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Michigan State football: Lingering thoughts from win over CMU

Not a bad opening performance.



Michigan State football

Michigan State football may have played Central Michigan nearly a whole week ago, but I still have some thoughts.

Last week, I previewed what I wanted to see from Michigan State football against Central Michigan. So, to sum Week 1 up, I want to go through those points of emphasis and share my thoughts on the win over the Chippewas.

In summary, despite the slow start, I came out of Friday with a very optimistic outlook. There was a lot of good and some bad, but most of the bad, I think can be explained, and fixed. 

Brief takeaways

  • Running backs

Spending a quick moment going over more of what I took away from the win I have to start with the running backs. What I liked about Carter, outside of the explosiveness, is his ability to turn nothing into something. He may not turn it into six every time but turning zero yards into 2-3 on 1st-and-10 is a huge sigh of relief. He finished with 18 carries for 113 yards with an average of 6.3 per touch. As for Jalen Berger, I liked how he was utilized out of the backfield. There were some plays that made it clear that Carter should be RB1, but his pass-catching ability was noticeable. Berger finished with four catches for 30 yards. Two of which resulted in first downs on third down.

  • Young receivers

The young Michigan State football receivers stole the show. Sophomores Jaron Glover, Tyrell Henry, and junior transfer Christian Fitzpatrick looked the part of the next great crop of Spartan receivers. We need to give Courtney Hawkins and Mel Tucker their flowers on these finds because it’s going to be the bandage to cover up who they lost pretty well. They gave us a glimpse at the potential in the receiver room and capped off their debuts well.

  • Jaron Glover: 3 catches (75 yds) and a couple of highlight-reel catches
  • Tyrell Henry: 2 catches (25 yds) and a Sportscenter Top 10 touchdown haul
  • Christian Fitzpatrick: 2 catches (70 yds)

A lot to be excited about here.

  • Defensive line

Simply put, the defensive line looks as advertised. Zion Young is a name to remember, as his explosiveness allowed him to get in the backfield more than once. Simeon Barrow, Tunmise Adeleye, Derrick Harmon, Jalen Sami, and Maverick Hansen are going to be problems for run games all season. The numbers reflect the positive performance, limiting Central to 123 yards on 41 attempts.

Bonuses for the run defense include Jacoby Windmon and Khris Bogle. Windmon finished with a PFF grade for run defense, and tackling that were top 20 for linebackers. Bogle finished with a 76.5 run defense grade, which was ranked first for Big Ten edge defenders.

Moving onto the points of emphasis I put out last week.


  • Tight ends

Some concerns here, but not because of Maliq Carr’s drops. He had several, but also brought in a ridiculously difficult touchdown catch. My biggest concern is that Evan Morris earned the second most snaps at tight end. The punter turned tight end wasn’t on my list of guys who we could see at the position, and it’s slightly concerning that the production and depth aren’t what we thought they might be. It’s possible that Jay Johnson dips into the bag more in Week 2, but with Carr at his best, we may not need to. I was impressed with a key block Carr threw on the Berger touchdown run. 

  • Defensive backs

As much as I raved about the defensive line, the same should be said for the defensive backs. Outside of maybe two miscommunications, the passing game wasn’t a factor.

Noticeably, when CMU did throw it, the receivers were tightly covered. While rewatching the game, it was apparent to me how many times Dillon Tatum and Angelo Grose were right in the vicinity of a pass. Refreshing, after this was a glaring issue in 2022. Chuck Brantley got a great jump on a throw midway through the second quarter and almost came away with a pick.

It looks like we will be getting a heavy dose of Brantley, and Tatum on the outside. Armorion Smith and Marqui Lowery played sparingly, both recording tackles.

Where the defensive backs really impressed me was in the run game. They all run to the ball as if they are shot out of a cannon and with CMU’s elusive quarterback, I didn’t notice many missed tackles. Malik Spencer looks poised to cement himself as this program’s next great safety, recording nine tackles. Grose recorded four, and Jaden Mnagham with six. They rose to the occasion, and I expect big things from the defense and defensive backs in 2023.

Week 3 is the real test, but they look more the part of good players in Scottie Hazelton’s scheme. 

