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2016 NFL Mock Draft

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2016 NFL Mock Draft

1. Los Angeles Rams

Key Additions: Quinton Coples (LB/DE)

Key Losses: Janoris Jenkins (CB) James Laurinaitis (ILB) Rodney McLeod (FS)


The Pick: Jared Goff, Quarterback, California

Notes: The Rams gave up a king’s ransom to acquire the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft and many sources from both ESPN and NFL.com have linked them to either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz.  

2. Philadelphia Eagles

Key Additions: Brandon Brooks (G) Nigel Bradham (OLB) Rodney McLeod (FS)

Key Losses: Cedric Thornton (DE) DeMarco Murray — TRADE — (RB)

Needs: WR CB DE QB

The Pick: Carson Wentz, Quarterback, North Dakota State

Notes: The Eagles recently moved up to make sure they were able to select the quarterback they wanted as opposed to settling for a lesser player. Carson Wentz would not start immediately, but given starting quarterback Sam Bradford’s injury history, he may see some playing time this year.  

3. San Diego Chargers

Key Additions: Travis Benjamin (WR) Casey Hayward (CB) Dwight Lowery (FS)

Key Losses: Eric Weddle (FS) LaDarius Green (TE) Patrick Robinson (CB)

Needs: DE CB S TE

The Pick: Jalen Ramsey, Defensive Back, Florida State

Notes: Jalen Ramsey would be a great selection as he has the potential to play both free safety and cornerback, which are both positions of need for the Chargers.  

4. Dallas Cowboys

Key Additions: Cedric Thornton (DE) Alfred Morris (RB)

Key Losses: Mackenzy Bernadeau (C/G)  

Needs: LB DB S QB TE

The Pick: Joey Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State

Notes: The Cowboys have a lot of needs going into the draft most of which are defensive. Joey Bosa can fill the void on the defensive line left by Greg Hardy’s departure and Demarcus Lawrence’s suspension.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

Key Additions: Malik Jackson (DE) Tashaun Gibson (FS) Chris Ivory (RB)

Key Losses: Zane Beadles (G) Stefen Wisniewski (C)

Needs: DT OLB G

The Pick: Myles Jack, Outside Linebacker, UCLA

Notes: Myles Jack is arguably the best linebacker in this year’s draft and would be a great addition to Jacksonville’s young core.

6. Baltimore Ravens

Key Additions: Eric Weddle (FS) Mike Wallace (WR) Ben Watson (TE)

Key Losses: Courtney Upshaw (OLB) Kelechi Osemele (G) Daryl Smith (ILB)

Needs: RT DE LB S

The Pick: Ronnie Stanley, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame

Notes: While the Ravens have struggled to find a defensive identity since Ray Lewis’ retirement, another large concern has been the offensive line, which has had a hard time protecting QB Joe Flacco. Ronnie Stanley would help solidify that line.  

7. San Francisco 49ers

Key Additions: Zane Beadles (G)

Key Losses: Alex Boone (G)


The Pick: Paxton Lynch, Quarterback, Memphis

Notes: The 49ers have a ton of holes that still need to be filled after Jim Harbaugh’s departure, the main one being quarterback. Paxton Lynch should be competing for a starting job come this fall.

8. Cleveland Browns

Key Additions: Robert Griffin III (QB) Rahim Moore (FS) Alvin Bailey (G)

Key Losses: Alex Mack (C) Tashuan Gipson (FS) Travis Benjamin (WR)

Needs: QB OL LB S

The Pick: Reggie Ragland, Inside Linebacker, Alabama

Notes: Reggie Ragland’s addition would help to build up the Brown’s defensive core.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key Additions: Brent Grimes (CB) J.R. Sweezy (G) Robert Ayers (DE)

Key Losses: Bruce Carter (OLB)

Needs: S LB T

The Pick: Vernon Hargreaves, Cornerback, Florida

Notes: Tampa Bay would further improve their secondary with addition of Vernon Hargreaves who could bring some youth to what should be an impressive veteran core.

10. New York Giants

Key Additions: Olivier Vernon (DE) Janoris Jenkins (CB) Damon Harrison (DT)

Key Losses: Robert Ayers (DE) Geoff Schwartz (G) Rueben Randle (WR)

Needs: G RB LB SS

The Pick: Laremy Tunsil, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi

Notes: Laremy Tunsil is the best available player on the draft board in this position. He is also the best offensive lineman in the draft and would have an immediate impact for the Giants.  

11. Chicago Bears

Key Additions: Danny Trevathan (ILB)

Key Losses: Matt Forte (RB) Jermon Bushrod (T)

Needs: T CB ILB QB

The Pick: Jack Conklin, Offensive Tackle, Michigan State

Notes: Jack Conklin could almost certainly be a starter on the Bear’s rebuilding offensive line.

12. New Orleans Saints

Key Additions: Coby Fleener (TE) James Laurinaitis (ILB) Nick Fairley (DT)

Key Losses: Rafael Bush (FS) Ben Watson (TE)

Needs: LB DE CB WR

The Pick: DeForest Buckner, Defensive End, Oregon

Notes: DeForest Buckner is viewed by many draft analysts as the second best defensive linemen in the draft. His ability to rush the passer would greatly help a Saints defense looking for an identity.

13. Miami Dolphins

Key Additions: Kraig Urbik (G)  Isa Abdul-Quddus (S) Jermon Bushrod (T)

Key Losses: Lamar Miller (RB) Brent Grimes (CB) Olivier Vernon (DE)

Needs: RB CB G LB

The Pick: Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Ohio State

Notes: Most analysts advise against picking a running back in the first round, but Ezekiel Elliot is one of the recent exceptions to that rule. Miami has an opening at running back since Lamar Miller’s departure to free agency an opening that Elliott should fit well in.    

14. Oakland Raiders

Key Additions: Kelechi Osemele (G) Sean Smith (CB) Bruce Irvin (OLB) Reggie Nelson (FS)

Key Losses: J’Marcus Webb (T) Charles Woodson — RETIREMENT — (FS)

Needs: T TE ILB SS

The Pick: Leonard Floyd, Outside Linebacker, Georgia

Notes: Though many NFL scouts argue that Leonard Floyd is too small to play linebacker at the NFL level, his skills as a pass rusher are hard to ignore. If Floyd bulks up he can be a quality outside linebacker. If he doesn’t, he may be able to find his niche as a defensive end.

