temple and having to share space in an NFL venue said it all. It did not take long for Rhule and his staff in Waco to find a way to show off the stadium and the atmosphere either, as Baylor has been lighting the stadium Baylor green for recruiting visits since Rhule’s arrival.

It has become apparent that “Baylor Lit” is Rhule’s go-to catchphrase any time he receives positive recruiting news for the program, like a player committing to the university. Coaches are not allowed to directly and publicly comment on recruits before they are enrolled, so many coaches have taken to Twitter with a brief catchphrase to let their followers know something good just happened. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, for example, would say “Yessir!” on his Twitter account.

Because ideas are stolen all the time around college football, Houston appears to have been inspired by Baylor and is lighting their stadium red for similar purposes.

And because College Football Twitter will never let such a thing slide, the jokes have been running wild between fans of the schools.

There are some other schools I’d be curious to see duplicate this light show exhibition. Maybe Middle Tennessee could light the sky blue? Notre Dame could provide a golden shine to the sky. Syracuse plays in a dome, unfortunately, but an orange-lit sky would be cool to see. And of course, Hawaii could go with a full spectrum of the colors of the rainbow.

What I am trying to say is, lighting the sky in your team’s colors is cool and more schools should give it a try.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.