Michigan State football: Spartans get back to work, face a sense of urgency
Most teams don’t like having a bye week in early September, but it might have done the Michigan State Spartans some good. With a long list of injuries and remaining emotional scars from a tough loss at Arizona State two weeks ago, this is the perfect time to hit the reset button.
The reboot won’t be easy.
The Spartans start their Big Ten schedule with a tough road trip, taking on a surprising 3-0 Indiana team under the lights in Bloomington (7:30 p.m. ET; TV: Big Ten Network) on Saturday night.
Indiana has played the Spartans tough the past few years. Michigan Sate squeezed out a tight 17-9 victory in East Lansing last year and lost 24-21 in Bloomington in 2016. The Hoosiers have been impressive so far, reeling off season-opening wins against Florida International on the road, and Virginia and Ball State at home.
Impressive isn’t a word that’s been tossed around East Lansing so far, considering the Spartans barely survived the home opener against Utah State and then blew a fourth-quarter lead at Arizona State.
There are some serious issues with this team, at least through two weeks. Production has been limited on both sides of the ball, partly because of injuries, but that can’t be the only excuse.
The Spartans have struggled to run the ball well, which is surprising considering all the success they’ve had on the ground during the Mark Dantonio era. Starting running back LJ Scott, who’s been a little banged-up himself, is averaging a career-worst 3.4 yards per carry and has yet to reach the end zone. The Spartans didn’t have a run longer than 11 yards against Arizona State and the longest run of the season belongs to quarterback Brian Lewerke (27 yards).
It’s a problem that needs to be fixed, but that might not be easy since the Spartans have been dealing with injuries along the offensive line as well. Left tackle Cole Chewins left after one play at Arizona State and it’s unsure when he’ll be back. Left guard David Beedle also departed the ASU game with an injury.
The defense has been smarting, as well. Cornerback Josiah Scott and defensive end Dillon Alexander have missed the first two games and their absence has been felt. Michigan State allowed 319 yards in the air against Utah State and a whopping 380 yards in the loss at Arizona State.
Indiana is capable of exploiting those weaknesses. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey, a dual threat, has been sharp so far, completing at least 72 percent of his passes in every game. And the Hoosiers have gotten a big boost from true freshman Stevie Scott, who has rushed for 204 yards and 114 yards the past two weeks. He started the year as the Hoosiers’ third-string tailback, but has stepped up huge after a suspension to returning star Morgan Ellison and a season-ending injury to Cole Gest.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Spartans bounce back after the week off. We should know more later Tuesday about the status of all the injured players, which is going to be a factor come Saturday night.
The Spartans are 4.5-point favorites as of Tuesday morning.