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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mountain(s) To Climb: The Spartans Ascension to Reach Big Ten’s Peak

I continue to be amazed at the lack of hype given to the 2011 Spartan squad. But ironically, I could not be happier. Let’s not forget that this was a team predicted last year to be a 2nd tier contender hoping for 8 wins and a decent bowl bid. But this team defied expectations and stuck together, continuing to play through adversity. From Coach Dantonio’s Cardiac “Episode” and with injuries to both Kirk Cousins and Keshawn Martin, this team responded to every hardship like it was planned and eventually won the big ten championship.

One magical season later, the Spartans are still not getting credit they deserve. But just as true as Spartan Nation itself, this team responds when the cards are stacked against them. National pundits such as ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and BTN’s Gerry DiNardo are once again predicting MSU to... (Click read more below)
have more talent but less wins this year. So in the waning days (and hours) before the 2011 season, let’s breakdown the Michigan State Spartans schedule.
The Spartans have much to prove to everyone that they are capable of playing with the big boys-- especially after last year’s 49-7 Capital One Bowl loss to Alabama. MSU Coach Mark Dantonio talked about reaching the peak of the mountain (2010 Big Ten Championship) and seeing more mountains ahead. So Spartan Fans, strap up, and let’s climb!
Let’s explore each key matchup as one of Mark Dantonio’s mountains:
Mount McKinley” (@ #16 Notre Dame)- The highest peak in North America and like Notre Dame is truly an American Landmark. While many have beaten this mountainous team before, they’re not to be taken lightly, especially when playing in South Bend. WRs Riddick & Floyd could cause some thin air from QB Dayne Crist in the MSU secondary.

Mount K2”(@#18 Ohio State)- The second highest peak on earth. It is often referred to as “Savage Mountain” because it has the highest fatality rate in the world. This mountain is as unforgiving and relentless as the Buckeyes. While off-season suspensions and controversy have plagued this team, OSU will certainly have an “Us versus the World” mentality. However, don’t discredit the Spartans in Columbus. Let’s not forget that last year it was OSU’s wins (albeit with illegal players), the same wins that have since been vacated but nonetheless still prevented the Spartans from smelling roses last January.
Mount Manaslu” (Michigan)- It’s the eight highest mountain in the world and is known amongst the people of Nepal as the “Mountain of the Soul.” So countdown-clocks and “little brother” comments aside, when this game is on, nothing else matters. This mountain peak derives its name from the Sanskrit word meaning “intellect and soul” and that’s just what this game represents for both teams. U-M fans have restored confidence and are eager to see what “Hoke-amania” brings to Ann Arbor. Last year, an unyielding Spartan defense shut down Denard Robinson (read: Wolverine offense) limiting him to just 84 yards on the ground and three turnovers.
Mount Kilimanjaro” (#11 Wisconsin). Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro translates to “Shining Caravan” in Swahili. I can think of no better way to describe a team’s rushing attack than a “shining caravan.” Both Badger & Spartan offenses have boasted great running backs. From Ron Dayne and John Clay to the Ducketts (Tico & TJ) and Lorenzo White. Just as in year’s past, the winner of this game will likely be determined by the team to out-rush their opponent. Although the Spartans took this game by double digits last year, they were denied a chance to play for the Rose Bowl and the Badgers went to Pasadena on behalf of the Big Ten. Badger QB Russell Wilson aside, this is more than business-as-usual. This is personal. It’s a night game, at home, national TV, Lee Corso “headgear” game. This is surely a "do-or-die, eat-or-be-eaten" mountain. Bring it on.
Mount Everest” (@ #10 Nebraska)- You want to talk about a tough climb? This is the peak-of-the-peaks, the biggest, meanest and most dangerous mountain in the world. It has claimed nearly 200 lives. “Everest” is a word that comes from the Tibetan word meaning “Holy Mother.” I wonder if that’s exactly what Big Ten coaches thought, when they found out that Nebraska was joining the conference this season. This defense will eat RBs for breakfast, devour QBs for lunch and have just enough room to finish off a plate of WRs for dinner. This is the third game in a row which MSU faces an arduous conference opponent. But like Everest, Nebraska can still be beaten. No one is expecting it, but then again, try saying that to 13 year-old Jordan Romero (the youngest personal to climb Everest in May 2010). Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez anchors their offensive assault, as the Cornhuskers scored 30+ points in 8 games last year. But in their four losses last year, they were held to 20 points or less including losses to unranked Texas and Washington (Holiday Bowl). The Cornhusker’s will have a new offensive coordinator who was their RBs coach last year. I’m guessing this team will look to run first.
So it has often been said “Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating.” And on December 3rd 2011, the Big Ten will feature two divisional mountain climbers, both reaching for the peak. Let’s still hope that we’ll be rooting for the climbers in green!
Go Green!

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