15. Tennessee Titans

Key Additions: Ben Jones (C) Rishard Matthews (WR) DeMarco Murray — TRADE — (RB)

Key Losses: Michael Griffin (FS)


The Pick: Darron Lee, Outside Linebacker, Ohio State

Notes: The Titans have done a fairly good job of rebuilding their offense as of late. Darron Lee would help start the process of rebuilding their defense.  

16. Detroit Lions

Key Additions: Geoff Schwartz (G) Marvin Jones (WR)  

Key Losses: Manuel Ramirez (G) Isa Abdul-Quddus (S) Calvin Johnson Jr. — RETIREMENT — (WR)

Needs: WR T ILB

The Pick: Laquon Treadwell, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss

Notes: Without Calvin “Megatron” Johnson the Lions will need a new centerpiece to their receiving core. Though no one can replace Megatron,” Laquon Treadwell has both the size and talent to help rebuild the receiving core.

17. Atlanta Falcons

Key Additions: Alex Mack (C) Mohamed Sanu (WR) Courtney Upshaw (OLB)

Key Losses: Paul Soliai (DT)

Needs: DB DL RT WR

The Pick: A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle, Alabama

Notes: The Falcons have committed to building their defense for the past few drafts and will continue this year. With the addition of A’Shawn Robinson, the Falcons look to improve upon an increasingly skilled defensive line.  

18. Indianapolis Colts

Key Additions: Patrick Robinson (CB)

Key Losses: Coby Fleener (TE) Dwight Lowery (FS)

Needs: RB S G RT

The Pick: Cody Whitehair, Guard, Kansas State

Notes: Cody Whitehair has been described as the “safest offensive linemen in the draft.” Whitehair would help strengthen a very weak Colts offensive line that struggled to protect QB Andrew Luck last season.

19. Buffalo Bills

Key Additions: Corey White (CB) Fernando Velasco (G)

Key Losses: Chris Hogan (WR) Nigel Bradham (OLB) Mario Williams (DE)

Needs: DE WR LB

The Pick: Shaq Lawson, Defensive End, Clemson

Notes: Shaq Lawson could be a good replacement for Mario Williams and help keep the Bills’ defensive dominance.

20. New York Jets

Key Additions: Matt Forte (RB) Bruce Carter (LB) Ryan Clady — TRADE — (T)

Key Losses: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (LT) Chris Ivory (RB) Damon Harrison (DT)

Needs: RG QB TE

The Pick: Hunter Henry, Tight End, Arkansas

Notes: The Jets in this draft should look to solidify their offense, which has improved gradually over the past few years. Hunter Henry is considered the best tight end in the draft by many and will compete for the starting spot on the Jets.

21. Washington Redskins

Key Additions: Vernon Davis (TE) Josh Norman (CB)

Key Losses: Terrance Knighton (DT) Alfred Morris (RB)

Needs: WR RB DL

The Pick: Sheldon Rankins, Defensive Tackle, Louisville

22. Houston Texans

Key Additions: Lamar Miller (RB) Brock Osweiler (QB)

Key Losses: Brandon Brooks (G) Rahim Moore (FS) Nate Washington (WR) Arian Foster (RB)

Needs: S TE G C

The Pick: Kevin Dodd, Defensive End, Clemson

Notes: Most of the Texans needs can be addressed in the later rounds, so they may look to add to a strongpoint of their team. Kevin Dodd would be a nice compliment to JJ Watt on the Texans impressive defense.

23. Minnesota Vikings

Key Additions: Alex Boone (G) Michael Griffin (FS) Andre Smith (RT)

Key Losses: Mike Wallace (WR) Josh Robinson (CB)

Needs: DE SS LG

The Pick: Emmanuel Ogbah, Defensive End, Oklahoma State

Notes: The Vikings have done a great job of adding players that make an immediate impact on the team both offensively and defensively. Emmanuel Ogbah could be the latest addition to a Vikings defense that has been on the up and up for the past few years.

24. Cincinnati Bengals

Key Additions: Karlos Dansby (ILB) Brandon LaFell (WR)

Key Losses: Marvin Jones (WR) Mohamed Sanu (WR) Andre Smith (RT)

Needs: RG FS LB WR

The Pick: Will Fuller, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame

Notes: The Bengals lost two of their secondary receivers to free agency and will look to find a No. 2 option opposite of star wideout AJ Green. Though some scouts are worried about his consistency issues catching the ball, Will Fuller should, at a minimum, draw some defensive attention away from AJ Green.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers

Key Additions: Ladarius Green (TE) Ryan Harris (LT)

Key Losses: Kelvin Beachum (T) Heath Miller — RETIREMENT — (TE)

Needs: DT DE DB

The Pick: Noah Spence, Defensive End, Eastern Kentucky

Notes: Noah Spence is widely regarded as a gamble due to his history of issues off the field, but the talent he brings cannot be ignored. The Steelers are looking to go back to their days of defensive dominance and Spence could help accomplish that goal.  

26. Seattle Seahawks

Key Additions: J’Marcus Webb (T)

Key Losses: Russell Okung (LT) Bruce Irvin (OLB) Marshawn Lynch — RETIREMENT — (HB)

Needs: T G DT LOLB

The Pick: Le’Raven Clark, Offensive Tackle, Texas Tech

Notes: The Seahawks lost the centerpieces of their offensive line to free agency so they will be looking for replacements. Le’Raven Clark is a solid tackle prospect who will have the opportunity to protect QB Russell Wilson’s blindside come this fall.

27. Green Bay Packers

Key Additions: Jared Cook (TE)

Key Losses: Casey Hayward (CB) BJ Raji — RETIREMENT — (DT/DE)

Needs: LT CB DL

The Pick: Andrew Billings, Nose Tackle, Baylor

Notes: The Packers have spent the past few drafts improving their defense, specifically their secondary. This year, they may continue the improvement of the defense with the selection of Andrew Billings who will help replace BJ Raji’s spot on the defensive line.

