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Losing a non-conference road game on the West Coast is one thing, but getting dominated at home by a conference foe is very different. After Michigan State’s brutal loss to Minnesota, fans are getting pessimistic.
In just one month, fans have gone from expecting at least nine wins, with 51 percent of fans saying they expected double-digit wins, to more than two-thirds thinking the Spartans will miss a bowl game entirely.
There is good reason for those lowered expectations. Things went from bad to worse over the last two weeks. At least following the Washington loss it could be argued that the offense did something. Against Minnesota, the offense looked as bad as the defense.
Looking at the upcoming schedule, it’s not absurd to assume Minnesota would be the fourth-best opponent. MSU needs four more wins this season to be eligible for the postseason. With tough matchups ahead against Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, that may leave just five more opportunities to get four wins.
Yes, it’s always possible that the Spartans steal one of those games against the top of the Big Ten East (anything can happen in the rivalry game with Michigan, for example). But it would be unexpected, and at this point, MSU has given fans no reason to expect any of those wins this year.
If the Spartans are to get to the six-win mark, a win this weekend against Maryland would be crucial. But after the Terrapins’ performance last week against Michigan, this Maryland team looks more daunting than ever. Assuming the Terps are healthy — which is still a big assumption with their quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and wide receiver Rakim Jarrett both listed as game-time decisions — Maryland is going to test the Spartans’ defense.
For those reasons alone, more than three-fourths of Michigan State fans think the Spartans will lose a third-straight game this weekend.
The weak link for Michigan State is still clear. Despite Payton Thorne’s struggles, fans still have more faith in the offense than the defense. Although that almost assuredly has more to do with the putrid play from the Spartans’ secondary and lack of pass rush over the past two games.
For Michigan State’s offense to succeed, it needs to be able to establish the run. Michigan and its running back Blake Corum were able to do that. If there’s ever a time to run the ball, this will be the weekend to do it. The confidence level that fans have, however, is dwindling.
Coming off of last year’s terrible play in the secondary, head coach Mel Tucker and defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton insisted the play would improve. Despite a start to the season that saw dominant play against inferior competition, easily getting after the quarterback, everything has fallen apart against stronger offenses.
Things have changed dramatically in even just the last week among Michigan State fans. With that in mind, it’s not impossible that things could spike back up with a strong performance Saturday.
However, that is a huge if.
Win or lose, be on the lookout for our SB Nation Reacts survey questions next Monday where you will have a chance to make your voice heard.