Change isn’t always terrible. It’s scary but it has its perks. And maybe it’s something Michigan State must try at quarterback.

Starter Payton Thorne admitted Tuesday that he’s been playing at less than 100 percent since Week 1’s win over Western Michigan. Last fall, mobility was a colossal part of his overall game en route to helping the Spartans finish 11-2. This year, it’s been compromised due to injuries.

“It’s not a choice thing. It’s not mental like I don’t feel like running,” Thorne told reporters in East Lansing. “I’m not full speed right now, unfortunately. But I’ll be back. I’ll be back full speed here soon.”

The Spartans (2-4, 0-3 B1G) are 1 of 2 programs still searching for their first Big Ten win as they prepare to take on Wisconsin (3-3, 1-2 B1G)  this Saturday at 4 p.m. on FOX. The other program — lowly B1G butt of jokes Rutgers — hasn’t finished above .500 since 2014, its debut in the conference.

Thorne, Mel Tucker’s pride under center, might have been a component of the offensive consistency last season that spurred MSU’s growth. Now, he’s one of the prime factors that’s holding the Spartans back. And as risky as it may be, Tucker needs to look at all his options if he hopes to salvage whatever is left of the season.

So yes, Noah Kim should be an option for the offense Saturday when the Badgers enter Spartan Stadium. He should be an option for the remainder of the season.

Kim could benefit the passing attack

Kim’s production so far is small, but it possibly carries big potential. He’s played in 4 games this year, his first action in 3 years in the program. He’s completed 14-of-19 pass attempts (73.7%) for 174 yards and 3 scores.

There’s no denying after a hard-fought summer camp that Kim earned the title of QB2. Last week in a 49-20 loss to Ohio State, he might have earned a second look with the first-team offense.

Let’s look past the stat line.

Kim entered Saturday’s game at home with just over 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. He went 0-of-3 on his first 2 drives, though his pass on 1st-and-10 to begin the second drive might have been considered catchable albeit a bit low. Another was batted at the line of scrimmage to force a punt.

It’s not about how you start, but rather how you finish. Kim completed 6 consecutive passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The passes weren’t little dink-and-dunk throws, either. Of the 6, 3 were considered “explosive plays,” for gains of over 20 yards.

One drive isn’t enough to say Kim deserves a shot. It hasn’t been just 1 drive, though. Against Akron in Week 2, Kim completed 100 percent of his passes and threw a 16-yard touchdown strike to Tre Mosley at the start of the 3rd quarter. Against Minnesota, the redshirt sophomore completed 85.7 percent of his passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, this one coming on a 27-yard throw to Germie Bernard.

All 3 of Kim’s TD passes have come on plays that traveled 10-plus yards through the air. Thorne has 4 touchdown throws of over 30 yards, but he also has thrown a B1G-high 7 interceptions.

Thorne is currently averaging 6.9 yards per pass attempt. Kim is averaging 9.2.

The offense can’t get worse, right?

So far, offensive lack of success has held back MSU as much or more than their porous secondary. Through 6 games, the Spartans rank:

  • 55th in 3rd down conversions
  • 76th in rushing touchdowns
  • 78th in first downs
  • 78th in passing offense
  • 90th in scoring offense
  • 90th in red zone scoring
  • 90th in yards per rush attempt
  • 104th in total offense
  • 114th in rushing offense

Wisconsin is riding high off its first B1G victory against Northwestern. Quarterback Graham Mertz turned the corner with a 5-touchdown day while Braelon Allen rushed for over 100 yards for the umpteenth time in his career.

MSU’s defense has looked pitiful at times this season, currently ranking 75th in points allowed (27) and 114th in stopping 3rd down conversions (44.3%). For the Spartans, this could be a slog between 2 lackluster offenses. However, Given MSU’s inability to pound the rock this year, the offense will likely have to win through the air or not at all.

Can Thorne provide enough stability to get MSU back on the winning side? Right now, Kim has the hot hand. He’s also healthy. And things can’t get worse with a new face under center, right?

Maybe it’s a different opinion than most have, but what else can the Spartans do? Four weeks, 4 losses, and a chance to start 0-4 in B1G play for the first time since 2016, is that not enough of a wake-up call for change?

While scary, change can be warranted. It’s nothing personal against Thorne, but there comes a point where a coach comes to a crossroads where loyalty only goes so far. Right now, Kim provides MSU with the spark needed to restore faith in the program’s future.

Is Tucker ready to make that call?