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For the better part of the last decade, the most common complaint of any Michigan State Spartans football fan was the play-calling. Even as the offensive coordinators changed and star players came and went, play-calling left something to be desired among fans.
But MSU offensive coordinator Jay Johnson may have finally changed things. The 4-0 Spartans are far from a finished product, but fans like what they see so far.
According to the latest SB Nation Reacts results, more than three-fourths of Michigan State fans believe the offense will right itself after struggling against Nebraska — gaining just 14 yards and zero first downs in the second half of that contest before eventually getting more production and a win in overtime.
More than that, they believe the problems that saw Michigan State fail to score any second-half offensive points or barely gain any yardage were more about execution than play calling. When asked, 69 percent of MSU fans blamed execution as opposed to only 31 percent who blamed play-calling for the offensive woes against the Cornhuskers.
For now, the Nebraska game has been the outlier for the Michigan State offense. In both the wins over Northwestern and Miami, the Spartans scored more points in the second half than the first half. While in the blowout win over Youngstown State, most of the starters barely played late in the game, and MSU still put up 42 points.
The bigger fear for fans should be the game plan Nebraska was able to execute against the Michigan State offense. With a focus on slowing down Kenneth Walker III, holding him to a season low of only 61 yards, the weight of the offense was put on quarterback Payton Thorne. Thorne had his struggles, missing open wide receivers and looking somewhat rattled from the Nebraska defense, but still led the Spartans to a win. However, if future opponents — who may have more talent than Nebraska — are able to do the same, neutralizing the threat of Walker, the Spartans could be in trouble as the opponents get tougher. With that blueprint available, that could explain why fans are holding back a little when thinking about the Spartans’ next game against Western Kentucky.
Sandwiched in-between the Nebraska win and the start of full-fledged Big Ten play, the Hilltoppers could make for a difficult opponent. Roughly two-thirds of MSU fans believe the Western Kentucky matchup is a potential trap game. The Hilltoppers possess a high-tempo, dangerous air raid passing attack that could give the Spartans fits throughout the night. However, WKU struggles to defense the run, so hopefully Walker can break free on a few runs.
The Spartans will have the support of a home crowd at night in Spartan Stadium. A win, especially with a strong offensive performance, would likely push Michigan State into the AP top-15 before playing back-to-back Big Ten road games.
While Michigan State is likely to get some national attention for a win over Western Kentucky, there are some big matchups this week that could decide the College Football Playoff picture. The most interesting, according to fans, involves two programs very familiar to Michigan State fans.
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