  • Special teams

Touchbacks and field goals are always a welcome sight. Going into the game with one eye closed on special teams, I left very relieved for the trajectory of the 2023 season. We even got an extra positive with the punting game. Jonathan Kim hit a 47-yard field goal and said he’s hit from 62 in practice. He went 3-for-3 on extra points. Ryan Eckley, was impressive punting the ball, logging three with an average of 47. He pinned one inside the five but was knocked into the endzone for a touchback. A simple mistake that if cleaned up, can result in an overall positive special teams group this season.

Other areas

  • Game management

Not much to mention here, as there weren’t really any high-stress situations in the game. To go along with play calling, to end the first half, I was pleased with the two-minute drill, not once but twice. I felt as if the game went smoothly, but I really think it will be Week 3 that will test the coaching staff’s ability to manage the game. You can make a case that a few penalties were frustrating, but you can also make a case that they were ticky-tacky, especially 1-2 facemask penalties on CMU’s touchdown drive. In Tucker’s Monday presser, he was asked about the first-half unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Derrick Harmon. He said it was submitted to the Big Ten for review. 

  • Play-calling

This is a big segment. It’s easy for fans to be frustrated with the Michigan State football play-calling, especially to start the game. Trust me I was right there with you initially. Coming off of a season in which play-calling and execution were frustrating, it was not refreshing to start the game the way we did. The simplest way I can explain this is that so much of play-calling has to do with player execution. In many cases in 2022 and the first half on Friday, the execution wasn’t there, which resulted in conservative play-calling.

  • Defensive

Same thing on the defensive side of the ball. Hazelton’s scheme requires a strong pass rush, paired with athletic linebackers and defensive backs who are quick to the ball. Michigan State football was missing so many key guys on that side of the ball in 2022 that it appeared as if the play-calling wasn’t up to par. I think this defense has much better personnel to allow for a very strong season on that side of the ball. Look for more of a balance, rhyme, and reason to play-calling here. 

  • Offensive

As for the offensive side, a lot of it also has to do with execution. Can the offensive line get a push? Can running backs get rid of negative plays? And can Noah Kim and the receivers execute when it comes down to it? The last few minutes of the second quarter and the second half allowed a better picture of what I expect the offense to look like. Especially from a play-calling perspective. With a young group, it won’t be perfect, but I believe once players get in rhythm, the play calling won’t seem like such a red flag. 

What stood out?

Two plays stood out to me. On 1st-and-10, twice MSU opened the drive with passes. One was a great “smash concept”, resulting in a Kim on-the-run bullet to Tre Mosley for a 23-yard gain. The other, a “flea-flicker” from their own 10 that, if not for a Maliq Carr drop, would have resulted in a 40-yard gain. Carr catches this, and the veteran MSU receivers complete 1-2 more catches and it really changes the narrative on play-calling, and Kim throughout the first half.

Another play that stood out was a second-quarter slip screen. Despite shaky blocking from J.D. Duplain and Carr, Carter turned it into a 25-yard gain. Great execution and throw from Kim, and an even better effort from Carter. This is what happens when players execute play calls. 


Personally, I left this game more optimistic and satisfied than I did the Western Michigan game last season. I think it’s time to acknowledge Mel finally has a lot of his guys starting. With so many injuries, and rotations at positions in 2022, as well as a change at quarterback in 2023, it’s hard to paint a picture of where the Michigan State football program was at. The expectations this season change if Tucker and Co. don’t land Kenneth Walker in 2021.

I think, to the general fan, there might be some weariness, but as I’ve dove deeper into position groups and play-calling, and started to understand expectations, I truly believe there should be a substantial amount of buzz in year four for Mel Tucker. Sure, the wins may not always be there, especially with the tough schedule, but a respectable bowl game is certainly attainable. The buzz is there for the young guys. The coaching staff will put them in the best position to succeed, and the program is in a fine place. 


Weekly college football viewing guide: What to watch in Week 4

What should you be watching this weekend?



Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

While you can watch Michigan State vs. Maryland, here’s what else is on the intriguing college football slate in Week 4.

