You can hide a lot of problems with magic and pixie dust. The equivalent to that in the college football universe is to have a great one at the quarterback position to hide a lot of problems. The running game can be more of a brisk walk, the special teams not so much, and the defense downright offensive, but if you have a guy pulling the strings under center, all other issues seem to be fixable. And by fixable, I mean tolerable.
So it is with Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. The Spartans have played their share of close games this year, but so far they remain undefeated and still on track for really big things largely because of his abilities as the leader of this team.
There’s not an analyst on this great, green Earth of ours that hasn’t seen the warts of this year’s version of the Green and White. The running game has been average at best because nobody has stood up and taken the baton, the offensive line has had its share of injuries and resulting inconsistent play, and the No Fly Zone has been lifted this year because of replacements and injuries after departures to graduation.
It’s all made Michigan State look very vulnerable. So much so that it has continued to slide down the national rankings as other teams put up Star Wars numbers. But Sparty just keeps on winning, and if it continues, it’ll get the last laugh, no matter how unimpressive they come.
The victories keep coming because of the moxie of Cook. He hasn’t had eye-popping numbers this year because there’s been a lack of threat from the running game, but he’s still made big plays at big times. Against Michigan, Cook kept the Spartans in striking range. His 328 yards through the air and clutch TD throw when the they were down 10 points in the second half against the nation’s top ranked defense was key.
Yeah, yeah, I know, the improbable scoop and score happened while Cook was on the sidelines, and came after an incomplete fourth-down pass-attempt he threw to give the Wolverines the ball back, but Michigan State isn’t anywhere near the Maize and Blue, and not in position to make that play for ages without his efforts up until that point.
Then there was today. Indiana was doing what Indiana does, giving a game to one of the big boys of the conference. The running game wasn’t working for the Spartans, and Hoosier QB Nate Sudfeld and company was moving and scoring against the defense. Unfortunately for the Indiana, Cook stepped off the bus throwing and put up big numbers and big plays. When all the rain and dust settled, he finished with 398 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The effort put a dagger in Indiana’s chances of making a statement crawl at the bottom of our television sets and demoralized the Hoosier spirit. A game that was close heading into the fourth quarter, turned into a win going away in favor of the Spartans 52-26.
Michigan State still has holes, but what team in college football doesn’t? The defense clearly isn’t as good as it has been in recent years past, the running game may never get it together, and the secondary seems to green to shut down a good passing game with any kind of regularity.
But that’s okay because Connor Cook is in the huddle, leading his team through mine-fields, jungles, and obstacles.
There’s still plenty of games to play, most notably the big one in Columbus on November 21, but you can’t count out a Michigan State team that is finding out what its identity is, and that’s one rooted in the right arm and leadership of Connor Cook.
Problems? What problems.
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 occasionally 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.