Michigan State survived again. It’s now been four weeks of lackluster play, three of four in which the Spartans let teams back in games — followed by an exhale.
It’s a troubling trend, and one that is starkly different than what we saw in 2014. Last year, the Spartans had a deadly combination of defense and and an offense that would step on opponents throats when given the chance.
This year, the defense hasn’t been nearly as effective, and as a result, quarterback Connor Cook and company haven’t had as many possessions. And when they do get possessions, you get the feeling that there is some pressing, and some hand-wringing to try and do a little too much, especially when the sands begin to sift through the hourglass.
Bottom line? Michigan State is giving up more points on defense, and not scoring as many on offense in 2015 as it did in 2014. When it has the lead, both sides of the ball aren’t doing their job.
There’s certainly plenty groceries left in the cupboard from last year, but let’s not forget some of the main ingredients that were lost to graduation.
Gone are the top two receivers and running backs, meaning Connor Cook has less experienced guys to throw to. Gone are key pieces of the secondary — safety Kurtis Drummond and NFL first-round cornerback pick Trae Waynes. Gone too are key pieces of the defensive line.
It all means that guys waiting in the wings need to step up, and so far the pieces just aren’t working as well in concert as we all believed. The result has been Houdini types of acts on an almost weekly basis.
Diving in a water tank and throwing away the key might work against Rutgers, Purdue and Western Michigan, but there’s bigger fish to fry, and that all starts next week against arch-rival Michigan. It has a possiblity of drowning expectations in East Lansing.
For now, the Spartans still sit undefeated with everything still before them, and if they can somehow cure those ills and take care of things in Ann Arbor, all will be forgotten on the road to bigger things.
But who believes that now?
Phil Harrison is a frequent contributor to talking10.com. He is also a the founder of Big10news.com and featured contributor to collegefootballews.com and occassionally campusinsiders.com. You can follow him on twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. If that doesn’t work, you can find him in the doghouse at home.