If you’ve got plans this weekend, start working on your fake cough and sick voice. This is a weekend of college football that dreams are made of. We have six Top 25 matchups on tap in addition to a number of other interesting games. This is a weekend that requires more than one TV. If that’s not an option, head to the bar. Savor this weekend. This is what we live for.

Here’s how to plan your weekend.

Friday, Sept. 22

  • Wisconsin at Purdue – 7 p.m. ET on FS1

A rare Big Ten conference game gets the weekend started in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers haven’t been that impressive this season, but neither has Wisconsin. We keep waiting for Wisconsin’s offense to find a rhythm, but it might be time to consider this being who they are. Wisconsin has beaten Purdue sixteen times in a row. Can they end that drought on Friday?

Saturday, Sept. 23

Noon window

  • Florida State at Clemson – 12 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Rutgers at Michigan – 12 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network
  • Oklahoma at Cincinnati – 12 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Auburn at Texas A&M – 12 p.m. ET on ESPN

The day gets started with a solid slate of games at noon that is headlined by the potential college football game of the year in the ACC. Florida State travels to Clemson as a short road favorite. In their biggest games of the year to date, these teams could not have looked further apart. Florida State looked awesome in their dismantling of LSU while Clemson fumbled their way to an embarrassing 28-7 loss at Duke. It feels far too easy to say that Florida State rolls here. Clemson – despite their deficiencies – is still a proud program with enough talent to win this game.

Michigan faces its toughest test of the season so far at home against an upstart Rutgers team. I’m skeptical that Rutgers can score enough (at all?) to keep this interesting. At the very least, this should give us an idea if Michigan’s struggles in the running game are a legitimate concern or if they’ve been holding things back.

Cincinnati makes its Big 12 debut at home against Oklahoma. The Sooners have looked great so far this year, but this is a tricky spot on the road against the Bearcats who are coming off an embarrassing home loss to Miami (OH).

Keep an eye on this game in College Station. Last year, Auburn celebrated their win against the Aggies like they had won the SEC. Now, the Aggies get them at home with an offense that looks much improved from a year ago.

Afternoon window

  • Maryland at Michigan State – 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Colorado at Oregon – 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • UCLA at Utah – 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Ole Miss at Alabama – 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
  • BYU at Kansas – 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

The afternoon gets going with Maryland visiting East Lansing in the Big Ten opener for both teams. MSU looked like a dead team walking against Washington. For Maryland, this year presents a real opportunity in the Big Ten East. So far, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State haven’t been as advertised. Don’t rule out the Terps as a spoiler in this conference. We’ll learn what is real and not real about them against Michigan State.

The Deion Sanders show hits the road in Eugene against Oregon. It feels like the world is expecting an Oregon route, but the Buffaloes have done nothing but prove the doubters wrong this season. The injury to Travis Hunter sucks for college football. But with Shedeur Sanders, Colorado always has a chance.

The movement in the point spread would indicate that Cam Rising will be back for Utah. The Utes desperately need him. For UCLA, it looks like they are handing the reins to five-star freshman Dante Moore. That is best for them in the long term. This weekend could present some growing pains. Rice-Eccles Stadium is one of the best home-field advantages in the sport.

Is the Alabama dynasty finished? Is Nick Saban’s protégé Lane Kiffin really going to be the one to put the final nail in the coffin? This is a fascinating matchup in the SEC that should answer those questions. It’s foolish to doubt Nick Saban and Alabama, but something just feels off this year.

Don’t forget about Kansas. The Jayhawks are 3-0 and host BYU in their first game in the Big 12. Kansas remains a long shot to win the league. But the Jayhawks have a dynamic quarterback and a high-powered offense. It’s college football. Crazy things can happen.


  • Arkansas at LSU – 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Oregon State at Washington State – 7 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Texas at Baylor – 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Ohio State at Notre Dame – 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Iowa at Penn State – 7:30 p.m. ET on CBS

If you’re going out on Saturday night, make sure there are TVs wherever you go. Things get started with LSU hosting Arkansas. It feels like people have sort of written off LSU as a national championship contender after their loss. They are still very much alive. Arkansas has a history of playing the Tigers tough in Baton Rouge.

