February 29, 2012

Schooling Schooler: Spartans Make Their Stand

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

The first game of the season didn't instill a lot of confidence that Michigan State would be able to fill the shoes of its departing rival. If Sparty can take down Arizona State - however depleted - on Saturday, it will be a good second step.
© Cecil Copeland

Talking with Michigan State players and their coach, Dwayne Hicks, in years past, there was a duality when it came to the University of Michigan. On one hand, there was great respect for what the Wolverines were able to achieve, but on the other, an annoyance that comes when an archrival is stealing the spotlight.

And if Michigan was anything, they were publicity hounds during their non-varsity days.

But now that the Wolverines are off on their grand expedition, the Spartans are left without a foil. As such, they must prove they are ready to assume the mantle of power in the Midwest, and show they are not always destined to play in some other program's shadow.

State certainly hasn't shown us they are ready to be a bully to this point. They needed two overtimes to subdue Davenport, an MCLA Division II team (albeit the national champions).

Now the season is about to start in earnest for Sparty, as they head to the desert to play a struggling Arizona State team, followed by a contest against formerly-ranked Arizona. Anything other than a 2-0 start would have to be considered a disappointment for a team with plans on filling the vacuum left by Michigan.

Can they do it? Our resident West Coast snob probably believes the Spartans will always be second fiddle (but hopefully he'll tell the story about how he was recruited by Michigan again).

SCHOOLER: Even though I was still in my mother's womb when Jac was finishing up high school, he still feels the need to resort to name calling in the face of losing. But in all honesty, it probably has to do with the general national consensus that people who live outside of California, hate it. In a recent poll, the Golden State – with its beautiful beaches, picturesque mountains and redwood forests – was deemed the most hated state with 44 percent of Americans polled giving California an 'unfavorable' ranking.

We were even ranked worse than New Jersey (32 percent unfavorable). But haters are going to hate. I love it here, and would not want to be living anywhere else, especially not in Wisconsin or Iowa.

Aside from my obvious bias towards western lacrosse teams, Jac brings up a good point. I do not believe that Michigan State has established itself well enough as a top MCLA program to sustain the same high level of competition from teams that venture to Michigan year after year without the Wolverines present. The Spartans were definitely riding Michigan's coattails.

They benefited from teams wanting to play the best, and in return, the Spartans were able to gain some much needed recognition by beating top tier programs. There may be a slight hangover effect, but if Michigan State wants to continue to lure the best in the MCLA to East Lansing, they will need to be a top five team this year. Unfortunately, as we saw over the last few weeks, a win over ASU may not hold as much esteem as it did in years past.

COYNE: After reading Schooler's missive above, just know this. (And it's from one Schooler's lunatic fringe websites, so it must be true).

To the games (where Nick is 10-5 and Jac is 6-9)...

No. 5 Boston College (3-0) at No. 2 Cal Poly (4-0) - Sunday, 1 p.m. PT (at Santa Barbara, Calif.)

COYNE: Just as it did a couple of weeks ago in the South, Boston College is sweeping into SoCal and playing whoever wants to get down, regardless of the potential competitive disadvantage of playing fresh teams. While the Eagles square off with No. 4 Chapman on Friday afternoon, Cal Poly will be plenty rested after the game against UCSB on Wednesday. It will likely be a factor in this contest.

BC does benefit from not having to play in San Luis Obispo. While I'm sure plenty of fans will make it down to Santa Barbara, there might be just as many Gaucho fans ready to hop on the Eagles' bandwagon depending on what happens on Wednesday.

Both of these teams have their flaws. Boston College typically has a very bad second quarter, allowing their opponents to take a lead. Cal Poly has a tendency to let late leads slip away with reckless play in the fourth quarter. This is a toss-up, with my heart saying Boston College and my head saying Mustangs. I'm going with Poly, 11-9.

SCHOOLER: With both teams having to play games against some tough opponents days before this match-up, Boston College should hold the edge. They traveled to Florida in early February and beat three teams in three days. I am not sure that the win over Florida State is as impressive as it once seemed, but the handling of Clemson is beginning to look a lot better.

It has been two weeks since the Eagles played a game while the Mustangs are coming off a hard fought win over division rival Cal, as well as two impressive wins over BYU and Oregon. Cal Poly also has one of my early favorites for MCLA offensive player of the year, Scott Heberer. This guy is good and impossible to stop. Cal Poly is solid in all aspects of the game and because of that, I am picking the 'Stangs to win, 12-9.