28. Kansas City Chiefs

Key Additions: Mitchell Schwartz (RT)

Key Losses: Sean Smith (CB) Jeff Allen (G) Husain Abdullah — RETIREMENT — (S)

Needs: WR LG DE DB

The Pick: Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, TCU

Notes: Even with the pickup of Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs biggest need remains wide receiver. Josh Doctson should make a solid No. 2 receiver opposite of Maclin.

29. Arizona Cardinals

Key Additions: Evan Mathis (G) Chandler Jones — TRADE — (DE)

Key Losses: Jonathan Cooper — TRADE — (G) Bobby Massie (RT) Sean Weatherspoon (ILB)

Needs: LB C QB CB

The Pick: Eli Apple, Cornerback, Ohio State

Notes: The Cardinals are just a few pieces away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender. One of those pieces is Eli Apple, cornerback who can play opposite of Pro-Bowler Patrick Peterson long term.

30. Carolina Panthers

Key Additions: Paul Soliai (DT)

Key Losses: Brad Nortman (P) Josh Norman (CB)

Needs: T DB DE G

The Pick: Germain Ifedi, Guard/Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M

Notes: The Panthers biggest weakness is their offensive line which was painfully exposed in the Super Bowl. Germain Ifedi is listed as a guard, but according to many scouts NFL teams, they could try to play him at tackle before moving inside. At either position, he fills a need for the Panthers.

31. Denver Broncos

Key Additions: Russell Okung (LT)

Key Losses: Malik Jackson (DE) Brock Osweiler (QB) Danny Trevathan (ILB) Peyton Manning — RETIREMENT — (QB)

Needs: QB G FS TE

The Pick: Connor Cook, Quarterback, Michigan State

Notes: The entire NFL community seems to be divided on Connor Cook. Some say he could be a good starting QB while others say he lacks leadership needed for a NFL player. However, recently he has been climbing up many draft boards. The Broncos desperately need a QB and Cook is a viable option at pick 31.

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It’s time to give Cam Newton some respect

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It’s time to give Cam Newton some respect

During the last two weeks of playoff action, the Carolina Panthers have delivered two brutal defeats to the Cardinals and Seahawks respectively en route to their Super Bowl berth. They have been clicking on all sides of the ball and capitalizing on their opponents every mistake.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

No one player has played better football for the Panthers than their quarterback Cam Newton. Newton played phenomenal, picking apart two of the better defenses in the NFL and throwing for 496 yards, three touchdowns while rushing for an additional two touchdowns. Newton and the Panthers performance should surprise no one if you look over their season’s body of work.

Yet, somehow, this season Cam Newton has been called out for seemingly no justifiable reason. There have been plenty of doubters during Newton’s career and sometimes they’ve been justified. A few years ago, Newton had a rough patch of games and became irritated with both his and the teams play. His frustration showed both on the field and during interviews so much so that eventually he was confronted about it by his teammates.

Following the confrontation, Newton has been, by NFL standards, a model citizen. In spite of his growth, Newton has had every criticism thrown against him this year, many targeted his character rather than his play on the field.

He has been called a thug by many, despite having no run-ins with the law. Others have accused him of being arrogant and “fake” because when he plays he always seems to have a smile on his face.

Perhaps the most infamous criticism that he received came in week nine of the season following a 27-10 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans when an opposing fan wrote a letter about how Newton’s celebration, a dancing dab, was offensive to her 9-year-old daughter and was a poor example to all the children watching him play. Despite all of this, Newton responded by brushing it off and continuing to play at an elite level.

This season, Newton threw over 3,800 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while leading his team to an impressive 15-1 record. Perhaps what is most impressive about this is that Newton was able to put up these numbers and lead his team to the Super Bowl with a very limited talent pool.

Early on in the season Newton lost his top receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a knee injury leaving him with a group of unproven and some injury-prone wide receivers. Further adding to potential problems was a running game that also lacked consistency. Newton’s only consistent weapon was tight end Greg Olsen. The only other quarterback to play at this level with so little weapons is Tom Brady, putting Newton near the same level as one of the best quarterbacks of this generation.

Cam Newton is now approaching a milestone that no other quarterback has ever done before. According to CBS Sports, if Newton wins the Super Bowl and League MVP he will be the only other player to win a Heisman, BCS National Championship, MVP and Super Bowl in the history of the NFL. Even if Newton is unable to complete this incredible feat, he will still have a lasting impact on the game.

Newton has revolutionized the quarterback position by being both a great runner and superior passer, something very seldom seen in the NFL and even more rare from a QB with a lack of skilled position players. Newton has also been the latest QB to try to disprove stereotypes for what is expected of an African American quarterback. The main stereotype being that black quarterbacks are only good runners, not passers, which Newton’s play over the last two seasons has disproved that notion.

Cam Newton has proven time and time again that he is an elite QB that will do everything in his power to put his team in position to win. He has grown significantly as a team player and face of a franchise while maintaining his image.

When Newton plays the game he shows his emotion and looks as though he is genuinely having fun, which makes watching him that more enjoyable. This Super Bowl Sunday you can expect to see Newton playing his heart out in an effort bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Charlotte for the first time in the team’s history. So maybe it is time that Cam Newton’s critics take a step back, look at all Newton has accomplished in his short career, and appreciate his greatness.

Statistics via ESPN.com

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How the College Football Playoff can be improved

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How the College Football Playoff can be improved

Another regular season of college football has finished and the College Football Playoff committee has selected the four teams that have a chance to compete for a national title.

In its second season, the CFP didn’t see nearly the same level of controversy as it did in its inaugural season when they selected Ohio State over a representative of the Big 12. This year, analysts and fans appear to be in general agreement that the four best college football teams in the country – Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, and Oklahoma – made the playoffs. However, many football fans and analysts would argue that there were a few other teams deserving of a chance at the national title.

Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

So how can the CFP be improved? Many people agree that the right direction for the CFP to go in involves expansion. However, each person had a different opinion on how the playoff should be expanded.

