MSU mailbag: Bowl bids, 2018 expectations
East Lansing — It’s turkey time, and that means Michigan State fans are wondering about where the Spartans might be spending the new year while looking ahead a bit to next season.
There’s also some reflection this week on some of the seniors while we also see about getting Miles Bridges an artificial ankle.
We tackle that and more in this week’s Michigan State mailbag.
■ Question: Which bowl destinations have the Spartans on the wish list? — @Thompson256
■ Answer: Plenty of interest in this topic, not only this week but the last few. Things are starting to come into a little better focus at this point and being in Florida around the first of the year is starting to look like more of a solid bet. Of course, Michigan State will have to beat Rutgers on Saturday, otherwise all bets are off. If an upset happened, it opens things dramatically. Let’s assume the Spartans are 9-3, Penn State is 10-2 after a win over Maryland and Northwestern closes at 9-3 by beating Illinois. With Wisconsin and Ohio State in a New Year’s Six/Playoff game, it comes down to these three teams and even an 8-4 Michigan team for the Citrus Bowl and Outback Bowl, both Jan. 1. If a Big Ten team makes the Orange Bowl, it would eliminate the Citrus as an option, but that could mean Penn State (or even Michigan State) gets in the New Year’s Six.
If the Nittany Lions aren’t in a New Year’s Six game, they’d likely get the Citrus Bowl with Michigan State to the Outback. That’s not a guarantee, but it’s a solid hunch. Michigan could be a wild card, especially if it beats Ohio State. Northwestern likely comes up on the short end because it can’t fill its own stadium let alone one at a bowl game. So my best guess — Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa. But Citrus Bowl in Orlando is possible, as is the Holiday Bowl Dec. 28 in San Diego.
■ Q. Which MSU football senior was the best for quotes? — @KevinHPark1
■ A. These are my favorite kinds of questions. I’d have to go with Brian Allen, for sure. His humor is dry and if you’re not paying attention, he’ll slip some good stuff by you without you even noticing. He’s also fond of picking on himself and the offensive linemen, in general, for their physiques. That’s always good for a few laughs. Actually, this Michigan State team is a really solid group with a lot of great guys that are enjoyable to talk with. That’s not always the case and some years can be a real challenge. But this group has been refreshing, going all the way back to the spring when none of them dodged tough questions and were very up front. The seniors, as a whole, have been great. Allen gets the nod, but Chris Frey and Gerald Holmes are also great and even guys that don’t play as much like Shane Jones and Damion Terry. Good guys, and it’s not a real surprise they’ve been so instrumental in this team’s turnaround.
■ Q. Is it down to Coach D versus PC in Wisconsin for Coach of the Year in B1G? — @alatinolawyer
■ A. I’d say it’s a pretty good guess to say Mark Dantonio and Paul Chryst are at the top of the list when picking a coach of the year in the Big Ten. I, for one, did not pick the Badgers to win the West this year, a choice that looks dumber by the day. But there they are, unbeaten and running away — literally and figuratively — with the West again. We all know what Dantonio has done, so we won’t run down that list here. I wouldn’t think another coach in the East would get the nod, but over in the West I have to believe Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern and Jeff Brohm at Purdue will at least get some consideration. I left the Wildcats for dead after they started 2-3, but they haven’t lost since and look much more like the team I DID pick to win the West. And Brohm won’t win it, but he’s got the Boilermakers in position to reach a bowl game if they can beat Indiana on Saturday. That’s pretty impressive.
■ Q. Pre-season Top 10 next year? — @rosnberg
■ A. That’s a good question. I’ll say close, but maybe not quite. A lot of that is my cynical view of how voters tend to deal with college football. Yes, I’m one of those voters, but sometimes I scratch my head at some of the rankings. I’ll say about top 15, and the biggest reason is I’ll still have questions about the offensive line and the speed on the edge of the defensive line. There’s plenty of reason to believe the Spartans will get better in both areas as young players continue to develop, something that might allow Michigan State to be much higher than 15 by the end of the season — and let’s be honest, that’s what matters. But I’ll assume, for a preseason ranking, it might linger just outside the top 10. Now, go to a bowl and handily beat an SEC team — say LSU in the Outback Bowl — and maybe they get there.
■ Q. Who will be the RB’s for 2018 — @mgorosh
■ A. I just don’t see LJ Scott leaving early. Of course, I wasn’t so sure Montae Nicholson would last year, either. If he’s back, obviously, Scott gets most of the work. If not, Madre London might finally get that chance to be the No. 1 guy, something he was the start of the 2015 season before injuries derailed that plan. You’d have to expect Connor Heyward’s role continues to expand, and Weston Bridges likely will be in the mix after redshirting this season. There’s always a chance Elijah Collins could jump in there as a true freshman. But obviously, Scott’s status will have a huge impact on the RB rotation. We’ll just have to wait on that one.
■ Q. If I gave Miles Bridges my ankle, is that an NCAA violation? #BooNCAA #GetHealthyMiles #GoGreen — @Coach_AMurray
■ A. Hmmmm. I’ll say that might be frowned upon, but with the NCAA, logic doesn’t always come into play. It’s going to be interesting to see if he plays this week. I have a tendency to believe he won’t, just judging by how conservative they were with his ankle injury last season. Tom Izzo has said many times they could have brought Bridges back a couple of games earlier but wanted to be cautious. I can’t imagine the Spartans approach it any differently this time.