Out west, we have what could be the most underrated game of the day. Oregon State has looked phenomenal early this season. Washington State came onto the radar after beating Wisconsin. This is a tough test for the Beavers in a stadium that while small, still presents a great home-field advantage.

Texas was the talk of college football after upsetting Alabama in week two. But after seeing Alabama last week, do we have to re-evaluate the Longhorns? This game is being overshadowed by the rest of the great games on Saturday. Baylor has really struggled offensively this year. Everyone will have Texas winning easily. Circle this one.

The best game of the weekend is in South Bend. Ohio State and Notre Dame face off for the second year in a row. Regardless of the outcome, seeing Ohio State’s helmets under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium in a top-10 matchup is just beautiful. We’ll find out if Ohio State’s struggles are overblown or legitimately concerning. Notre Dame has the defense and running game to win.

If you’re somebody who loves defense, turn on CBS. Penn State and Iowa get together in one of my personal favorite Big Ten matchups. This game is even more fun because this will be the “white out” game for Penn State. While the Nittany Lion offense has been sluggish, their defense is elite. You know you’re going to get good defense and special teams from Iowa. Cade McNamara doesn’t look healthy to me, and that’s a problem against this defense. Iowa is on shutout alert.

Late night

  • USC at Arizona State – 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Cal at Washington – 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

It’s a shame that this glorious day of college football doesn’t give us one appealing matchup in the late-night spot. USC and Washington are heavy favorites against these conference bottom-feeders. Arizona State may be without as many as ten starters with their third-string quarterback going against Caleb Williams. This one could be a bloodbath.

While Washington looked invincible against Michigan State, nobody has been better in this spot than Justin Wilcox. The Bears have shown the ability to make these games ugly with their defense. Can they do enough to hang around and make this worth staying up for? Probably not. But what else are you going to do? Go to bed? Enjoy the day. This one is special.

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Michigan State football: 3 fearless predictions vs. Maryland

Let’s hope the Washington loss was an outlier.



Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State football will host unbeaten Maryland on Saturday afternoon looking to bounce back from the Washington debacle.

What a disaster this season has been thus far for Michigan State football. While the obvious negative storyline involves Mel Tucker, there’s an underlying issue that hasn’t been talked about enough: injuries. It feels like that’s the theme of the program every single year.

Michigan State has been bitten by the injury bug yet again — and twice as hard.

The ailing Spartans, who could be without over a dozen players on Saturday, will host an undefeated Maryland team trying to improve to 4-0 behind the arm of Taulia Tagovailoa. The Spartans need to get after him early and often — something they couldn’t do against Michael Penix Jr.

This game is important for Michigan State if it wants to have a chance at a bowl berth this season.

To celebrate homecoming weekend, here are three of my most fearless predictions for the crucial game.

1. Nathan Carter rushes for 100 yards again

Through two Michigan State football games, Nathan Carter looked like a superstar. He had back-to-back 100-yard games to open his Spartan career and he looked like the clear top player on offense. But the offensive line has done him no favors.

Need proof? Just look at the Washington game. He had no running lanes and was hit in the backfield a ton which was disappointing to see. The offensive line was supposed to be a strength this year.

I think we’ll see the offense design more runs to mask these issues in the trenches. Carter will have more runs designed to utilize his speed and elusiveness around the edge and I think he’s going to take full advantage with another 100-yard performance. This will mark three 100-yard games in his first four outings as a Spartan.

Carter’s final line with be 20 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown.

2. Jordan Hall records 10 tackles

If you’ve read up on the (few) bright spots from Michigan State’s loss to Washington, you’d know that Jordan Hall was one of them. The freshman linebacker looks like a budding star through three games. In fact, he’s rated as the Big Ten’s 10th-best linebacker this year and the nation’s No. 8 linebacker in terms of pass coverage. Not too shabby for a true freshman.

Hall is going to have a big game on Saturday against Maryland.

While he has just nine total tackles this season, he’s only played a small percentage of defensive snaps. We’re going to see a healthy dose of Hall on Saturday afternoon as he surpasses his season total for tackles in one game. He’ll even finish with two tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.

This could be the start of a special career in East Lansing for Hall.