“The top teams from every conference (in the Football Bowl Subdivision or FBS) should be allowed into the playoff to increase competition for the national title. Also, minimize the amount of bowl games to improve their meaning,” said Luis Enrique Agosto, freshman at Michigan State University.

This is an interesting idea; every single conference would be represented in the playoffs, similar to what professional football has. Certainly this would have the potential to push the lower conferences to produce better football teams in order to to compete with the “Power Five” teams. Also, it would increase the likelihood of upsets and increase the overall excitement of games. There are a few problems with this idea. For one, the new approach would essentially get rid of the ranking system that has dominated college sports for decades, which many traditional fans may reject. Secondly, this proposal excludes non-conference teams like Notre Dame until they pick a conference, which, of course, Fighting Irish fans and administration wouldn’t endorse at all.

“The playoff should be expanded to 10 teams and bowl games outside of the playoffs should minimized,” said MSU freshman Jade Harris.

With this idea, the playoff selection itself wouldn’t change, but the number of teams let in would. The ranking system would remain intact and competition would increase as more teams would be in the running for the national title. The problem with this idea is whether or not there’s enough time in the college football season for 10 teams to get through a playoff. Right now, the playoffs take three weeks: one week of games, a bye week and then the championship game. Under this proposal that would need to be expanded drastically to fit in all of those games.

Freshman Anna Stankewitz suggested that the committee should “Gradually increase the number of teams allowed into playoff until you reach the ideal amount. Also, make a distinction between bowl games and playoff games. Furthermore, top tier teams should receive some sort of home field advantage for at least one playoff game.”

Most likely this is how things would go if the playoff were to expand. The college football world (programs, committee, donors, etc.) would decide upon the number of teams it wants to expand to. For example, let’s say the committee chooses eight teams, instead of going directly from four playoff teams to eight in the span of a year, it might go from four to six in a year and then six to eight the following year. The home field advantage aspect of the idea certainly is intriguing as it would reward the upper tier teams and make wins and losses all the more special. Again, a problem with this proposal is whether or not there is enough time in the college football season to include up to eight or more teams. In addition, the idea of postseason home field advantage may not appeal to everyone.

“The CFP can’t be run like the NCAA March Madness tournament simply because the season is too short. Adding a wildcard may work; so might turning purely to computer rating system to determine the playoff contenders. Making it eight teams would do a better job at getting the best team in the nation. Separate the power bowls (Orange, Sugar, Rose, Cotton),” said MSU Sports Geography professor Dr. Arbogast.

The CFP might not have the time, but that doesn’t mean the level of excitement drawn from March Madness can’t be mirrored in college football. A wildcard(s) would certainly add excitement and increase competition within the playoffs, but the question there would be whether the committee would use rankings, record or team status as the method for selecting the team(s). An expansion to eight teams would carry many of these benefits, however, the question of time still remains an issue. Purely going to a computer rating for determining playoff contenders could also definitely cause a stir.

Another theme throughout these suggestions was the call for bowl game reform. Suggestions ranged from simply cutting some of the lesser bowls to completely separating bowl games from the CFP. Unlike playoff changes these will be extremely hard to reform and change up in a hurry. Why? The bowl system is a vital part of the college football tradition and it would be difficult to change that, even if that change would be for the better.

The CFP will change eventually and this improvement will most likely come in the form of an expansion. The powers that control college football may very well hear ideas similar to the ones stated in this article. However, even with modifications, not everyone will be happy. There will always be one team or fan base on the outside looking in. That cannot be changed. What can be changed is the product that the CFP delivers. 

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Do the Spartans have enough to make the College Football Playoff?

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Do the Spartans have enough to make the College Football Playoff?

Despite their success, Michigan State University still hasn’t gotten the respect from the media and football analytics alike. Many people have written off the Spartans as a phony contender for the College Football Playoffs (CFP).

According to ESPN, the reason why MSU has fallen in recent rankings is because they “don’t have a superstar on the roster.” Evidently, they must have forgotten about MSU quarterback Connor Cook who has thrown only two interceptions while throwing for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns through week eight of the regular season.

Maybe they have forgotten that three MSU players have received Big Ten Weekly Awards on four occasions this year. To add more insult to injury, ESPN’s Todd McShay claimed the Spartans are  an overrated team. His reasoning?

“They let Indiana hang around — it was a two-point game at the end of the third quarter … The Spartans nearly blew a 21-point lead to Purdue and while their home win against Oregon was highly touted at the time, it’s hard not to view that a little differently in hindsight.”

MSU let Indiana hang around in the third quarter before blowing them out 52-26 in the fourth quarter. Compare that to Big Ten rival Ohio State who allowed Indiana to hang around until the last play and only beat Northern Illinois by a single score despite being heavily favored. Yet Ohio State didn’t falter in the rankings nor did they receive the same criticism that MSU did for keeping the game close against two teams that they were predicted to beat easily. Even with their one loss, the Spartans and the Buckeyes are two very similar teams that remain competitive throughout their games, yet the Spartans seem to receive all the criticism.

Perhaps one of the more peculiar arguments about MSU is a Bleacher Report article that discussed the betting odds for the game. MSU was favored by 17 points, but Bleacher Report said that the smart betting choice was Indiana – a team with a 4-3 record playing an undefeated team on their home field.

If the CFP ranking committee looked at the other teams ranked ahead of MSU with the same heightened scrutiny, they would find more cracks in many of those teams compared to MSU.  

Many argue that  MSU’s schedule is too easy, but if you look at Baylor and Ohio State, they both have fairly easy schedules as well. Baylor has yet to play a ranked team this year, but they are praised for their outstanding performances versus subpar teams.  

ESPN and other sports media outlets argue that MSU’s margin of victory in their wins isn’t high enough against the teams they have faced. However, half of the teams ranked above MSU have had at least two one-possession games against teams that they were expected to beat with ease.

Now, is this article to say that MSU should be number one in the rankings? No, but they should be in the top four at minimum. The final playoff rankings are still five weeks away and there is plenty of football left to be played. Even with MSU’s controversial loss to Nebraska on Nov. 7, the team’s playoff eligibility shouldn’t be taken away. If MSU continues to play well and the committee gets it right with the rankings, the Spartans should have a playoff spot come December.

