September 13, 2013 at 1:00 am

Bob Wojnowski

Wojo's pigskin picks: Michigan State's QB roulette wheel spins with intrigue

Connor Cook is the Spartans' QB du jour, at least for this Saturday's contest against Youngstown State. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)

It should be easy to find a quarterback, shouldn’t it? Just hang out with the cool people and see who draws the most attention. Or at Oklahoma State, see who gets the fattest manila envelope. Allegedly!

It’s been another scandalous week in college football, with yet another OSU under scrutiny. There also are allegations several top Southeastern Conference players were paid, which is utterly shocking. And by “utterly shocking,” I mean “shocking only if the money was spent on textbooks.” All this ugliness makes you yearn for simpler times, when star Notre Dame linebackers fell in love with fake dead girlfriends and Ohio State players got free tattoos.

There are many ways to find a quarterback these days, and not all of them are unseemly. Look at Michigan, which lost Denard Robinson, promoted wide receiver Devin Gardner, hid him under jersey No. 98 and is 2-0 after beating plucky, clucky Notre Dame.

That’s why I’m so puzzled by Michigan State’s nutty search. Sources tell me Mark Dantonio was spotted on an East Lansing street corner the other day, handing out fliers to potential candidates.

Michigan State won’t confirm a report all four quarterbacks will be driven to midfield Saturday in a VW Beetle, and the first to pop out gets the start against Youngstown State.

As the old saying goes, if you have two starting quarterbacks, you have none. And if you have four, you have a circus. I’ll get back to the Spartans in a moment, although the situation could change seven times in the next five paragraphs.

Young quarterbacks used to be groomed and groomed, and it had nothing to do with their hair. Now they burst out of nowhere, which is why everyone craves the Next Shiny Thing. The stakes are higher than the players — except in that smoky Oklahoma State players lounge (allegedly!). I don’t know about you, but I’m stunned a program that rose from the majestic plains of Stillwater, Okla., might have gotten illicit booster boosts.

Hotshot mobile quarterbacks often are the straws that stir the winks. You might recall, Terrelle Pryor helped get Ohio State in trouble, Auburn’s Cam Newton was investigated for money grabs and Florida’s Tim Tebow returned a library book three days late.

Now, Texas A$M has some brat named Johnny “Autographed” Football, who reportedly took cash for autographs but won’t admit it. Mr. Football has pulled off the impossible, besides winning the Heisman as a redshirt freshman — he’s the only living human who could get people to root for Nick Saban.

That’s right, when Alabama visits College $tation for the showdown Saturday, fans will be thoroughly conflicted. Do they cheer for the new-school scandal with the cocky kid mocking the NCAA’s mock-able rules, or do they stick with the old-school scandal of an SEC power entwined in a dirty money train? The NCAA is run by such myopic dopes, fans happily root for villains. If Saban is akin to Walter White from “Breaking Bad,” then Johnny Manziel is Jesse Pinkman.

I’m still trying to make sense of the Spartans, who have an incumbent senior quarterback (Andrew Maxwell), a mobile sophomore (Connor Cook), a wildcard redshirt freshman (Tyler O’Connor), a touted true freshman (Damion Terry) and a grad student who took one of Dantonio’s flyers (Biff Hoogendorf).

The truth is, the Spartans defense is so good, they could punt 17 times and pull out 3-2 victories.

Maxwell seems the logical choice to me, although based on reaction from frustrated Spartans, if it’s not Hoogendorf or the flashy Terry, they plan to get drunk and yell expletives. Obviously, I don’t know as much as Michigan State’s coaching staff, so I snuck into a meeting and secretly recorded this imaginary conversation between co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman:

Warner: “Eenie.”

Bollman: “Meenie.”

Warner: “Miney.”

Bollman: “Moe.”

Warner: (Pause.) (Blinking.) “Which one is Moe again?”

Michigan State’s experimental phase might work now, but not next week at Notre Dame. Youngstown State is one of those pesky FCS schools with an adorable nickname (Penguins) that occasionally refuses to accept its beating. I’m not saying this is the Penguins against the Jokers, but the Spartans get one more spin of the wacky quarterback wheel before it’s time to get serious, seriously.

The picks

Youngstown State at Michigan State: The Spartans will be in good shape as long as they continue to run their offense through defensive end Shilique Calhoun. But I’ll remind you, as great as their defense is, they can’t win every game 21-6. Michigan State 21-6

Akron at Michigan: This won’t feature the drama of last week’s de-feathering of Notre Dame, but Akron will want to end the series just as quickly. The Zips don’t play a lot of defense, so I doubt they’ll be able to win one for the Zipper. Michigan 52-10

Alabama at Texas A$M: The only thing worse than an arrogant Saban is an angry Saban. The Tide turned Crimson last year in a 29-24 home loss to the Aggies, and now faces reports of money deals between agents and players. Just imagine the scandal when the NCAA figures out AJ McCarron has been Alabama’s quarterback since the mid-1980s. Alabama 31-17

bob.wojnowski@detroitnews.com
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