Continuing on with our 2012 preseason Q&A's, tonight's guest is Chris Vannini from the SB Nation Michigan State The Only Colors. These might be late, but they might be more interesting given the one game that's been played.
Name one thing you learned about Nebraska or its fans that stood out last season.
Chris: I feel what stood out the most about Nebraska last year was that nothing really stood out. The style of play and fanbase really was a perfect fit for the Big Ten. It's not a pass-crazy team like most of the Big 12. It's a program focused on running the ball and playing good defense. I hate all the conference realignment, but the Big Ten got it right with 12 teams, and I don't think another school in the country would have been a better fit (yes, even Notre Dame).
Now that Nebraska's honeymoon season is over, is there anything you'd like to say to Husker fans before the 2012 season starts?
Chris: You're just another team. The first year and first trip to Lincoln was a change, but now you're just another Big Ten team. Michigan and Ohio State will get the headlines, while you'll be relegated to the second tier with Wisconsin, Iowa and MSU in terms of perception. Your program has a ton of great history, but none of that pertains to any of us.
Honestly, it's weird seeing random Nebraska players and coaches considered part of conference history on Big Ten Network. We'll never fully understand Eric Crouch or Tommie Frazier or any of that history. What did Penn State do before 1993? I don't know. Just as most other conference fans don't know about any MSU history before 1953. Your first trip to East Lansing will be exciting, but the shine is off, and now you can just chill with us complaining about Michigan and Ohio State getting too much hype.
Who's going to be doing the actual scoring for the Spartans this season?
Chris: Running back Le'Veon Bell is going to break out on the national scene this year. An overlooked recruit, he was impressive enough to avoid a redshirt and get solid playing time as a freshman in 2010, but he wore down toward the end of the season. In 2011, he got better as the year went along (as did the offensive line). With Edwin Baker having left early for the NFL, Bell is the clear-cut No. 1 guy, and with an experienced line in front of him, Bell will be the focal point of the offense. In the passing game, Andrew Maxwell should move into the starter's role just fine. As for who he's throwing to, athletic tight end Dion Sims is the most-experienced pass-catcher, while Bennie Fowler should be the top receiver on the outside. Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett also has big-play ability.
How long do you expect Mark Dantonio to stay in East Lansing?
Chris: Mark Dantonio will be retiring at Michigan State. Before the Jim Tressel situation went down, the only job I could see Dantonio taking a step up to was Ohio State. With Tressel's firing, there was no way Ohio State would hire a good friend of his, plus Urban Meyer was probably a better hire, anyway. Nick Saban left MSU because the school was never willing to do what it took to be a top-level program. That has changed. The coaches, athletic director and administration have realized the problems made in the past, and MSU will do whatever it takes to make sure Dantonio remains at MSU. From a new football building, to new scoreboards to raises for him and his assistants, the days of trying to overachieve by the cheap are gone, and Dantonio won't be going anywhere.
Husker fans are legendary for traveling to see football games. East Lansing/Michigan State isn't known as a great destination. Give us some reasons as to why Husker fans should be eager to come to East Lansing.
Chris: Before I get into the gist of things, Pete Rossman from TOC put together a great Visitors' Guide, which goes into specifics. If you're coming to East Lansing in November, bookmark this link.
Everything in East Lansing centers around Grand River Avenue, which is the north border of campus. Grand River is full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and whatnot. This will be your place to go for the most interesting stuff. North campus (from the Red Cedar River to Grand River) is quite scenic, although by November, it may look very Midwest-wintery. Spartan Stadium is right in the middle of campus, and if you park around Grand River for the game, the walk south to the stadium is quite pleasant. The night before the football game, MSU hockey has a game against Bowling Green, if you're into that. Munn Ice Arena is right next to the football stadium. The men's hoops schedule isn't out yet, but it's possible you could check out a game at Breslin Center that weekend.
North of Grand River is off-campus housing, if any young Husker fans want to find a party (just don't wear Nebraska gear). Older fans may want to check out downtown Lansing, which is, wait for it, to the west, just down Michigan Avenue. There are some classier restaurants down there, along with more good bars. Eastwood Towne Center is about 10 minutes north of EL, but has a big movie theater and an outdoor mall.
Pre-season game prediction - what happens in East Lansing this season?
Chris: Just as last year, the Huskers will be the anchor of a gauntlet in the schedule. Last year, the loss in Lincoln followed wins against Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin in back-to-back-to-back weeks. This year, the Nebraska game follows games against Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, with a bye following the Nov. 3 matchup.
It's likely the Spartans will be coming off a loss at Camp Randall, so I won't be too worried about a letdown. If MSU wins at Wisconsin, it could be a different story. That's just what tends to happen with this team.
Rex Burkhead ran better than most expected against a worn-down MSU defense a year ago. With most of MSU's defensive starters returning, I don't see that happening this time. There are questions about MSU's offense, but most of those will be answered by Nov. 3. I see another low-scoring slugfest, and I'm going to go with a 17-10 MSU win.