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Professional Spartans: Le’Veon Bell

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Professional Spartans: Le’Veon Bell

bellThere are 20 former Spartans currently in the National Football League, 17 of them played under Mark Dantonio. Arguably the best NFL player to come out of the Spartans lead by Dantonio is Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell.

In his three years at Michigan State University, Bell amassed 3,346 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns, the majority of which came during his final year in 2012. Bell’s first two years at MSU were spent splitting time and carries with fellow running back Edwin Baker. In 2012, Bell rushed for 1,793 yards on 382 attempts as MSU’s primary running back, catching the attention of NFL scouts and teams.

According to NFL scouts, Bell’s clear strength was the power behind his runs. They described Bell as a “Big, bruising back with power in his lower body but lighter feet than you’d expect given his size … Strong cuts and a nice burst out of them makes him capable of breaking off big runs … ” The only weakness scouts saw in his game was his height, because it slowed him down slightly and made him a much larger tackling target.

In 2013, with the 48th pick in the second round, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Bell. Bell’s impact was felt immediately as he rushed for 860 yards and 8 touchdowns in his rookie season. During that season, Bell’s weekly rushing varied quite a bit, however, he managed a 100+ yard rushing game against the Green Bay Packers in week 16.

2014 saw Bell come into his own as an NFL running back. He ran for 1,361 yards and 8 touchdowns despite injuring his knee at the end of the year. Bell broke career high rushing games twice in 2014. Once in week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, where he ran for 147 yards, and again in week 11 against the Tennessee Titans, where he ran for 204 yards and a touchdown. Bell strongly contributed to the Steelers AFC North title and their playoff berth, but was unable to play in the postseason due to injury.

Bell missed the first two games of the 2015 season due to suspension for marijuana use, but when he returned to action he showed the NFL that he is still a top 10 running back and a key piece to the Steelers’ offense. In just four games, Bell has 390 yards and two touchdowns with two 100+ yard rushing games. Three of Bell’s four games have been played without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and in his absence Bell has proven that he can carry this offense by himself, if need be.

Bell’s career is definitely trending in the right direction. Earlier this year, former NFL great Tiki Barber was asked by Bleacher Report which current running back reminds him most of himself and Barber said Bell, “Le’Veon reminds me of myself … Although he got it much quicker than I did.”

If Bell continues to play like he is now, we could be talking about him and runners like Barber in the same conversation for years to come.   


College stats courtesy of sports-reference.com.

NFL stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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Professional Spartans: Kirk Cousins

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Professional Spartans: Kirk Cousins


Back in the spring of 2012, the Washington Redskins were desperate for a quarterback. Fresh off of a 5-11 season, the team was searching for the franchise quarterback that they had been missing since the ‘90s.

In the first round of the draft, according to Bleacher Report, they gave up a King’s Bounty of three first round picks and a second round pick to acquire Robert Griffin III out of Baylor. Many assumed that the Redskins had found their man. However, three rounds later with the seventh pick in the fourth round, they selected another quarterback – Kirk Cousins.

The reaction to the Redskins selection of Cousins in the fourth round was mixed. Many thought that he was picked strictly as a backup.

According to an NFL.com scouting report, many NFL scouts agreed with this noting that “while he was a QB drafted for his intangibles and experiences as a three-year starter and captain at Michigan State, he has deficiencies that will hurt him at the next level.”

During his first year in Washington, D.C., Cousins played three times, filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III. His first game was a loss against the Atlanta Falcons despite putting up decent numbers.

Eight weeks later, Griffin III exited early from a game against the Baltimore Ravens. Cousins successfully managed the late part of the game and helped the Redskins to an overtime victory. The next week, according to NFL.com, he started the first game of his career during which he had two touchdowns and threw for 329 yards on his way to a 104.4 passer rating and a victory.

After 2012, things began to go up and down in Cousins’ career. Expected franchise savior Griffin III suffered a severe injury in the 2012 postseason, which he would never fully recover from. In 2013, Cousins played in five games including the last three weeks of the season after then Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan declared Griffin III inactive. Once again, Cousins put up average numbers, but he began to show a problem with throwing interceptions and consistency.

In 2014, Cousins played in place of an injured Griffin III for five games where his performances ranged from great to inconsistent. His unreliable play lead to him being benched and replaced by third-string QB Colt McCoy and a flurry of trade rumors.

However, in 2015 Cousins has another shot. Following a concussion that Griffin III sustained during the preseason against the Lions, Cousins was named the starter quarterback for the season in a controversial move by head coach Jay Gruden.

Initially things didn’t look promising for Cousins this year. Reports swirled of an alleged rift between the players on whether to follow Cousins or to stay loyal to Griffin III. Now, four games into the 2015 season, Cousins has made strides to winning over both the locker room and fans.

So far this year, Cousins has thrown for 1,005 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions, as stated on NFL.com. His play still follows an up and down pattern when it comes to touchdown to interception ratio and his quarterback rating, but Cousins’ overall play this year feels different.

Cousins is playing very good for being on a team that is limited talent-wise and dysfunctional on the management level. He is leading the Redskins to victories and keeping them competitive in games that might have otherwise been blowouts.

Cousins’ ability to make something out of a weak roster, rolling with the mismanagement and sometimes media punches add a layer of value to him. If Cousins continues to improve on his overall game and keep his team competitive despite the roadblocks ahead, he could be in for a good payday come this offseason.

Cousins’ NFL future looks bright and if he leaves Washington, D.C. next spring for a more stable team, his career could take off, making him a solid tier two quarterback.


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2015 NFL Season Predictions: National Football Conference

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2015 NFL Season Predictions: National Football Conference

NFC North









Chicago Bears

2015 Prediction: 4-12

Best Case: 6-10

Worst Case: 2-14

This year will be Jay Cutler’s last stand. There will be no one left to blame, but him. Bears fans if you thought Jay’s last year was bad, it could get worse. Chicago’s offensive-line is inconsistent as is its defense. Offensively, Jay also lost one of his top targets in Brandon Marshall to the Jets and rookie WR Kevin White will miss up to half the season with an injury. Head coach John Fox will need time to work with this team before things can turn around and that probably won’t happen this year. So buckle up Bears fans, it could be a bumpy ride.

