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Michigan State spent the majority of seven seasons with an eventual NFL quarterback taking snaps from 2009 to 2015, but the program has since gone through something of a drought in the position. The hope was that this dry spell would come to an end with Payton Thorne.
After a successful redshirt sophomore season where he wasn’t asked to be the focus of the offense, fans had hoped Thorne would emerge this season as the next star quarterback in East Lansing. Despite a still small sample size, Thorne hasn’t quite met those expectations in 2022...yet. He has thrown three interceptions in two games and sailed balls high or missed his wide receivers in some cases.
According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts Survey, more than three-fourths of Michigan State fans believe Thorne will continue to grow and improve as the season progresses.
Fortunately for Thorne, it doesn’t appear to be a lack of talent that has been the root of his struggles. Through the first two games of the season, Thorne has struggled with his footwork, often leading to the aforementioned inaccurate passes and interceptions.
Footwork is something, with the right coaching and work, that can be fixed. To make the completely unfair comparison, Josh Allen is a player whose success skyrocketed after improved footwork. Again, that is unfair to Thorne and not a full player comparison. The MSU quarterback can, however, make some of those same improvements to get his game to a higher level.
Unfortunately for Thorne and Michigan State, they have run out of warmup games in which that improvement can be showcased. The Spartans hit the road for the first time this season, traveling across the country to play at the Washington Huskies in a primetime game in Seattle.
As of Friday, the Spartans are 3.5-point underdogs against the Pac-12 opponent. Michigan State fans clearly disagree. A vast majority of fans said they expect Michigan State to leave Washington with the victory. For the record, almost 75 percent of the computer algorithms that publish their results online (including here on TOC) also agree with Spartan fans.
Unless Thorne has completely figured out his issues in the last week, it’s likely that in order to get that win, the defense will need to have a big presence. So far this season that hasn’t been an issue. The key to the defensive attack so far has been getting after the opponents' quarterback — forcing bad throws, causing turnovers and often getting sacks.
The Spartans lead the nation in sacks through the start of the year with 12 sacks, led by the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Jacoby Windmon who has a nation-leading 5.5 sacks of his own. While leading the nation by the end of the year may be a big ask, a slight majority of MSU fans believe this team can lead the Big Ten Conference in sacks at season’s end.
Even from a national perspective, Michigan State’s game this weekend is a big deal. When a national audience was asked, 17 percent of fans said Michigan State-Washington was the most interesting game of the week.
For Spartan fans, hopefully “most interesting” will translate into “satisfying” come Saturday night.