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The Good, The Bad, The Random in Michigan State’s win over Rutgers

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Let’s dig into this record-setting game

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Get the bowling shoes on because OUR MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS ARE 6-0, BABY.

What a season by Mel Tucker and company so far. Predicted by Las Vegas to only have four or five wins on the entire season. Predicted by some “experts” to only have six or seven wins (hand up, sorry). And now here we are with a team that’s got six more games and a top-10 ranking by its name to go with it.

Let’s chop up this 31-13 win in Piscataway, New Jersey.

THE GOOD

I mean, come on. You know exactly where this is going to start. This graphic says it all right here...

For the first time in program history, Michigan State has a passer with over 300 yards, a receiver with over 200 yards and a rusher with over 200 yards in a single game. That is only the fifth time in FBS history that has happened.

Kenneth Walker III’s 94-yard touchdown is the longest play from scrimmage in MSU’s history (and, crazily enough, only Walker’s second-longest touchdown as he had a 96-yarder at Wake Forest in 2019). Jalen Nailor’s 221 yards are the fourth-most in a single game in MSU program history, and the most ever at SHI Stadium. Payton Thorne was dropping deep balls into a bucket.

Michigan State has generational talent on this year’s team, plain and simple. MSU’s recent history has been littered with incredible running backs, but no one has done it the way Walker has. Oh, Jayden Reed is kept quiet for a game? Cool, the Spartans will just smoke the secondary with the team’s OTHER track athlete of a receiver.

It’s a special season to be a Michigan State fan, and being able to do it with a nation-leading running back with 913 yards has been a privilege.

And a big nod has to be given to the offensive line as well, as the unit let Rutgers record (crunches numbers...) ZERO SACKS. Michigan State owned the trenches on both sides throughout the game, and on that note let’s shine the light on...

The defensive front had another great showing — maybe its best of the season so far. The defensive front doesn’t get enough shine, and that’s the downside of MSU (finally) having a firework show on offense that takes up a lot of the highlights. But OOOOOH BOY was that defensive line just nasty on Saturday.

Dashaun Mallory’s return back was had with five tackles. Maverick Hansen and Jacub Panasiuk each tacked on sacks. Jacob Slade had four tackles and almost had more rushing yards than every Rutgers player. Oh, and Simeon Barrow hit the quarterback so hard that the ball flew out of frame on television. Overall, the Spartans recorded four sacks.

The defensive players up front also had a huge hand in holding Rutgers run game to just 3.1 yards per carry, forcing Noah Vedral to use his arm and run for his life in the passing game.

And speaking of the passing game, the secondary was solid for the most part. More of that “bend-don’t-break” style was shown and — after a rocky beginning to the game — tightened it up to the tune of just six points in the final three quarters of the game — including zero in the second half.

Angelo Grose might literally hit someone’s head off their shoulders by the way — that kid packs a PUNCH. Darius Snow and Xavier Henderson obviously continued their season of being all over the place (in a good way), combining for 16 tackles.

And a quick shoutout to Matt Coghlin for his record-setting field goal that now has him as the program leader with 72 made field goals. The easy jokes are there about how long he’s been here, but hey, 72 made field goals is 72 made field goals.

THE BAD

All right, I hate to be “that guy” after a win and 6-0 start, but we need to talk about the game management on Saturday. I love Mel Tucker and everything he and the staff have done, but HOO BOY we are not going to be letting some things slide here. If it was just one or even two things, fine, whatever. But things got off the rails right off the bat and it’s worth nit-picking, so let’s go for it...

-The fake field goal on fourth-and-three at the 25-yard-line to open up the game. We’ve got a Heisman-hopeful running back and a good quarterback with great weapons around him. If you’re going to go for it, JUST GO FOR IT. If not, take the field goal. Don’t run a fake that was sniffed out by every Scarlet Knight in attendance.

-Even more puzzling was instead of going for it on fourth-and-three from Rutgers’ 34-yard-line was taking the delay of game and punting it. Like...what? You’ve moving the ball well on the drive. Even if you get stuffed, The opposing team’s 34-yard-line is not horrible field position to give up. It was just way too conservative for an offense that had the upper hand, and it hurt even more when the punt resulted in a touchback. All that for just 14 yards of moved field position? Yikes.

-The end of the half was 0.2 seconds away from being a John L. Smith-level botch job. Yes, they did get the one second back on the clock, but all that could have been avoided with watching the clock and burning up that last timeout.

-Last but not least, four pre-snap penalties before punts is indefensible. Did they cover up the play clock with a curtain on fourth downs at SHI Stadium?? Listen, doing it once is whatever. Twice is annoying. FOUR pre-snap penalties on punts falls on both players and coaches.

Luckily, none of this mattered in the end. When you have insane athletes on offense, you can make mistakes like that against teams like Rutgers. But, yeah, the rest of the schedule doesn’t have teams you can make these kind of conservative or undisciplined mistakes against. STILL LOVE YOU MEL, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING.

Big Ten officials saw the Cal Haladay phantom targeting call against Western Kentucky and one-upped it with the phantom late hit call on Jacub Panasiuk against Rutgers. To the refs’ dismay, it only turned into three Rutgers points after that bogus third down penalty, but GOODNESS THESE HAVE TO STOP.

THE RANDOM

All right, I will never get over this play. The run, the blocking, the cuts and the momentum-shifter this play offered was already enough. But DAPPING UP YOUR TEAMMATE ON THE 20-YARD-LINE? MY GOODNESS THAT PLAY JUST OOZED SWAGGER.

Every college football season there seems to be a week where the college football landscape turns into a San Diego fireworks show. That was certainly what went down Saturday. Iowa beats Penn State in a top-five showdown that lived up to the hype. Texas and Oklahoma was another classic shootout between the two. Undefeated BYU went down at Boise. Kentucky smashes LSU and Coach Ed Orgeron might be a free agent coach again very shortly. No comment on Michigan-Nebraska.

And, OH YEAH, just the No. 1 team going down against Texas A&M. WHAT A DAY.

And Mark Dantonio’s retirement tour took him down to Toledo to see an old recruit of his play. Awesome to see him stay in touch with his former players, even the ones no longer at Michigan State.

Is it...is it time to talk to you kids about MSU BEING PROJECTED TO REACH THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF????

OK, let’s say they’re not projected to be in the College Football Playoff. Let’s look at some bowl projections to see where the Spartans could land...

247Sports: Citrus Bowl vs. Arkansas

CBS Sports: Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky

ESPN: Peach Bowl vs. Wake Forest OR Outback Bowl vs. Florida

Let’s not just celebrate this 6-0 start, BUT ALSO LET MEL TUCKER GET YOU INTO THE WEEK. GO GREEEEEEEEN.