As of this writing, T minus 50 hours until Oregon takes the field in a bowl with those illustrious initials RB, the Grandaddy of... Not Really Anyone! Because it’s only 16 years old, you see. That would be weird.
How did this game come to be named after a kiosk service offering quick access to completely outdated technology? On opposite day it is an epic & fascinating journey.
It was birthed in 2002 as The Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl, as you probably guessed sponsored by a nut company.
This name was thought insufficiently poetic so in 2004 they changed it to The Emerald Bowl, which was an alternate brand name for their nuts.
Then in 2009 Kraft Foods took over & dubbed it The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – ostensibly to spread awareness about their food bank program, although that act of supposed charity didn’t stop the bowl’s director from lining his bank account with almost $400,000 per year, the equivalent of about half a million boxes of macaroni.
In 2014 they planned to mercifully restore some dignity & switch to the simple & apt “San Francisco Bowl”, but then Foster Farms swooped in & purchased naming rights. Thus the game instantly evoked a vacuum-sealed tray of glistening boneless chicken breasts in the minds of millions.
With that in mind I guess we should thank Redbox for buying the rights in 2018. Hopefully Oregon & Michigan State can do the brand justice in its inaugural tilt. We played one instant classic against them in 2014, and a close entertaining game the following year (even if the level of play didn’t quite measure up), so the history is good. I’m pretty excited.
To get some fan-level background on the Spartans, I spoke with some of the fine folks over at The Only Colors this week. Many thanks to JBSparty88, SpartyOnHuskers, Green 96, mmgg, and MSU Dersh for taking the time to answer these!
Some minor edits for brevity and/or ATP requirements, otherwise this is unvarnished perspective from the Upper Midwest.
1. Who’s one Michigan State player for us Oregon fans to watch on offense, and what should we look for? Not necessarily your most prolific offensive player - let’s hear about guys that provide something unique for your team or are otherwise instructive.
-Tough one, we have scored two touchdowns total in the past 7 weeks and they both came against Rutgers. So, not a lot on offense to be excited about.
-What is this thing called “offense” of which you ask? Mine eyes have seen nothing but vast sands blowing in the wind and my mouth is parched dry of and aching of thirst for the necessary liquid of football life. Um, let’s go with time of possession then? Can that count as a player?
-On offense I’d watch out for Cody White. He’s our best active receiver (would have said Felton Davis before an achilles injury ended his season). Fast, good route runner, and great hands. Spartan fans will spend the game hoping our QB can get the ball to him without too many awful over/under-throws.
-I guess I would go with Conner Heyward. You may recall his father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, an NFL RB in the 90’s and star of a great Zest soap commercial. His brother is in the NFL now and starred at OSU. Conner was named one of finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is presented annually to the most versatile player in the nation. The other finalists are all wide receivers in Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry, Penn State’s KJ Hamler, Purdue’s Rondale Moore and Louisiana-Monroe’s Marcus Green. Bigger back, with nice hands. Also keep an eye on WR Cody White. White is also the son of a former NFL player, Sheldon White.
2. And how about one on defense?
-Now we’re talking! MSU is #1 against the run. DE Kenny Willekes is a former walk-on who has had a big year. Next to him are two excellent interior d-lineman in Raequan Williams & Mike Panasuik. MLB Joe Bachie is a very smart and productive player. In the secondary, CB Josiah Scott is very solid, as are Safeties Khari Willis & David Dowell. Justin Layne had a great season at CB but will not play in the bowl as he prepares for the NFL draft.
-With your offense in mind, I’d point to Josiah Scott for the defensive side of the ball. He’s a great corner who we will rely heavily on.
-I agree with the picks made by the other respondents. But since Oregon is going to terrorize us with their great quarterback and receivers, I have a feeling the Ducks will target our safeties. So I’ll be hoping David Dowell has himself a good game.
3. Describe your team in 5 words or less.
Bad offense wasted elite defense.
What is offense? Go D!
Injured offense/punters, stellar defense.
4. How about the “typical” Spartans fan, 5 words or less? Give us the stereotype!
Tailgate drinking, blackout game watching
It’s a mixture of: mellow, passionate, spoiled, fun, & nuts.
We cover a wide range from MSUMC to Dersh. Inside joke.
I think the typical MSU fan is passionate, and maybe at the moment a bit spoiled, but certainly not arrogant.
5. Favorite MSU game of the past 20 years?
We have a lot to choose from, and the win over Oregon in 2015 was a great one. In fact, on this website there was a ranking of our best wins of the past 12 years. I think a few stand out. In no particular order: Big 10 title game in 2015 over Iowa to send us to the CFB playoff. Big 10 title win in 2013 over (Fuck) Ohio State to send us to our first Rose Bowl in 27 years. Of course the last second win over rival Michigan (ed. note: I vividly remember that ending, pretty great)
-20 years is too big of a time frame… I’ll limit to games I went to in person and name three. 2001 UM-MSU because it’s the first real childhood game I remember. And for obvious other reasons, 2010 Little Giants win over ND, and 2014 Rose Bowl.