No. 7 Michigan State (1-0) at No. 9 Arizona State (2-1) - Saturday, 12 p.m. MT

COYNE: This one is actually pretty easy. I don't think that the Spartans will score many goals, but they'll score slightly more than the Sun Devils. ASU will be bolstered by playing at home, and Michigan State's double overtime win over Davenport didn't exactly instill confidence, but Sparty is the better team right now. MSU, 7-5.

SCHOOLER: Had this been the first game of the season, I would not have hesitated in picking ASU. However, as we saw last week, and the week before, and the week before that, this is far from the Sun Devil team that we got used to over the past few seasons. They lack the firepower on offense and are getting run down on defense.

The Sun Devils' longpoles are solid, but when you play the Spartans, you need to account for their talented midfield. The Nemes connection has been disrupted by the graduation of Patrick Nemes, but Josh stepped up and scored three goals in the Spartans narrow overtime win over Davenport. This is a tough one to choose, because I hate to go against the SLC, but I have to go with the Spartans in this one, 6-4.

No. 14 Virginia Tech (2-0) at No. 19 Florida State (5-3) - Saturday, 5 p.m. (at Ponte Vedra, Fla.)

COYNE: Something wasn't right last weekend with the Seminoles. One of the goalies was off in each game and had to be replaced and the offense was anemic, mustering an embarrassing 10 goals for the entire weekend. Should we chalk it up to one bad weekend, or have the 'Noles been deciphered?

It's tough to take much away from the Hokies opening weekend, which featured wins over SELC bantamweights Tennessee and Alabama. If I take a leap of faith and choose Tech, it will be because of one thing: the schedule. Unlike the last couple of years, VT has actually put together a schedule that will keep them in the at-large discussion, which leads me to believe they think they have a good team.

The neutral site game has me nervous, but I'll take the Hokies and a prayer, 12-11.

SCHOOLER: My gut is telling me to pick the Hokies because of a long connection of games that makes me think they should dominate FSU, but I cannot bring myself to do it. Matt Giannelli is an awesome player and should get some national recognition for Virginia Tech, but I think the Seminoles have something to prove after losing to Boston College, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.

This is technically a neutral site game, but the 'Noles will feel at home. Without a win here, you can kiss the FSU season goodbye. This is do or die for the Seminoles, and I have them pulling off the win, 10-9.

Coyne's Pick

No. 5 Boston College (3-0) at No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (4-0) - Monday, 2:30 p.m. PT

COYNE: So this was a little bit of a dirty trick, but I took the collar last weekend, going 0-5 (which is an impressive feat in of itself) and need all the help I can get (expect a Division II game to pop up in the near future). Schooler knows that Boston College has a veteran team that can easily exploit the Gauchos, but he's a company man, and he won't be able to show his face on campus if he doesn't take UCSB.

I think the Gauchos will be in the lead heading into the second half as BC tries to acclimate to UCSB's midfield corps, but the Eagles will get a second wind and take this one down, 9-8, and salvage the California weekend.

SCHOOLER: Jac threatened to select this game because I dominated him so hard last week, but I assure you that the Gauchos will win this game. The Eagles are playing three games in four days. That alone is enough to hand this game to UCSB. On top of that, Boston College is playing Cal Poly the previous day in Santa Barbara, so all of the Gauchos will be able to watch them in person. To make it even tougher for the Eagles, they will have to play the game on a different field from the one they play Cal Poly on.

Plus, they will have to deal with my heckling. UCSB, 13-7.

Schooler's Pick

No. 17 Illinois (0-0) vs. Iowa (3-0) – Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT (at Wheaton, Ill.)

SCHOOLER: Thought I might catch Jac supporting his alma mater in what could be the biggest upset in team history. He sure uses his power as an MCLA reporter to frequently boast about their mediocre play. Alas, I should have known better. Because of his Republican ideals, Jac has no problem turning his back on his own team and flip-flopping. Regardless of your political background or college roots, there is no way Iowa wins this game. The Illini win, 12-5.

COYNE: Wait, wait, wait. I'm an "MCLA reporter" now? Outstanding! Does that mean free mint juleps on Scazzero's tab in Greenville?

As for the game, I exploited Schooler with the previous contest, and this is his attempt at a tit-for-tat. I did my grad work at Iowa, so he thinks I have some sort of blind allegiance. I'm a Hawkeye fan without a doubt, but this isn't a game that tempts me.

Illinois is head and shoulders above the rest of the GRLC, and while Iowa has come out strong, highlighted by a victory over Wisconsin, they don't have the depth needed to threaten the Orange & Blue. The fact that Iowa is playing the night before against a capable Marquette team seals the deal. It'll be the Illini, 15-4.

Schooling Schooler Archive
Week Three: Wither the Sun Devils?
Week Two: Nick's Bittersweet Weekend
Week One: Time to Feed the Ego

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