It’s MSU week, so put on your tinfoil hats when heading over to your nearest Spartan bar in Lincoln Park, anywhere in the state of Michigan, or beyond.
Last season your humble amateur sportsblogyellers predicted MSU would go 9-2 overall, and then MSU faceplanted with a 3-9 record. Oy.
Michigan State fans, most notable being fellow ‘writer’ Andrew Krazszsdviszizewszski would most likely prefer to drown their sorrows in a local craft beer. After a cursory google search of ‘East Lansing Breweries’, I think Andrew and his green-clad friends would like to embody school spirit and drink a Spartan Stout from Ellison Brewing from the outskirts of East Lansing. Here’s how they describe Spartan Stout:
A chocolate lovers delight, this stout will satisfy all your roasty desires. Big notes of chocolate and roasted malts with hints of caramel and toffee. Tons of flavor but still ridiculously easy to drink.
I’m (LPW) a fan of chocolate porters and chocolate flavored, well, anything, so when I eventually visit East Lansing I’ll stop here.
Question: So what the heck happened last year? Did Dantonio lose control over the program or was this a one year hiccup? Is the departure of Narduzzi to Pitt a few years ago hurting the program more and more?
LPW: It’s probably a combination of a lot of talented people graduating, Dantonio’s apparent willingness to play freshman, and the eventual downturn from consistent success. Dantonio may have coached under and learned from Nick Saban, but he’s no Nick Saban.
Andrew Kraszewski: I think there may have been a sense of entitlement that crept into the program with the achievements of the last several years. It’s no secret that certain assistant coaches probably wouldn’t have jobs anywhere else, and certainly are not going at it quite as hard as you might like. And for the players’ part, this little wave of criminality appears to be the outward manifestation of a thoroughly broken locker room. Throw in the fact that last year’s upperclassmen just weren’t that good on the field, which this program still relies on even with improved recruiting over the last few seasons, and you get last year.
GF: It truly was a perfect storm, as Andrew Kravmagra states well. Hey, let’s look at my greatest hits of “MSU Games From the Fan’s Perspective” articles from 2016:
I live here. Well, Dewitt. But close enough to hear the offseason talk, or in reality, lack thereof. Last year really quieted the talk around here, football-wise. Lots of breath holding going on, folks just praying for not another scandal, not another allegation, not another 3-9...
Here’s the question I asked after the NW blowout in 2016: A big question hangs over the Michigan State Spartan program, a big obvious unanswerable question: Is this a blip, borne of injuries and veteran departures? Or is this the beginning of a trek back to the middle of the B1G pack to live below UM and OSU?
The question is still as valid as it was that day, with a bad offseason thrown in.
James W Snyder: Last year’s “Little Brother” is this year’s “Next Big Thing”. Using the little brother angle, which MSU did to great success, is great, until you have success. Until last year, Michigan State has been a legit contender as of late, and it stopped working this year. Eventually that credo of “They don’t respect us” stops working when you actually get respect. The abysmal performance in 2016 was a perfect storm of kids that jumped on the MSU bandwagon, a lack of leadership from the players, and a general feeling of “we made it!”
It slapped them in the face, and this year is pivotal. Either MSU becomes a program that people expect things from, or they just rally around being disrespected every so often and make some noise.
WSR: I think last year was a bit of a perfect storm. I don’t know if Narduzzi was really the man behind the curtain or not, but he sure seems to have been more important than quite a few of us thought. And while the defense did take a big step back (10th in PPG and 9th in YPP), being 12th in PPG offensively is a terrifying stat. You gotta get back to your basics, Sparty. Finish your drives, irritate the hell out of the other team’s offense, and beat wisconsin will ya?
MNW: Please do, because Minnesota sure can’t do it their damn selves.
I guess I’ll repeat myself from yesterday: Michigan State has probably just sunk back to the second-tier of the east, joining Penn State and Michigan looking up at Ohio State. Good talk, everyone.
If we’re actually looking for things, I’d point to Michigan’s S&P+ offensive rating being 40 positions better than their PPG. The Spartans were outside the Top 100 in finishing drives in 2016 and really struggled in passing downs. If Brian Lewerke takes a step forward and stays away from Joe Gaziano, the offense improves. And we can’t overemphasize just how bad the secondary was: 115th in DB “Havoc” rating, 109th in Passing Down S&P+ and 113th in success rate allowed. Oh, and 120th in overall Passing S&P+ with a 124th Adj. Sack Rate. Yeesh. Did we mention three DBs graduated? How quickly Justin Layne can emerge and Grayson Miller can adjust will tell us a lot. A more effective pass rush led by Robert Bowers would go a long way, as well.