-Close runners up included 2013 B1G CCG, 2015 Cotton Bowl over Baylor, 2015 Oregon, 2015 Ohio State, and I will add that I enjoyed my time at Oregon in 2014 minus the loss.
-The last second win over Michigan a few years back (and previously mentioned) has to be the best. After that, I’ll go with the Rose Bowl win over Stanford and the Cotton Bowl win over Baylor.
6. Who is the all-time best player to have ever donned green & white?
-Tough one. Best ever? Bubba Smith helped win national titles, but that was ages ago. Kirk Cousins helped change the program. Connor Cook took it to another level. But LeVeon Bell was a 2 star recruit that was ultra productive both at MSU and in the NFL.
-Probably Bubba Smith, but during my lifetime I’d go with Conner Cook probably based on the records he set and where he lead the program as QB.
-NFL Hall of fame kicker Morten Andersen.
7. What non-MSU team does your fanbase feel the most kinship with?
-Well, if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, it would be Ohio State. However, we don’t really like those guys all that much. I guess I personally would go with Wisconsin or Iowa. Two programs that Mark Dantonio wanted to mirror when he first got here.
-I think we generally like anybody who walks up to us and starts trash talking Michigan. Otherwise I personally dislike - in some cases hate - the fanbases/teams of (no particular order) Michigan, Penn St, Maryland, Purdue, Ohio State, ND, Iowa, Wisconsin, Bama, Texas, most SEC schools, Oklahoma, and probably the entire ACC I suppose. I like the PAC 12, though.
-Out of conference, how about (Fuck) Boise State. Despite all their success, they are still underdogs every time they play the Big Boys. That seems vaguely familiar. (ed. note: BOOOOOOO)
8. Any thoughts on the current trajectory of the football program overall?
-We probably peaked in 2013-15. I think we are good, but not great. We really need to be more innovative on the offensive side of the ball. The game is evolving and we seem reluctant to evolve with it from an offensive standpoint.
-If the defense can stay elite like it is, the offensive line recruits we just signed should give us the ability to return to the 13-15 yard runs if our play calling can get less predictable.
-Our weakness for the past half-decade or more is our offensive line. If our large haul of OL recruits matches its hoopla, we could have a chance at another college playoff appearance in a couple years. Otherwise, you can probably expect more seasons similar to this one.
9. What’s a unique East Lansing student/campus tradition - gameday or otherwise?
-Sadness and gnashing of teeth in the comments section. (ed. note: universal human experience)
-East Lansing is a great campus and tailgating on football Saturday is the best. If you’re ever in town check out the Peanut Barrel for a Long Island and an Olive burger, or head over to Crunchy’s for a bucket of beer.
-I’ll go with the weather forecast before the game. The announcer, no matter how bad the weather is, will finish the forecast with the line “It’s a beautiful day for football” while people in the stands say it with him.
10. Prototypical gameday beverage?
All of the above?
Water for me. You can tell from my responses that I’m no fun.
You see a lot of beer on campus for tailgates. College-age guys generally have your cheap Bud/Miller Lite, but there’s a lot of Bell’s and other Michigan craft beer elsewhere.
11. Best celebrity Spartans fan?
We aren’t much on glitz and glamour, but Magic Johnson represents us well.
I’d go with Bubba from Police Academy.
Since Magic has already been mentioned, I’ll go with Draymond Green.
Gotta bring up Rich Homie Quan.
12. If you could pick one Ducks player, aside from Justin Herbert, to be on your team - who makes the jump?
Can I pick Chip Kelly for Offensive Coordinator? How about Royce Freeman? Give me your best young offensive lineman please.
Give us your best o-line player please!
Dillon Mitchell because we don’t have much in the way of healthy WR’s.
13. If the Spartans were a Game Of Thrones character, who would they be?
-Never seen the show, but winter is coming and it gets cold in East Lansing this time of year.
-Unpopular opinion, I don’t watch GOT. So I’ll give you a Harry Potter reference instead. MSU would be Arthur Weasley. He’s not the most pivotal character but he comes in clutch doing behind-the-scenes work and is a serious and smart character.
-I don’t watch GOT. Star Trek analogy: Our offense is the red shirted landing party member who always dies.
(ed. note: one thing I’ve learned asking this for each 13 Questions installment, is that no one actually watches GoT)
What is your favorite nut?
Any good Michigan stories?
Did you know who Rich Homie Quan was before reading this? Be honest.