Minnesota Vikings

2015 Prediction: 4-12

Best Case: 8-8

Worst Case: 3-13

The Vikings really have done a great job filling out their roster. There is good, for the most part, young talent throughout this roster. Their offense has the potential to be very good in 2015, as they have surrounded second year QB Teddy Bridgewater with excellent weapons. There defense is underrated and could be great for years to come. The only problem with this team is its consistency. You never know what Vikings team will be seen on Sundays. It is for that reason that they are a boom or bust team.

Detroit Lions

2015 Prediction: 10-6

Best Case: 11-5

Worst Case: 8-8

Despite the loss of Suh the Lions still have a formidable defense and team. The offense gained a key piece in Ameer Abdullah to start up a new look running game. Despite playing the NFC West, the Lions still have a good shot at winning a playoff berth. This team’s biggest enemy is itself and must avoid crucial mistakes down the line.

Green Bay Packers

Ceiling: 15-1

Minimum: 11-5

Prediction: 13-3

The Packers are arguably the best team in the NFL. QB Aaron Rodgers and his offense keep finding new ways to amaze. The defense, while not having too many big names, still holds their own. It’s hard to identify any weakness with this team. Expect big things from the Packers in 2015.

NFC West









St. Louis Rams

2015 Prediction: 7-9

Best Case: 8-8

Worst Case: 5-11

The Rams will finish at the same record (or worse) that they have danced around for the length of head coach Jeff Fisher’s tenure. Despite having perhaps a top five defensive unit for the past few years they always seem to find ways to lose. When you find ways to lose in the NFC West, things typically don’t go well for you. Maybe things will go differently as a result of the Rams bolstering their offense with QB Nick Foles and rookie RB Todd Gurley, but if Fisher’s team holds to its track record, it will underachieve.

San Francisco 49ers

2015 Prediction: 4-12

Best Case: 8-8

Worst Case: 3-13

The 49ers were the biggest losers of the NFL offseason losing head coach Jim Harbaugh, veterans like Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, and others to free agency like Frank Gore. It’s unlikely that this team will recover from losses sustained in the offseason, not to mention that there are now questions about QB Colin Kaepernick’s ability to lead this team. Also, they play in arguably the toughest division in football, which will not help them. Enjoy Levi stadium in the regular season 49ers fans,because they won’t be on it come February.

Arizona Cardinals

Ceiling: 13-3

Minimum: 9-7

Prediction: 12-4

The Cardinals have a top three defense in the NFL. Their offense is surprisingly good with Carson Palmer at the helm even though their WR core and RBs aren’t that dominant. Despite injuries sustained over course of the season, the Cardinals find ways to win and that is what makes them a Super Bowl caliber team.

Seattle Seahawks

Ceiling: 13-3

Minimum: 9-7

Prediction: 12-4

The Seahawks regressed since last year. However, they are still a very good team. Their running game is great and the addition of Jimmy Graham should boost their passing game. Furthermore, despite their struggles,they always find a way to win. Given their track record, the NFC should still fear the Seahawks.

NFC East









Washington Redskins

2015 Prediction: 3-13

Best Case: 5-11

Worst Case: 1-15

Where to begin with this team? The Redskins have had it real rough over the last few years. From the supposed rift between QBs Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III to owner Dan Snyder’s constant negative press, the Redskins are a mess. The offense is shaky at best with an inconsistent o-line, however, it does feature stars like running back Alfred Morris and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The defense is in a similar boat with one of the worst defensive secondaries in the league, but it does have some positives in the LB core and defensive line. Bottom line, the season doesn’t look too good for Washington.

Philadelphia Eagles

2015 Prediction: 9-7

Best Case: 10-6

Worst Case: 4-12

Chip Kelly…what the heck are you planning with this roster? Kelly made a ton of head-scratching moves, which included trading LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, and acquiring many players with questionable injury backgrounds (Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso, DeMarco Murray). Kelly also got rid of key veterans like Jeremy Maclin, Evan Mathis and Trent Cole leading many to question if Kelly can handle the many personalities on an NFL squad. If the acquisitions stay healthy this team could make a playoff run thus silencing Kelly’s critics, but if they don’t, things could get ugly.

*Dallas Cowboys

2015 Prediction: 8-8

Best Case: 10-6

Worst Case: 6-10

The Cowboys offense has a few luxuries that most teams don’t have: a fantastic o-line, elite WR and an above average QB. Then the injury bug hit, first with Dez Bryant and then Tony Romo. With Romo the Cowboys were a dark horse Super Bowl contender. Without him, they’re barely a playoff contender. No doubt this team is talented, but without their starting QB and star WR Dez Bryant for at least half the season, its playoff hopes are in serious question.

*Takes into account Romo’s injury

New York Giants

2015 Prediction: 10-6

Best Case: 11-5

Worst Case: 7-9

We’ve seen this situation before. Tom Coughlin is in a contract year. Eli Manning is supposedly done in this league and the Giants don’t have enough talent to compete. This is when the Giants find ways to win and shock the world. The NFC East is open for the taking and the Giants could very well take it. While the team’s defense is mediocre, its offense has sky-high potential with Odell Beckham Jr.  and Victor Cruz coming back from injury. The offense is key to this team it will take them far.
NFC South

Panthers at Ravens 9/28/14







Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2015 Prediction: 3-13

Best Case: 5-11

Worst Case: 2-14

The Buccaneers are another team that are promising with all of the young talent that they have, especially WR Mike Evans and QB Jameis Winston. With head coach Lovie Smith at the helm, this defense has improved, but still needs some work. They too lack consistency and are missing some important pieces to make them relevant again within the division.

New Orleans Saints

2015 Prediction: 9-7

Best Case: 10-6

Worst Case: 7-9

The Saints are a team that’s getting up there in age and it’s beginning to show. Drew Brees, as good as he has been, is making more and more uncharacteristic mistakes. The whole team is for that matter. More turnovers, poorer defensive play, it doesn’t look good. This is perhaps the last good year we will see out of the Saints before they go through a rebuild.

