Michigan State Spartans Ranked 11th? AP Voter Rob Long Explains His Ballot
By Kevin Heitz
The state of football in Michigan is strong. Both the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans boast undefeated records heading into this weekend's battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Rich Rodriguez's Wolverines are led by electrifying quarterback Denard Robinson, who looks to be running away with the Heisman race. "Shoelace" has thrown for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 905 yards and eight scores. Robinson was named the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week for the second time this young season following his 494-yard outburst against Indiana.
The Spartans are playing inspired football following coach Mark Dantonio's heart attack and subsequent hospitalization after State's Sept. 18 victory over Notre Dame won with a fake field goal in overtime. Dantonio was re-admitted due to a blood clot in his leg and spoke to his team via speaker phone from his hospital room after the Spartans upset Wisconsin this past weekend. He has been released from the hospital and plans to travel to Ann Arbor with his team this week.
Michigan State is off to its first 5-0 start since 1999, when the Spartans were coached by some guy named Nick Saban. The Wolverines have already matched their number of wins from last season.
The AP top 25 has the Spartans at No. 17 with the Wolverines one spot behind. But Rob Long of Baltimore's Fox 1370 Sports Radio has Michigan ranked 10th and Michigan State 11th. Only two voters have the teams from the Great Lakes State ranked higher, so I caught up with Rob for an explanation of his ballot.
Kevin Heitz: What made you move Michigan State from 23rd all the way to 11th?
Rob Long: For Michigan State to beat Wisconsin, who was then ranked 11th, validates everything for me. Wisconsin was everybody's dark horse to win the Big Ten, so beating them gives the Spartans some love.
KH: You are one of only five voters with the Spartans that high.
RL: The AP poll has Stanford better than Michigan State even after that loss to Oregon. That's crazy. How can you say Stanford, and Florida at 14, are better than State. You've got to do the process of elimination in my opinion. There is no way you can look at Florida and say, that if they played today, Florida is four notches ahead of Michigan State, who's undefeated in the Big Ten. It's not like they're undefeated in some non-BCS conference, and they've beaten Wisconsin, a team that many think is the second-best in the conference.
And Utah? Really? Because Utah blew out San Jose State, a warm-up team for BCS conferences. Utah is better than Michigan State. To me, that doesn't make any sense. Iowa is ranked higher than both teams despite having one loss in the same conference. That just doesn't make any sense.
KH: Are you surprised Texas is out of the rankings?
RL: My two preseason top-10 posers this year were Texas and Florida. I thought those were the two teams in the top 10 that were not top-10 worthy. I put them in there to start the season based on last season and the talent they had coming in, but I thought that when the season was over they would have proven themselves not to belong in the top 10.
KH: Final thoughts?
RL: Michigan is for real. I have Michigan State at No. 11. I don't think they're better than Michigan (10). I think Michigan wins this week. And when the Wolverines play Ohio State, the Buckeyes better come ready to score, because they will have to put up a bunch of points to beat the Wolverines.
Check out Rob's and all the voters' ballots here.
Posted Oct. 5, 2010