It’s said every year by coaches and fans alike, “Preseason rankings don’t mean anything.”
Many coaches over the years have expressed a preference to do away with preseason polls.
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio isn’t one of them. The Spartans were ranked eighth overall in the AP preseason Top 25, which was released Sunday. Dantonio wants his team to embrace the ranking and drive them to be better.
“Our focus remains on winning championships,” Dantonio told the Lansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch. “We have proven that we can compete consistently with the top teams in the country & will continue to dream big. We need embrace our preseason ranking and display the maturity it takes to manage that success.”
Dantonio is a proven believer in envisioning something will happen before it actually does.
Eight months before Michigan State captured its first Rose Bowl victory in 26 years, Dantonio sauntered onto the field in Pasadena, California and promised his team they would play on that field and in that game.
“This is where we make it happen. …You will be the ones,” Dantonio said. “It sort of gives you the chills walking out here, it’s a long way from home. But we’ve got a plan. We’ve got a plan to get here.”
The Spartans have reached unprecedented heights in the modern era under Dantonio’s supervision. His winning percentage is the best the program has experienced in 60 years. Michigan State is now firmly in the national spotlight. And the team’s preseason ranking reflects the work Dantonio has done during his eight seasons with the program.
By following Dantonio’s advice, the program can continue its upward trend.
Michigan State will never have the resources as some teams in the Big Ten Conference, particularly Michigan and Ohio State, but it’s slowly closing the gap.
Perception is often reality in college football. Recruits will remember Michigan State was a preseason Top 10 team. The players currently on the roster know they have high expectations to fulfill. And their coach realizes the perception around Michigan State continues to improve and benefits the team.
In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4. Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.
In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan. Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.
Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.
After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions. A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.
Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.
As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.
Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue. Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.
According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened. It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.
A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.
“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”
This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points. Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.
Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.
With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott. The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.
And now we know a little bit more of the rest of the story.
Thursday morning, reports surfaced that Alabama linebacker Tim Williams had been arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit. Other than the fact that Williams was arrested by university police officers, no details were available. Until now.
Williams was arrested in the Tuscaloosa Publix parking lot around 2:00 a.m., sources told AL.com.
Police officers were doing a normal patrol when they smelled marijuana coming from Williams’ vehicle, according to sources. A passenger, who was not an Alabama football player, said the marijuana was his, but the officer then found the pistol under Williams’ seat while searching the car, according to sources.
The school has yet to publicly comment on the situation, although the player took to Twitter to acknowledge “a mistake.”
Coming off a 2015 season in which he was second on the Tide with 10.5 sacks, Phil Steele named the senior as a preseason first-team All-American.
A significant piece of Duke offensive puzzle won’t be available to the Blue Devils in Week 5.
On its weekly injury report released Thursday, Duke announced that Jela Duncan will not play against Virginia Saturday because of an unspecified leg injury. The running back sustained the injury in the 38-35 win over Notre Dame last weekend.
With 314 yards, Duncan is far and away the Blue Devils’ leading rusher. Next closest is Shaun Wilson‘s 122 yards.
Duncan, a senior who’s endured a rocky career thus far, also leads the team with four rushing touchdowns, while his 5.6 yards per carry is tops amongst Blue Devils with 10 or more carries.
The football program also confirmed that defensive end Dominic McDonald will miss a second straight game because of what’s described as an upper-body injury. McDonald started the first three games of the season before missing the Notre Dame game with the same injury.
And, finally, the school announced that linebacker Tinashe Bere will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a leg injury. While he didn’t start any of the four games in which he played this season after starting six last year, he’s sixth on the team in tackles with 13.