The Michigan State Spartans were outplayed from start to finish on Saturday, narrowly avoiding being shut out at home for the first time since 2020. It was an absolute beat down at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, by a final score of 34-7, and on the heels of last week’s loss at Washington, the concern for the Spartans’ season is growing.
Let’s dive right into the takeaways.
Inconsistency is a killer as offense and defense continue to struggle
Michigan State had some early success in its first two games, beating Western Michigan 35-13 and beating Akron 52-0. The defense, while it still gave up some plays, largely looked the part, and certainly looked improved from last year’s bottom-ranked pass defense. The Spartans were led by a strong defensive front in those two games, sacking the quarterback 12 times between the first two games. MSU also did a fantastic job forcing turnovers, with six fumbles recovered by the defense in the first two games. However, the competition was very weak.
These past two weeks, however, the Spartans have not been able to find that same success, and that’s contributed greatly to teams picking apart MSU’s secondary. The lack of pressure on the quarterback is something that needs to be addressed and figured out if the Spartans want to have success on defense this year.
Offensive struggles have played a role as well. Miscommunication and small mistakes on offense have really piled up these last two weeks, and that’s forced the struggling and fatigued defense to often go right back onto the field before really getting a breather. On Saturday, after Minnesota marched down the field on its opening drive and scored a touchdown, the offense quickly fizzled out on its drive, sending a defense that was already on its heels back out before the Gophers scored again to make it a 14-0 game.
Quarterback Payton Thorne had a poor performance this week with three turnovers, and coupling that with his first two outings of the season, it seems as though maybe the performance he had against Washington was the outlier. It’s not all on him, with some key drops on important downs and poor play from the offensive line contributing to the offensive struggles as well. However, Thorne made a lot of mistakes and couldn’t lead the offense to points. He can’t let that continue next week on the road against Maryland.
Next week is a must-win game
Michigan State is heading to Maryland next week for a matchup with a heavy-passing Terrapin team. On first glance, this game could get very ugly for the Spartans. Heading into the season, it seemed like a winnable game for MSU. Now, its a must-win game in order to avoid a downward spiral as the Spartans head into a gauntlet of a schedule.
After Maryland, Michigan State face Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan on the road to close out the month of October. If the Spartans can’t clean things up after Saturday, it’s very likely the team goes winless in that three-game stretch. If the Spartans fall to the Terrapins next week and go winless in October, that would put MSU at six losses already, and a trip to a bowl game becomes much harder with a trip to Penn State still left on the schedule in November.
Maryland isn’t a pushover, and the Terps just kept it close with No. 4 Michigan on Saturday. It’s going to be tough, but the Spartans need to find a way to win in order to keep some hope alive this season.
It was an ugly game from start to finish for the Spartans against the Gophers, and if it wasn’t clear after the loss to Washington, Michigan State really has its work cut out for the team with a gauntlet of a schedule coming up in October. Barring a heck of a turnaround, the Spartans are likely knocked out of their aspirations for a trip to the Big Ten Championship, and likely won’t return to a New Year’s Six bowl game this season.
But, if the Spartans really want to turn it around and try and salvage the season, that starts with a win over Maryland next week. We’ll see what happens.