The Spartans at the Bye: The State of State!

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The Spartan Nation is flying high as they enjoy the bye week.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.
The Spartan Nation is flying high as they enjoy the bye week. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Spartans at the Bye

 

After a 31-8 trouncing of the Golden Gophers, the Spartans are in the last leg of the season with two games left to play. The off week comes at a great time for Michigan State. The whole team could use some rest to recharge the batteries and plan for upcoming match-ups against Purdue and Penn State. As Head Coach Mark Dantonio said, the team will have the week “off”. The team needs to look forward, not backward, as it heads into the last stretch of the season. Just because the team’s national championship hopes are finished does not mean the season is lost. Coach D summed up the objective for the Spartans from here on out: “We need to go 3-0 in November. That’s our goal, that’s our benchmark.” However, he left out one objective: play in the Rose Bowl. For the Spartans to reach that ultimate prize, the team first needs to win its next game. Right now, it looks like the Spartans have a good shot at doing so.

 

  • The offense looked much improved as a whole against Minnesota. Although the opponent was a 1-9 Big Ten bottom dweller, the offense, especially on the ground, looked great.
  • Sophomore running back Edwin Baker, with his dynamite performance on Saturday, looks to be the starting back going forward. Baker exploded for 179 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns. He has had an incredible year so far- 979 yards on the ground for a 6.5 yard average with 11 touchdowns to go along with it.
  • In the past few games, Baker has gotten few carries- 8, 10, and 9 in the past three weeks. In games where he gets 11 carries or more, Michigan State is 7-0. In four of the five games in which he got 15 or more touches, he gained 100 yards on the ground. Coach Treadwell and the offensive staff need to find ways to get this young man the ball.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins only had to pass the ball 20 times in Saturday’s game. However, he only completed nine of those passes, throwing off of his back foot multiple times. A key area in which Captain Kirk needs to work is his foot work.
  • For the Spartans to be smelling roses in January, the team needs to come out to a strong start against Purdue and Penn State. These two teams have had down years, yet on any given Saturday in the Big Ten, a team can surprise you. Cousins cannot carry the team by himself- the run game needs to be established early.
  • The team’s biggest playmaker, Keyshawn Martin, finally has some time to recuperate and get back to his old self. K-Mart’s playmaking ability makes him one of the most valuable assets on the team heading into the last two games.
  • The defense looked much better against Minnesota than it did versus the Hawkeyes. The unit held Minnesota to 8 points, not allowing a point until the first part of the fourth quarter. The defense allowed 267 yards to the Golden Gophers, compared to 352 against Iowa. Against Penn State and Purdue, the defense needs to keep up its dominance.
  • With weather becoming a factor, the defense will have to continue to play Big Ten style football- pound the rock and shut down the opposing team’s ground game. So far, the Spartans have been able to do so. Edwin Baker and Greg Jones will be the key players to watch as we will see a couple of typical Big Ten games in the next two games.

 

As of now, the Spartans are sitting pretty. The team holds the tiebreaker over Wisconsin and its remaining games are against teams with 4-5 and 6-3 records. Although the Big Ten championship scenarios are complicated, Michigan State still has a good shot at going to a BCS bowl game. Stay tuned, Spartans fans, it is about to get a lot more interesting. 

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