Last week Michigan State headed west across three time zones and found themselves face to face with a Cal team looking for some redemption after a disappointing 2007 season. Is there better way to turn over a new leaf than beat a good Big Ten team to leap into the top 25 rankings? Well, that was the story. It was all too predictable and not because things arenâ€™t changing in East Lansing. There were just too many question marks heading into a premier game; most of those question marks surrounded youth.
The message boards all groaned about the miscues. The posts ranged from bad play by the offensive line, to poor blocking by MSUâ€™s backs and tight end, to lack of a pass rush, to pathetic special teams mistakes, to blown secondary assignments and last, but not least, a poor performance by Brian Hoyer. One particular Detroit media member spoke of the changes coming in East Lansing only to call into question Hoyerâ€™s ability to finish the job. Some of it was justified. I am in the fifty percent camp right now.
The reality is that it is really hard to take a young team across the country and play at Cal. I am not sure weâ€™ll see a better front seven (meaning defensive line and linebackers) all year. The lone exception should be Ohio State. I am not going to make this a battlefield full of excuses. I thought calling Hoyer to the table was a bit excessive. For those of you that watched both the game and the post game interviews with Brian, you truly know he is sincere when he takes ownership of his mistakes.
There isnâ€™t one analyst, coach or commentator that is going to anoint Brian Hoyer as a premier quarterbacking talent. As much as it pains me to say this, neither was Brian Greise and our â€˜big sistersâ€™ won a national championship with him. I do believe that Brian has to make better decisions with the ball. The INT was a real momentum killer and those are the plays that determine the outcomes of football games. If you go back to that play on your DVR, youâ€™ll notice that it was a spectacular play by Calâ€™s defensive back. There arenâ€™t too many DBâ€™s that would have picked that pass and stayed in bounds. The reality is that Brian needed to show more fan appreciation and heave the ball about three rows deep into the stands.
Letâ€™s face it Spartans, we are not going to play for the National Championship this season. We would find ourselves playing Cinderella to be in the thick of the conference standings come weeks 9 and 10. We will only reach what I think is a realistic goal of eight wins if Brian has solid season and limits the mistakes. Other factors are involved and cannot be overlooked.
Do I think Hoyer can be the guy that takes us down the field in the last two minutes to win a game? It depends upon whom we are playing. Ohio State?â€¦ probably not. The big sisters of southeast Michigan?â€¦ probably this year. Penn State, Wiscy?...maybe. Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue and ND?â€¦ almost certainly. Michigan State has got to do everything that it can to make sure that Hoyer and his young receivers donâ€™t have to win games for them. This isnâ€™t because they canâ€™t. It is really because it shouldnâ€™t be necessary with a solid running game that comes with strong OL performance and a defense that can get to the oppositionâ€™s quarterback.
What is my expectation this season? Well I can tell you this, it is more reasonable than you might think for such a diehard MSU â€˜homerâ€™ like myself. I have three levels of expectations. I will be happy with 7-5. I believe the reasonable expectation should be 8-4. If we get to 9-3 and New Yearâ€™s bowl game, than it was pure over achievement and all of the intangibles came together at the right time. What are the intangibles you might ask?
â€¢MSUâ€™s offensive line remains healthy, Cirroni and Foreman become consistent plus players.
â€¢Charlie Gantt and Garrett Celek are going to have to develop consistency as run blockers and receivers.
â€¢Someone other than Mark Dell and Javon Ringer are going to have to emerge as big play threats.
â€¢No more miscues by the punt team.
â€¢MSU needs a second running back to share the load. This will be critical during the Big Ten season when dents and dings start to take their toll.
â€¢Swenson has to be automatic inside of 40 yards.
â€¢Two of MSUâ€™s 5 defensive ends (Long, Anderson, Holmes, Neely and Hoover) have to be a consistent disruption in the oppositionâ€™s backfield.
â€¢Hoyer has to remain healthy and avoid the â€˜momentum changingâ€™ mistake. He has to have a Brian Griese type of season.
I believe that if MSU only achieves three or fewer of these intangibles, we will be lucky to have a .500 season. If we get four of the above, we are safe with a 7-5 season. Six would almost certainly get us to the magic numbers of 8-4, while seven or eight of them would get us to 9-3 or better.
I think that Hondo was right when he said that the home team would have won last weekâ€™s game 6 out of 10 times. It is pretty amazing to me that we were even in this game with the number of breakdowns we had. I like this team; they will have a good season because they are resilient. I like our quarterback and his young receivers; the timing should improve in the next two weeks. I am mostly concerned with the left side of our offensive line and our inability to get to the quarterback last week.
Eastern is getting better. The biggest improvement for most college teams comes between weeks one and two. We will play with a chip on our shoulders and assert ourselves early running the football. I rarely make predictionsâ€¦ make it MSU 42, EMU 24.