Written By: Case Conley
The last 3 weeks for Michigan State football have possibly been the worst in recent program history. In Seattle, on national television, Washington humbled the offense and abused the defense in a 37-28 game. Anyone who watched the game knows that it was much much worse than the score-line implied. Then next Saturday, Coach PJ Fleck and Minnesota went into East Lansing and won 34-7 in one of the most embarrassing home losses for the Spartans in recent history. Physically and strategically dominated, it surely couldn’t go any worse for them next week right? Wrong. Maryland simply outplayed the Spartans in a 27-13 game in College Park.
Why is this happening? The Spartans are simply not good enough. Partially, these challenges have been caused by injuries. Senior defensive leader Xavier Henderson and starting linebacker Darius Snow have been out since week 1. They have also been without multiple defensive linemen including All Big-Ten starter Jacob Slade. Those have not helped the situation but still aren’t the only reasons. The offensive line is not good. Simple as that. The offense has the pieces to be successful, with solid running backs and some weapons on the outside but this offensive line just can’t do the job. They cannot keep drives going. The defense is really bad too. The secondary has been awful since last year and still has not been fixed. Last season, Michigan State finished dead last in the country giving up 340 yards per game. In the last 3 games against Power 5 opponents, they have given up 326 yards per game. The kicking game has also been an issue all year. Two more missed field goals by two different kickers last week show how bad it has been.
So how can this all be fixed? It cannot be fixed right now. This is a rebuild that Mel Tucker took over and it is still going on. The Spartans caught some bounces and lightning in a bottle with Kenneth Walker last season. He was able to hide most of the weaknesses that they had, and now without him, they are exposed. Tucker has not been able to get the recruits that he has wanted. Covid made him wait a year, so his real first recruiting class is going to be here next season. The transfer portal has given Tucker some plug-in players, but they aren’t all exactly what he wants. His 2023 class looks very strong and may be one of the best in the Big Ten. But that means the only way the current team will be fixed is through patience. Fans need to know that the rebuild is happening and in a few years we will find out if Tucker really has what it takes.
Still, many fans and media members believe this team should be better. Tucker needs to find some ways to improve and develop some of the players here now. Perhaps this means giving younger offensive linemen a chance. There are some highly-rated freshmen that could use some reps in big situations. Defensively, helping the secondary by bringing more pressure could be an option. The Spartans rarely are able to bring pressure with only 4 linemen, blitzing more linebackers and safeties could help create some type of pressure. Also, mistakes need to be eliminated. Missed field goals, blown coverages, and drops are things that are unacceptable. With a big next 3 weeks of Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan, we will see if Tucker and the Spartans can make some magic again and catch some more lightning in a bottle.
Written By: Case Conley – Michigan Sports Network Intern
Photo Courtesy of: NBC News