Michigan State is coming off the best season in school history, at least since Richard Nixon was serving as President of the United States. After knocking off Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game and taking down Pac-12 champion Stanford in the Rose Bowl, the Spartans are now embracing life on top of the Big Ten. This has been a process years in the making under head coach Mark Dantonio, and well deserved. In light of recent developments in Columbus, Michigan State is now entering a brand new season as one of the more popular favorites in the Big Ten.
So how does a program that has at times stumbled when things were going well continue to break that mold and prove they are worthy of the preseason hype? For Dantonio, the responsibility falls on his seniors on the roster.
“I think it is senior leadership, the culture you develop in your group,” Dantonio said Tuesday during the weekly Big Ten coaches conference call. Michigan State returns eight seniors in the starting line-up, along with 10 juniors. Michigan State returns 46 lettermen this fall.
“We’re going to find out how we handle the ultimate success of last year,” Dantonio said. “[At] the same time our enthusiasm has been good, our mindset has been good.”
Michigan State is starting the season with the highest preseason AP ranking since opening the 1967 season ranked third in the nation. The Spartans also have the highest preseason ranking in the coaches poll since 1991, when the poll was first administered. The Spartans open the 2014 season Friday night with the first game against an FCS opponent in school history, Jacksonville State.
Michigan State travels to Oregon in week two.
Ole Miss will be without a starting piece of its defensive puzzle for an extended period of time, both the player and the school revealed Tuesday.
With rumors swirling about his condition, C.J. Johnson confirmed on his personal Twitter account late this morning that he will be undergoing surgery at some point in the not-too-distant future. The linebacker sustained an injury to his left knee in last Saturday’s loss to Florida and did not return to the contest.
Subsequent to that posting, Ole Miss confirmed that Johnson underwent surgery earlier in the day to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. The procedure and rehab will sideline Johnson for a period of 4-6 weeks.
At the low-end of the prognosis, Johnson would miss the next four games — New Mexico State, Memphis, Texas A&M, Auburn — and return for the Nov. 7 game against Arkansas. The high-end would have him sidelined until the regular-season finale against Mississippi State.
Johnson had started all five games at middle linebacker for the Rebels. He started 26 games at defensive end the past three years before moving to linebacker.
Already in the crosshairs for his 2-3 team’s late-game failures, Butch Jones now finds himself under increasing scrutiny for something that allegedly happened a couple of months ago.
The website Gridiron.com, which features such respected journalists Tony Barnhart and Mike Huguenin among others, reported earlier today that the Tennessee head coach was involved in what was described as a “physical altercation” with senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder during summer camp this past August. The source close to the program added that practice film that day captured the alleged incident, although it’s unclear if that tapes still exists.
From the site’s report:
The incident occurred during fall camp, about the time that news started to come out about a few offensive linemen who were considering stepping away from the program. Crowder walked off the practice field one day and missed a day or two of practice, and Brett Kendrick and Dylan Wiesman were said to be contemplating their futures. Sources say the players’ actions stemmed from an incident between Jones and Crowder.
The website also made a Freedom of Information request seeking any correspondence between the university and the Crowder family be turned over, but writes that UT “administrators said any sort of letter or correspondence that may or may not have happened was covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”
Monday, Jones labeled what began as message-board speculation that he had struck one of his Vols players as “absolutely ridiculous.” The Knoxville News Sentinel contacted Crowder’s father, with the paper writing that “he had no comment and did not want to give validation to message boards.”
At least publicly, the university has yet to address the allegations. Jones will get yet another chance to address the speculation with the media in the very near future.