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Michigan State Football: Don’t hit the panic button — yet

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A few days have passed, so I guess I’m ready to talk about it. Despite the article’s title, this will not be an MSU fluff piece. I just have some thoughts to get off of my chest. I was highly disappointed with the Michigan State Spartans, especially offensively, on Saturday night.

I wasn’t happy about the fact that I fought heavy eyelids to stay up until around 2:30 a.m. EST to watch the team lose as time expired. I wasn’t impressed with how Mark Dantonio managed his timeouts, and when the Spartans had to burn one with nine minutes left in the third quarter, I said out loud to myself, “I really hope that doesn’t come back to haunt MSU at the end of the game.” It did.

I’m worried about the offensive line. I am worried about the punting game following Jake Hartbarger’s injury, and frankly I am still a little confused on how a personal foul penalty wasn’t called on that play where Hartbarger was hit— yes, I understand it was a dead play, but that shouldn’t excuse personal fouls/unnecessary roughness calls against defenseless players.

I am also concerned about red zone efficiency and the team’s ability to get into the end zone from the 20-yard line and in. Basically, through two games, my expectations for this team have not been met.

With all of this said, though, I think there’s still reason for optimism as MSU heads further into the season and begins Big Ten play soon. Maybe it is hard not to at this point, but it isn’t time to hit the panic button just yet.

It’s unfortunate in college football that a single loss on the season can completely derail your championship aspirations. But, if you recall, a one-loss Michigan State team still got a College Football Playoff bid in 2015 — and that was a conference loss.

The Spartans have a chance to run the table still. Granted, they’re not getting past Ohio State or Penn State, possibly not even Michigan, with an effort like Saturday’s, but teams coached by Mark Dantonio tend to progress strongly as the season goes on.

Basically, what I am saying is that if the Spartans win the Big Ten this season, then national championship aspirations are still alive. While it stings right now, one non-conference loss isn’t going to hurt the Spartans in the long run if they take care of business the rest of the way.

But then again, was that ever truly the expectation for this team? Was this team expected to be in the playoffs and a contender for a national championship? Personally, I predicted a 10-2 season with a New Year’s Six Bowl (no playoffs). That goal is still very much within reach.

What we also need to do a better job of is thinking about the tough situation Michigan State was in on Saturday night. If the tables were turned, and this game was in East Lansing, I think we may have seen a different result. Dantonio said that his team handled the trip very well. But playing in those conditions — your internal clock is three hours ahead; it’s 100-plus degrees outside; you’re facing a talented team in a raucous environment — is no easy feat for any player or any team.

All things considered, Michigan State did seem to handle the trip fairly well. The team didn’t even trail until the final seconds of the game, unfortunately. But getting outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter is not OK.

Also, the Arizona State Sun Devils have looked good through two games so far. Who knows how the school will finish this season, but a loss to ASU may not look or feel as bad as it does now at the end of the season. Notably, Utah State won its second game against New Mexico State 60-13 — good teams blow out inferior opponents. We shouldn’t rush to judgement so quickly about what these schools will be this season.

Anyway, the point of all my venting, followed by cautious optimism, is that Michigan State still controls its own destiny. There is obviously a lot of improvements that need to be made, and hopefully the bye week helps with that as the team prepares to face the Indiana Hoosiers next week.

The early bye week is also good for the Spartans as a plethora of players are dealing with injuries. Hopefully the week off allows enough time for those dinged up players to heal.

Your turn to tell me your feelings on this team. On a scale of 1-10, one being no panic at all, and 10 being “OMG, we’re going 3-9 again,” how worried are you about the 2018 Michigan State Spartans?

Poll

What is your panic level?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    1
    (18 votes)
  • 5%
    2
    (32 votes)
  • 11%
    3
    (67 votes)
  • 12%
    4
    (71 votes)
  • 14%
    5
    (85 votes)
  • 15%
    6
    (87 votes)
  • 17%
    7
    (102 votes)
  • 9%
    8
    (55 votes)
  • 3%
    9
    (21 votes)
  • 7%
    10
    (41 votes)
579 votes total Vote Now