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A year ago at this time, Michigan State beating a MAC team by more than three touchdowns would have sent fans celebrating into the streets. This year, it has the feel more of begrudging acceptance of just enough. Thus is the life of a team with high expectations after 2021’s 11-2 campaign.
It’s hard to argue Michigan State fans should be content. Despite the 22-point win over Western Michigan last week, the Spartans allowed the Broncos to score first, needed a big fourth quarter to break away and cover the spread, had shaky play from the most important position (quarterback) and suffered injuries in places that hurt the most.
With that in mind, less than half of MSU fans said they were satisfied with the win, according to the recent SB Nation Reacts survey.
Despite the perceived disappointment, expectations aren’t dropping. Michigan State plays host to an abysmal Akron team this Saturday. DraftKings set the point-spread for the game at 34.5, which means a majority of MSU fans now expect a five-touchdown victory.
Even against a bad Akron team, Michigan State will need to lean heavily on its strengths and negate its weaknesses to cover a spread that big. In the mind of fans, that means a devastating air attack on offense and getting after the quarterback on defense, before he can test the secondary. A majority of fans, 58 percent, said Michigan State’s biggest strength was its wide receivers, and with players like Jayden Reed, Tre Mosley, Keon Coleman and Germie Bernard, that comes as no surprise.
Unsurprisingly, after serious injuries to versatile linebacker Darius Snow (who has also played nickel back and safety) and safety Xavier Henderson, injuries are the biggest concerns of fans right now, with 44 percent of voters saying it’s the largest problem moving forward. An additional 27 percent said the secondary is most concerning, which is undoubtedly connected to the injuries and MSU’s struggles there in the 2021 season.
The biggest X-factor for the team may also be the most important player on the field. While 10 percent of fans said quarterback play was a strength, four percent said it is the biggest issue. After a 50 percent completion night with an interception against Western Michigan, Payton Thorne will need to find his rhythm for the rest of the season, and he knows his performance was not up to par in the season opener.
The remainder of Michigan State’s season now includes two teams ranked in the top-four of the AP Poll (Michigan and Ohio State) and a difficult trip out to Seattle next week to play Washington. With Week One jitters out of of the way, things better look a little smoother for the Spartans if fans are to feel more comfortable heading into the meat of the season.
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