Carolina Panthers

2015 Prediction: 8-8

Best Case: 9-7

Worst Case: 4-12

The Panthers season has hardly begun and it’s already in jeopardy. Without key offensive weapon Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers QB Cam Newton’s weapons are limited. Add to that a weak running game and the Panthers could be in trouble. Even with the rest of the division in the weakened state it’s in, you have to wonder how much longer Cam Newton and the Panthers’ stout defense can carry this team.

Atlanta Falcons

2015 Prediction: 11-5

Best Case: 11-5

Worst Case: 8-8

The Falcons are the best team in their division. They have the best offense in that division lead by WR Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Their defense has improved quite a bit since last year with the addition of Vic Beasley along with the development of other young players. From a consistency standpoint, they are the most consistent in the division and in the NFC South that is probably enough to win it.




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2015 NFL Season Predictions: American Football Conference

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2015 NFL Season Predictions: American Football Conference

AFC North








Cleveland Browns

2015 Prediction: 4-12

Best Case: 5-11

Worst Case: 2-14

The Browns, much like the Redskins, are a very flawed team. The near constant flip-flopping between QBs Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel doesn’t help much either. This team lacks consistency, which comes up and bites them in games. They, like the Jaguars, have a very tough schedule facing the NFC West, which is one of the best divisions in football among other tough opponents within their own division. The combination of these factors will make this year difficult for the Browns.

Cincinnati Bengals

2015 Prediction: 7-9

Best Case: 10-6

Worst Case: 6-10

The Bengals are a team that performs when no one’s looking and then collapses in big moments. They have been the beneficiaries of a weak AFC Conference where they’ve been able to sneak into the the playoffs. I believe that ends this year. Their defense keeps getting older and the Bengals have done very little to address that, which may bite them later. Not to mention the divisional opponents, which have all relatively beefed up while they’ve basically stayed the same. This could very well be Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ last year as a Bengal if this pattern of underachievement continues.

Baltimore Ravens

2015 Prediction: 9-7

Best Case: 11-5

Worst Case: 6-10

The Ravens are basically the anti-Bengals. They lose an easy game here and there, but always seem to shine in big moments. Much like the Bengals, they have taken advantage of a weak AFC to get into the playoffs, but that stops this year unless they play very well. Offensively, QB Joe Flacco’s weapons are limited. Defensively, their secondary is inconsistent and given their schedule these weaknesses have the potential to hurt them in the long run.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2015 Prediction: 12-4

Best Case: 14-2

Worst Case: 11-5

The Steelers have quietly become one of the top three offenses in the league. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell create problems for even the best defense. Their division is relatively wide open. The main weakness of this team is its defense which is largely unproven. If they are able to grow as a defense and avoid the pitfalls of an NFL season, they can be dangerous going into the postseason.

AFC West









Kansas City Chiefs

2015 Prediction: 8-8

Best Case: 10-6

Worst Case: 7-9

The Chiefs definitely improved this offseason adding Jeremy Maclin to their roster,  giving Alex Smith a WR to throw to. The offense is decent and features a great rushing attack led by Jamaal Charles. Add that to an impressive defense and the Chiefs look pretty good. However, they play in the AFC West, a division that the Chargers and the Peyton Manning led Broncos dominate, meaning that a playoff berth will be hard to come by. If they play well, the Chiefs could sneak into the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers

2015 Prediction: 10-6

Best Case: 11-5

Worst Case: 9-7

The Chargers are an overall well-rounded NFL team. Both sides of the ball are about equal to each other talent-wise. Their biggest problem will be getting over the Broncos in the AFC West and if they can’t get over the Broncos, then they will have to outperform the rest of the AFC field to claim a wildcard spot.

Oakland Raiders

2015 Prediction: 3-13

Best Case: 6-10

Worst Case: 3-13

It seems as though the Raiders have been in eternal rebuild mode since they lost the Super Bowl back in 2002, but this team that they are currently constructing feels different than from years past. Offensively, they have a young talented core of Derek Carr at QB, Latavius Murray at RB and Amari Cooper at WR. Defensively, it is much of the same with Khalil Mack headlining the group. This roster still has many holes to fill and a tough schedule to work around, however, in years to come this could potentially be a playoff caliber team.

Denver Broncos

2015 Prediction: 12-4

Best Case: 14-2

Worst Case: 11-5

Under a new offensive scheme lead by Gary Kubiak, many are questioning whether or not the Broncos can repeat their recent success. This new offense could make Peyton Manning even better than before. While his regular season numbers may go down, his success in the postseason may improve. Also, helping him is a fast developing defense making the Broncos a top three AFC team.

AFC East 








New England Patriots

2015 Prediction: 13-3

Best Case: 14-2

Worst Case: 10-6

The Patriots are hungry. The Patriots are angry. The rest of the NFL should be afraid. Their offense is next to unstoppable with Gronkowski, Edelman, and Brady leading the way. The only potential weakness is the defense which lost most of the core of its secondary when Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis jumped ship. Outside of that, they are a dangerous team

New York Jets

2015 Prediction: 4-12

Best Case: 7-9

Worst Case: 3-13

The New York Jets have been the joke of the NFL for the last couple of years, but this year they have put out a talented squad. Returning is a dominant and scary defense that brought back one of its founding members, Darrelle Revis. To add to this is something we haven’t seen from the Jets in a while; a solid offensive unit that’s deep at RB and features Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Alas, there is still one giant, glaring hole in this team…the quarterback. Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick aren’t going to cut it. The Jets need to find a permanent and stable QB before we can discuss playoffs for them.

Buffalo Bills

2015 Prediction: 9-7

Best Case: 10-6

Worst Case: 7-9

The Bills are the perfect situation for new head coach Rex Ryan. Great defense? Check. Solid running game with a competent QB? Check. This team could be competing for a playoff berth in December. Like any Rex Ryan team, the Bills are their own worst enemy. They need to avoid shooting themselves in the foot late in the year to contend for a playoff seed.

