Michigan State football hosts an undefeated Minnesota team on Saturday afternoon and here are the questions we’ll all be asking.
Like every other Michigan State football fan walking this earth right now, I have plenty of questions following the Spartans’ deflating loss to Washington.
I’ve been at a loss all week long when trying to come up with answers for what happened on Saturday. Was it just a bad matchup? Did Michael Penix Jr. just have the game of his life? Was it because Big Ten teams are awful on the West Coast? The answer to all three of those is an emphatic “yes” but I still have more questions.
And I’m guessing you do, too.
These are the questions I want answered most on Saturday as the Spartans face Minnesota.
1. What adjustments will the defense make?
Probably the most burning of all burning questions after last Saturday’s debacle. Will the defense figure it out and make the necessary adjustments? History under Mel Tucker tells us that the answer to that question is yes, but what adjustments will be made? I’m not entirely sure.
Tucker did say that he didn’t believe it was a schematic issue and that personnel changes would be made. So does that mean Michigan State is running with the 4-2-5 again? More than likely. Will they play some press coverage and force Tanner Morgan to beat them with his arm? I sure hope so.
Can’t wait to see what these personnel changes entail.
2. Will Payton Thorne build on his strong outing vs. Washington?
Momentum is a big thing in college athletics. Players can have breakout years thanks to one game giving them all the confidence they need or they can let one bad game spiral. Fortunately, Payton Thorne didn’t let two poor showings become three to start the season.
Thorne actually got back on track against Washington, throwing for over 320 yards and three touchdowns and this was all without Jayden Reed. Oh yeah, and his offensive line didn’t show up.
Is he going to build on this strong game or will he struggle for the third time this year?
3. Can the offensive line block anyone?
OK, this may be a little harsh, but after watching the Washington game, I’m genuinely curious.
Can this offensive line do what it did in the first two weeks and manhandle opponents? It felt like we got two steps forward in Weeks 1 and 2 and then 10 steps back in Week 3. Disappointing doesn’t even begin to cover how the Washington game felt in the trenches.
Communication issues and missed assignments plagued Michigan State football against the Huskies and it led to zero run game and Thorne running for his life. Can these guys hold their own against Minnesota’s unproven front?
4. Will the run game get back on track?
Piggybacking off the last question, can we get the run game back on track against Minnesota?
The Gophers do have a solid run defense, allowing just under 70 yards per game, but they have also only played three cupcake opponents. Getting Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard back on track will be key.
I’m also curious to see if the staff still trusts Broussard after that forgettable performance last week. My guy says yes, but his showing against Washington was rough.
Michigan State’s offense thrives when the run game is doing well and it wasn’t able to do anything last week with the line struggling.
5. Is Jayden Reed going to be healthy?
This seems like a waste of a question initially, but it’s actually so important for the success of this team.
If Jayden Reed doesn’t play, Michigan State’s offense loses a weapon and becomes that much less effective. With Reed, the Gophers’ defense has another elite target to worry about and that’s only going to help open things up for Thorne and this offense.
We haven’t heard much on the injury front with Reed, but due to the fact that he didn’t even make the trip to Washington last week, you have to believe it’s not just a tiny cut on his back.
Hopefully Reed returns to full strength on Saturday.