It’s still early in September, so it’s very odd to see that the Michigan State Spartans have a bye week. But in reality, there’s this:

No team needs a bye week more than the Spartans. So enjoy the Saturday off.

If any team ever needed to hit the reset button and start this season over, its the Spartans. In the first two weeks, MSU has barely escaped an average Utah State team at home and then lost to an even more average Arizona State team last Saturday on the road.

This was not how this season was supposed to start. Michigan State was a preseason No. 11 and had high hopes to compete in the Big Ten East. They can still do that, of course, because these nonconference games have nothing to do with what happens in conference play. Their goals are all still there for the taking.

That’s why it’s very important after this bye week that the Spartans get on a roll. They open their Big Ten season on Sept. 22 at Indiana, then have home games with Central Michigan and Northwestern before the big Oct. 13 showdown with No. 11 Penn State.

Those three games are really big for curing all that ails you. There’s a lot to fix, most notably:

  • Fixing their red zone struggles: Michigan State made it into the red zone four times, but got stuff on two running plays on third down and quarterback Brian Lewerke missed two potential touchdown throws. Settling for field goals instead of touchdowns  — or not scoring at all — was the difference between winning and losing. Go forward, the Spartans need to be much more efficient on offense, and a veteran quarterback like Lewerke needs to make better plays when it matters.
  • Giving up too many passing yards: Who would have ever expected that Utah State’s Jordan Love and Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins would have combined to throw for 699 yards in two games against the Spartans? The Spartans’ secondary has been getting torched, and they clearly miss Josiah Scott, who’s been out with an injury. But the lack of a pass rush is also a problem, and that needs to get fixed in a hurry. Opposing quarterbacks have had far too much time to throw.
  • Making plays that matter: What Michigan State has always done during the Mark Dantonio era is find a way to win big games at the end. That didn’t happen at Arizona State, where they blew a fourth-quarter 10-point lead. That needs to get fixed, too. This is a team with weapons, and they are experienced weapons at that. They need to step up and do more once they get back to action.

With their schedule coming out of this break, the Spartans need to fix their issues and then go on a 3-0 run. It’s Indiana, Central Michigan and Northwestern, and Michigan State should be favored in all three games. None are givens, of course, but it’s that time for the Spartans.

Time to get things back together again.