Team: Michigan State
Record: 3-9 (1-8 in B1G)
High point of the season: Win at Notre Dame
“Man, Michigan State just reloads.”
“Wow, why would anyone doubt Mark Dantonio?”
“As usual, MSU is looking like a playoff contender.”
You probably heard something like that after the Spartans went into South Bend and pulled out what looked like an impressive victory. As nearly touchdown-underdogs, that was the moment that was supposed to show the world that MSU might’ve lost a ton of talent, but it wasn’t going anywhere.
MSU and Notre Dame both went somewhere after that game. It just happened to be in the exact opposite direction they were hoping for.
Low point of the season: Loss at Illinois
Michigan State had one of those ‘Well, it can’t get much worse than this,’ seasons. Every week during B1G play, it seemed to get worse. At the time, some probably thought it was the BYU loss or maybe even the Northwestern loss. At least those teams won bowl games.
But the loss at Illinois was bru-tal.
That was a three-win team that MSU couldn’t find a way to beat. Even worse, that was a third-string quarterback who beat the Spartans on a touchdown pass in the final two minutes.
That was supposed to be MSU’s first B1G win. Instead, it dropped the Spartans to 0-6 in the B1G and eliminated them from bowl contention. That’s as bad as it gets.
Most meaningful play: MSU’s failed two-point conversion vs. Ohio State
When a team finishes 3-9, it’s hard to point to one specific moment and say, ‘what could’ve been.’ But the failed two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter vs. Ohio State will be debated forever.
MSU had a chance to knock off No. 2 OSU and at least have one positive moment late in the season. It would’ve been like how Nebraska felt after knocking off the Spartans in 2015. Had MSU converted that two-point conversion, it would’ve went down as one of the most memorable plays in school history. It would’ve ended OSU’s playoff bid and even turned down the hype on the OSU-Michigan game the following week.
Instead, MSU finished the season with wins vs. two FBS teams with a combined 6-18 record.
Team MVP: L.J. Scott, RB
You could easily go R.J. Shelton here, but Scott gets the nod in my book. More times than not, the MSU tailback looked like the best player on the field. He certainly did when he racked up 276 yards from scrimmage and two scores against Ohio State.
After an up-and-down start, Scott finished the season with 120 yards rushing in four of the last six games. Shelton, while valuable as the team’s leading receiver and return specialist, didn’t hit 100 yards from scrimmage in any of the final six games.
Scott might not have been the driving force behind a bunch of MSU victories, but he was the most productive offensive option for a unit that was desperate for any sort of consistency.
It’s one thing to fall short of expectations. Michigan did that in 2016 by winning 10 games in not making it to the College Football Playoff.
It’s another thing to never even sniff preseason expectations. MSU did that by going from a playoff contender to a three-win team in two months.
Injuries hurt, yes, but everyone gets banged up. With the exception of the Rutgers win — it was still Rutgers — MSU was a mess after the middle of September. That’s on coaches and players. MSU looked unprepared and uninterested for far too much of 2016.
With Penn State’s meteoric rise, it won’t be easy for MSU to get back to B1G East relevance.