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Michigan State finished the easy stretch of its schedule with a 2-0 record, covering the betting spread in both games. But there are a few things to keep an eye on as MSU gears up for its first big test of the season this weekend at Washington.
Despite stretches of being less than pretty football, Saturday’s 52-0 shutout win over Akron was never much in doubt. Once MSU found its footing, the rout was on and the Spartans finished with the program’s most dominating performance in a long time. While there is nothing dramatic to take away from the game, there is a point on both sides of the ball that fans should keep a close eye on.
To start the season, the talk was that without Kenneth Walker III it would be Payton Thorne shouldering the load for Michigan State’s offense. The second-year starter was expected to be among the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. After a Week One showing that left something to be desired versus Western Michigan, Thorne didn’t do much to lift those hopes against Akron. While his accuracy numbers increased, he failed to throw for a touchdown, sailed balls high and threw a pair of interceptions. After the game, Thorne was the first to admit that his play was not up par.
Thorne is still the leader of the MSU offense and has the talent to eventually reach those preseason expectations. But in a very short display, sophomore backup Noah Kim completed both of his passes, including one for a 16-yard touchdown. There is no quarterback controversy in East Lansing, however it’s easy to see Thorne’s shortcomings so far. His footwork has been bad, leading to poor accuracy. Fortunately for Thorne and this offense, footwork is something that can be improved and coached up. It’s just the simple matter of actually doing that work.
In this week’s SB Nation Reacts survey, let us know if you have confidence that the quarterback will actually improve this season.
On the other side of the ball, the story is all about getting after the passer. The MSU pass rush has been dominant in two weeks, leading the nation in sacks (12). Jacoby Windmon picked up right where he left off in Week One, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. Windmon leads the team — and the entire country — with 5.5 sacks, followed by Chester Kimbrough with two of his own. Five more players have at least a half-sack of their own.
Asking the defense to keep up on that pace may be too much, but it seems very possible that this unit can at least lead the conference in sacks. The presence of pass-rushing specialist coach Brandon Jordan has been on full display through two weeks of the 2022 season. So let us know, will Michigan State finish the season with the most sacks in the Big Ten?
The final question in this week’s survey is the most important, at least in the short term. Heading on the road for the first time, and doing so in a big way, will Michigan State win in Seattle against the Washington Huskies?