It’s been a strange few months for the Michigan State football team and head coach Mark Dantonio. In addition to coming off a shocking 3-9 campaign last season, the Spartans have been in the midst of an ongoing sexual assault investigation that has involved several players on the team and a support staffer.
Dantonio has discussed the allegations and investigations — vaguely — just once the past few months and there’s been what has amounted to a media blackout in East Lansing for spring football. The Spartans held their Spring Game on Saturday afternoon however but the most notable aspect of the contest was not the White team’s 30-23 victory over the Green team, but who wasn’t involved in the game.
Per MLive.com, a whopping 15 players of the football team did not participate in the event and at least 10 were limited to the sidelines in sweatshirts. Perhaps most prominent of the names was that of tailback LJ Scott, a likely starter who has contributed significantly in the backfield.
All of the players were listed on the roster handed out to the media before the game, prompting the question as to why they weren’t involved.
The school and Dantonio have announced that several players were suspended this spring but have declined to mention any names connected to the probe or who is out injured. The spring game was televised on the Big Ten Network but it appears it may be many more weeks (or months) before we find out who exactly is involved in the ongoing investigation as MSU looks ahead to 2017.
It would be unwise to guess what a college football player plans to do nine to 10 months from now, so overreacting to a single tweet dropped online over the weekend while watching the NFL Combine in Indianapolis may just be catching a player caught up in the fun. Michigan State running back L.J. Scott seemed to leave a hint online to his Twitter followers that he could already be looking forward to his go at the combine “a year from now.”
As a sophomore in 2016, Scott rushed for 994 yards and six touchdowns in a woeful season for the Spartans. Scott is considered one of the top running backs in the Big Ten heading into 2017, along with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Minnesota’s Rodney Smith, and Ohio State’s Mike Weber. Like Scott, Barkley and Smith will be juniors this fall and could also be in a position to consider making the leap to the NFL in 2018.
A total of 19 running backs declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft. The only position with more players declaring early for the draft was at wide receiver, with 27.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver were the stars of the FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team for the 2016 season, and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and USC head coach Clay Helton shared the award for First Year Coach of the Year.
The FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team, announced today, includes 20 true freshmen including Oliver, Ohio State running back Mike Weber, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and Florida State defensive lineman Brian Burns.
Fuente is coming off his first season as the head coach at Virginia Tech after a successful stint as head coach at Memphis, with an ACC Coastal Division championship and appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Helton overcame a rough start to coach USC into a top 10 finish and a Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State. Both have been head coaches before, of course, but the FWAA First Year Coach of the Year is open to any coach in his first full season as a head coach at his current school.
- QB Sam Darnold, USC
- RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
- RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
- RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
- WR Ammon Richards, Miami
- WR Demetris Robinson, California
- WR Ty Lee, Middle Tennessee
- TE Isaac Nautta, Georgia
- OL Michael Jordan, Ohio State
- OL Jawaan Taylor, Florida
- OL Ryan Bates, Penn State
- OL Thomas Shoaf, BYU
- OL Ben Bredeson, Michigan
- AP Donnie Corley, Michigan State
- DL Ed Oliver, Houston
- DL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
- DL Brian Burns, Florida State
- DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
- DL Reggie Walker, Kansas State
- LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
- LB Troy Dye, Oregon
- LB Leo Lewis, Mississippi State
- LB Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA
- LB David Reese, Florida
- DB Xavier Crawford, Oregon State
- DB Javon Hagan, Ohio
- DB Taylor Rapp, Washington
- DB Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
- DB Clifton Duck, Appalachian State
- K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
- P Tom Sheldon, North Carolina
- KR Tony Pollard, Memphis
- PR Malik McGue, Army
No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) did just enough to get out of their final road game of the season with a 17-16 win. Michigan State (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten) has been going through a frustrating season but gave Ohio State one of their best efforts of the year in their final home game. Despite riding LJ Scott as much as they could, a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter allowed Ohio State to get out of Spartan Stadium with a key win to keep their playoff hopes alive with one regular season to go.
Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett rushed for 105 yards and Mike Weber rushed for 111 yards and a score. Running was the key to the game for both teams, as Barrett completed fewer than half of his 22 pass attempts (although one was for a touchdown to Curtis Samuel) and Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor completed fewer than half of his passes. Spartans running back Scott rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown. Defenses were on point though for both teams, but the Buckeyes won the turnover battle with a late interception on Michigan State’s final offensive possession of the game.
Michigan State scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter with fewer than five minutes to play, cutting the Buckeye lead to 17-16. Rather than kick the extra point to tie things up, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio gambled (as he had earlier in the game with some tricks up his sleeve) by keeping the offense on the field for a two-point conversion try. With nothing to lose, Dantonio went all in for the lead, but O’Connor’s pass over the middle was picked off in the end zone, securing a narrow lead for Ohio State.
Next up for Ohio State is a regular season finale rivalry game with Michigan. A stake in the Big Ten East Division will be on the line for the noon kickoff, but a win by the Buckeyes next week will not necessarily send them to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Penn State can still wiggle their way to Indy with an Ohio State next week and their own win against Michigan State next week in State College. Penn State also must beat Rutgers tonight, which is pretty much a 94% certainty if we’re being conservative.
Ohio State Clinches Big Ten East If…
- Ohio State beats Michigan AND Penn State loses once
A win by Ohio State next week should make for a fun discussion about the Playoff. Assuming Ohio State stays in the top four this week, a win against a highly-ranked Michigan next week should probably wrap up a playoff spot for the Buckeyes despite the possibility of not playing for a conference championship.
Could the program that won the first College Football Playoff national championship set the precedent for a non-division winner to reach the playoff?
After two straight games with no shortage of offensive fireworks, No. 2 Ohio State is in a bit of a battle this afternoon on the road against Michigan State. These Spartans may be having a rough year, but they are looking to play spoiler today against the Buckeyes. At the half, Ohio State and Michigan State are tied, 10-10.
Michigan State wasted little time putting Ohio state on notice when LJ Scott took a screen pass from Tyler O’Connor 64 yards to the end zone for a touchdown on the second play of the game.
The Buckeyes were left to send the punt team out at the end of their first offensive possession but managed to pin the Spartans deep in their end and the defense forced a three-and-out to create solid starting field position for the offense their second time out. This drive went much better for Ohio State, with JT Barrett connecting with Curtis Samuel for a 24-yard touchdown over the middle of the defense in the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
The two teams have since exchanged field goals and turnovers as the game has shifted toward a little bit of a battle of field position. Michigan State has out-gained Ohio State after one half, but the Buckeyes have the edge in total first downs and time of possession.
Ohio State does not necessarily need to win this game in order to win the Big Ten East Division, but a loss does put the Buckeyes in a real difficult spot for the division race.