Miami Dolphins

2015 Prediction: 10-6

Best Case: 11-5

Worst Case: 8-8
This could be the year that the Dolphins actually live up to the talent on their roster. New additions such as Suh and Cameron should bolster both sides of the ball, but the Dolphins have to play to their level to achieve a playoff berth and cannot fall victim to the “same old Dolphins” trend that has plagued them for the past few years.

AFC South









Jacksonville Jaguars

2015 Prediction: 2-14

Best Case: 5-11

Worst Case: 1-15

The Jaguars have made strides forward in recent years. For the past couple of years, they’ve been able a fairly good crop of young talent like Blake Bortles, TJ Yelden, and Jonathan Cyprien while simultaneously bringing in decent veterans through free agency. The problem for the Jaguars is two fold. One, they aren’t that experienced as a unit, and two, their schedule is pretty rough this year facing teams like the Patriots, Ravens, Chargers, and Falcons. While this year could be rough for them they are definitely trending upward.

Tennessee Titians

2015 Prediction: 6-10

Best Case: 7-9

Worst Case: 4-12

The Titans are another team that appears to be at the tail end of a rebuilding phase. This offseason saw boosts to their defense by adding Brian Orakpo and Offense by adding former Falcons wideout Harry Douglas. Their most intriguing asset, however, is QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota has many question marks surrounding him on how he will perform as a professional quarterback. Mariota does have something going for him, he has a ton of talent around him. Maybe just enough to bring this team back into relevance.

Houston Texans

2015 Prediction: 7-9

Best Case: 9-7

Worst Case: 6-10

The Texans are in the same boat as the Jets. They have a very good defense that features the best DE in the league JJ Watt. Offensively, there are plenty of talented players such as Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins. Their only problem is the QBs  Ryan Mallet and Brian Hoyer both are not the answer as their play is far too erratic. The window for this team is starting to close and the Texans need to address their QB issue before considering a postseason run.

Indianapolis Colts

2015 Prediction: 11-5

Best Case: 13-3

Worst Case: 8-8

The current Colts roster is built for a postseason success, but will they achieve that goal? There are holes in this roster, for one the offensive line needs some work and the defense isn’t the NFL’s finest. That being said this team has one of the up and coming elite QBs in the game. This team will go as far as Andrew Luck does.


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Spartans on Spotify: Tailgate Tunes

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Spartans on Spotify: Tailgate Tunes

Photo Courtesy of: Tanner Trombley

Photo Courtesy of: Tanner Trombley

Hey everyone, Rene here! Spartans on Spotify is a monthly column in which I’ll be providing a themed playlist of songs across all genres and fit for any Spartan. In addition to posting the song list on here, you can listen along on The Big Green’s Spotify account. Follow us at TheBigGreenMSU to stay up to date with all of our monthly playlists!

This month’s theme: Tailgate Tunes the perfect mix to please all crowds at any tailgate or pregame.

1.  Type of Way – Rich Homie Quan

This one kind of speaks for itself. Nothing quite says “Spartan Football” like the anthem of our beloved team the year that we won the Rose Bowl in 2014.

2. 7/11 – Beyonce

Let’s face it – everyone can get down to some Beyonce Knowles. She’s a crowd pleaser and a must have in any pregame playlist.

3. Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

Once you hear it, you can’t get it out of your head.

4. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

It might be overplayed, but that’s for a good reason: this song makes people want to move no matter how much they try not to.

5. Get Low – Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz

Yes, we’ve heard it over and over again at any given gathering, but it’s still as great as it was when you were in the sixth grade and heard it for the first time.

6. Come On Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners

It might not be as well known to the vast majority, but there’s something about this song that fits perfectly into any tailgate.

7. Roses – OutKast

Let’s be real, everyone loves a throwback.

8. I Don’t F*** With You – Big Sean

Not only is this song catchy, but it definitely gets the crowd hyped up about crushing whichever team the Spartans are about to defeat.

9. Ignition Remix – R Kelly

This is another one of those songs that we all heard in middle school, which is one of the reasons why this is an obvious crowd favorite.

10. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

Only the best for last. It’s remarkable that this song was released in 1969 and yet at any given pregame, you’ll find yourself singing the chorus at the top of your lungs – “Good times never seemed so good (so good, so good, so good).”

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Homecoming: Spartans Take the World Stage

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Homecoming: Spartans Take the World Stage

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr














A large number of students look forward to their school’s Homecoming, and Michigan State University is no exception. After all, it is an entire week dedicated to the return home of Spartan alumni to East Lansing.

For 2015, Homecoming is the week of Sept. 28 through Oct. 3. The week is filled with festivities for both students and alumni, highlighted by the parade on Friday night and the football game on Saturday afternoon.

On Monday, Sept. 28, the University Activities Board will be giving away free Homecoming shirts to people who can sing the school fight song. There is also a hayride around campus that explores the school’s history.

Tuesday night, MSU’s acapella groups will be performing at the MSU Student Union.

On Thursday morning, the School of Hospitality Business will sponsor a golf outing, along with other events throughout the day.

For those that love ice cream, head to The Rock on Friday for a free dairy store treat. Also on Friday, you won’t want to miss the Homecoming parade with performances by the Spartan Marching Band, the MSU Alumni Band, the cheerleaders, dance team and more.

For a full list of events, check out the Michigan State University Alumni Association website.

The Homecoming Court is made up of 10 MSU seniors selected by a committee made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders. Members of the court must have at least a 2.5 GPA, and they must be in good legal, academic and disciplinary standing. Members are often involved in various clubs and organizations on campus as well.

Court members are chosen through a highly selective process and being selected is considered an extremely high honor for a Michigan State senior. Members will make an appearance in the parade on Friday night and they will be presented during halftime of the game on Saturday.

Teresa Bitner, a member of the court, said that watching previous Homecoming Courts is what inspired her to apply. She has enjoyed getting to know the other members and loves the diversity of the group.

“It is an honor to be a member of this year’s Homecoming Court and be associated with each of the other members,” Bitner said.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, head to Spartan Stadium to watch the football team take on the Purdue Boilermakers. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. Come out and show your Spartan pride!

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