Punch drunk (and three other thoughts)
It's good to see Michigan State football players have a little fight left in them (ba-bump-ba). No, in all seriousness, MSU coach John L. Smith made the prudent decision to suspend the four Spartans alleged to have taken part in an off-campus fight early early last Friday morning. With so much scrutiny on him and the program right now, he didn't have much choice. But we've seen past players (Cole Corey) be accused of more serious offenses (rape) and remain on the team. (Corey's charges, it should be noted, stemmed from a high school incident.)
We should know by Friday what charges if any the players will face, and it'll be interesting to see what Smith does then. If no charges are filed, are the players welcomed back with open arms? If they're rung up on misdemeanor battery charges, is that still enough to kick them off the team? I don't anticipate any of the four will be back this year, but this is a slippery slope because of the precedent it could set for the rest of Smith's tenure in East Lansing. The next time a player is a accused of similar crime, we'll expect a similar punishment.
Three other thoughts halfway through the college football season:
1. Michigan will miss Mario Manningham dearly. Manningham is the best receiver in the Big Ten right now. Better than Ted Ginn, better than Derrick Williams. I know the Wolverines still have Mike Hart and Chad Henne and that great defense, but this is a tough two-game stretch (at Penn State, home against Iowa) to be entering without your No. 1 deep threat. If nothing else, talented freshman Greg Mathews should get a chance to shine.
2. Minnesota coach Glen Mason has to be thanking his lucky stars for the contract extension he signed in the offseason. In his 10th year with the Gophers, Mason could be on his way to his worst record as Minnesota head coach. The Gophers (2-4) need four more wins to reach the postseason and I only see two (North Dakota State next week and Indiana Nov. 4).
3. My midseason awards? Big Ten Player of the Year: Troy Smith, Ohio State (who else?). Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Spencer, Purdue. You could make a case for Penn State's Dan Connor, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis or a number of Michigan players, but Spencer is a force at defensive end. Coach of the Year: Michigan's Lloyd Carr. Bret Bielema's done a fine job in his first year at Wisconsin, too, but the Badgers haven't beaten anyone of note yet.