Michigan State’s 2018 season could’ve been so much different. If the Spartans had even a mediocre offense, it would’ve likely challenged in the B1G East until the final few weeks of the year.

Instead, the Spartans owned one of the worst offenses in college football last season, nearly negating the value of its top-ranked defense. MSU finished the year with a 7-6 record with a somewhat appropriate 7-6 loss to Oregon in the Redbox Bowl.

But, if nothing else, those shortcomings give Mark Dantonio something to focus on this season, as Michigan State hopes to restore its relevance in the B1G East.

“We left some plays off the field,” Dantonio said, according to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press. “And really, what’s the difference between 13-1 and 7-6 when we were in such tight games? It’s guys making plays at the end of the game in the fourth quarter. I mean, really, that’s the difference. In every football game, we were right there in the fourth quarter.”

Three of Michigan State’s six losses were by three points or less. It lost two more games — to Michigan and Northwestern — by two scores. The only lopsided loss on the schedule was a 26-6 home loss to Ohio State.

It was the defensive effort that allowed Michigan State to stay in those games. And, in the end, it was the offense’s inability to reach the end zone that cost the Spartans so many of those tight contests.

“We need to score more points, but we’re still right there just based on how the thing played out.”

After the season, Dantonio made some changes to his staff. There were no firings or new hires, but instead decided to shuffle coaches around to fill different roles, hoping it leads to more success on the offensive side of the ball.

Michigan State suffered from injuries along the offensive line and at quarterback in 2018. It also struggled to establish a stable rushing attack. Correcting those mistakes should help the offensive attack next fall.

But closing out games and making plays in crunch-time is still an important item for Dantonio. Making plays in the fourth quarter could be the difference between a B1G East title and another mediocre year in East Lansing.