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Michigan State Spartans 2016 Season in Review

Michigan State v Notre Dame
There was a high point in there. Didn’t last, but it did exist.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I don’t wanna.

No, really, what good would it do at this point to even discuss it, all it’s doing is giving a few more jollies to everyone who crossed their arms and pouted when MSU was good -

I’m being told that’s 98% of you. Fine then.

The Story

Coming off of an appearance/boatracing in the College Football Playoff following a conference championship in 2015, MSU figured to have a retooling period, losing most of their keystone players to graduation. Still, though, in Mark Dantonio’s 10th season, the thought was generally that another group of well-practiced upperclassmen would be ready to assume control of the team and turn in another good season, albeit one that would probably fall short of a return to Indy.

As our new commander in chief would say, wrong.

The Recap

The season-opening struggle against mighty Furman should, perhaps, have been a warning sign, but a road win over what at the time seemed to be a not-garbage Notre Dame team instilled a bit of confidence. Even a waxing at home by Wisconsin didn’t necessarily mean the end of hope for a good season.

The exact moment when the life went out from the season’s eyes was different for different people I commiserated with. Some said the overtime loss to Indiana, some said the pisspounding at home by BYU the following week (that was my choice), some were still holding on when noted offensive powerhouse Northwestern came in for homecoming the following week and set a stadium record for points by a visiting team.

No one could reasonably have retained hope past that point. Sure, it would be a few more teeth-grinding losses before MSU was mathematically eliminated from bowl contention, but crawling into the postseason would have forced us all to watch another 60 minutes of this flaming garbage barge. The team brought their best efforts against Michigan and Ohio State, as they typically do, but ended up with a lonely notch in the conference win column thanks to pitiful Rutgers.

The team’s advanced stats, with many thanks to the relentless Bill C, can be found here:

Overall, they tell a story of a team that wasn’t good, but probably should not have been 3-9 bad. The terrible special teams play manifests in a sub-100 average starting field position. The ineptitude in the red zone can be seen in managing barely 4 points per trip into the opposing 40. But many of the statistical results are average, or at least within a stone’s throw of average. Heck, the run defense was downright good!

The number that I think best explains how they lost so many games they were competitive in is the 4th quarter defensive S&P. Game after game, this defense just could not stop an opponent to protect a lead or get the ball back as the sand ran through the hourglass. Were that not the case, the Indiana, Maryland, and Illinois games certainly could have turned out differently.

Highlights/Strong Points

  • Nah.
  • Did retrieve the Megaphone, which gave MSU control of all four of its trophies for like 2 weeks
  • Did not get the unique stink of a loss to Rutgers on us
  • Season is over, never have to watch that particular team again

Lowlights/Aw Shucks Moments

  • Most of them, really
  • Senior kickoff specialist who has never done anything else continuing to kick the fucking ball out of bounds
  • Senior captain middle linebacker continuing to blast dudes with his head for personal fouls/ejections
  • Guy who ostensibly coached those previous two bullets still employed by MSU, will be paid over a quarter of a million dollars for what he did in 2016
  • tweet false start, no. 59/64/65/whoever, offense. Five yard penalty, repeat first down
  • Whatever the hell that two-point attempt at the end of the Michigan game was supposed to mean
  • Coaching staff is actually going to return, fully intact, next year, meaning Mark Dantonio reviewed this season and said ‘yeah, that’s a good direction, let’s have more of that’

2017 Outlook

Your guess is as good as mine. As bad as this team was, a lot of the main contributor/perpetrators are gone; there will be new starters at QB, multiple spots on the OL, and at FB, TE, and WR on offense. Both safeties, the MLB, a CB, and multiple DL also leave, including projected first-rounder Malik McDowell, whose absence from this recap thus far ought to tell you how his season went (injured, for the most part).

Dantonio played a ton of freshmen, and that class is supposed to be his most talented ever, but relying so heavily on youth has not been this program’s MO for the last decade. If next year’s upperclassmen are as underwhelming as 2016’s, it’s tough to see the same coaching staff getting dramatically improved results with a more difficult schedule.