3. Katin Houser engineers a comeback

Last week was a rough one for Noah Kim. The veteran quarterback struggled mightily against a defense that had been mediocre through the first two weeks of the season against inferior opponents and a lot had to do with the offensive line struggling. I think that continues this week as he will get off to a quick start, but stall out through the end of the first quarter and the second quarter.

After halftime, he’ll take the field as the starter once again, but he’ll turn the ball over on the first drive and then go three-and-out on the second possession. Harlon Barnett will make the call to put Katin Houser in the game.

Down 20-10 in the second quarter, Houser will breathe some new life into the offense, but he, too, will be running for his life thanks to offensive line struggles. Houser will throw a touchdown pass and lead two more scoring drives to put Michigan State up 23-20. I have a feeling Maryland wins this one, but the Houser magic will have us believing again.

Michigan State holds on to win 23-20 and Houser’s solid player opens up the QB1 job again.

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Spartan Shadows staff Week 4 college football picks against the spread

Who ya got?



College football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s Week 4 in college football and that means it’s time for the weekly Spartan Shadows staff pick ’em. Who are we picking?

Hey, Spartan Shadows fans, Week 3 of college football has come and gone. We had some entertaining games, some surprising upsets, and then some games that just surprisingly upset us (*cough* MSU *cough*). Now that most everyone’s non-conference schedule has wrapped up, it’s time to get into conference play.

This should give us some more entertaining games each week to dive into.

But before we do that, let’s check out the results of the Week 3 college football games.

Week 3 results

Here’s how the picks went last week:

  • No. 14 LSU at Mississippi State — Line: LSU -9.5; Result: LSU cover
  • No. 15 Kansas State at Missouri — Line: Kansas State -5; Result: Missouri cover
  • Minnesota at No. 20 North Carolina — Line: UNC -7.5; Result: North Carolina cover
  • Virginia Tech at Rutgers — Line: Rutgers -6.5; Result: Rutgers cover
  • South Carolina at No. 1 Georgia — Line: Georgia -27.5; Result: South Carolina cover
  • No. 11 Tennessee at Florida — Line: Tennessee -6.5; Result: Florida cover
  • Bowling Green at No. 2 Michigan — Line: Michigan -40.5; Result: Bowling Green cover
  • Syracuse at Purdue — Line: Syracuse -2.5; Result: Syracuse cover
  • Pittsburgh at West Virginia — Line: Pitt -1; Result: West Virginia cover
  • No. 8 Washington at Michigan State — Line: Washington -16.5; Result: Washington cover

For the staff picks recap: I first will have no official comment on our MSU game picks.

As far as the rest of the weekend goes, our fearless leader Connor Muldowney had a strong showing, going 7-3 overall. HopMan and MSUrecruits also went strong at 6-4. Myself and Daily hitting the .500 mark is a good sign as well. In the sports betting world, .500 is good. On the other end of the pick train, we had Max going a rough 2-8 after starting the season out hot and then Anthony and Joey going 3-7. Emmett also went 4-6 to close out our picks.

Anthony and I have a little side competition going between us and it looks like the pressure of the Cane’s Box Bet may be getting to him a bit. Look for him to have a strong week this week to make up for it.

Updated standings after Week 3

  1. HopMan: 18-12
  2. (Tie) Connor and Emmett: 17-13
  3. (Tie) MSUrecruits and Max: 16-14
  4. Chris: 15-15
  5. Daily: 14-16
  6. (Tie) Joey and Anthony: 13-17

Week 4 college football games

Disclaimer: All lines are as of 11:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 20 from the ESPN app and Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Wisconsin at Purdue — Friday at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 (Line: Wisconsin -6)

Hop: Wisconsin
Connor: Purdue
Emmett: Wisconsin
MSUrecruits: Wisconsin
Chris: Wisconsin
Daily: Wisconsin
Joey: Purdue
Anthony: Wisconsin

  • Rutgers at No. 2 Michigan — Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on BTN (Line: Michigan -24)

Hop: Michigan
Connor: Rutgers
Emmett: Michigan
MSUrecruits: Michigan
Max: Rutgers
Chris: Michigan
Daily: Michigan
Joey: Rutgers
Anthony: Rutgers

  • No. 4 Florida State at Clemson — Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on ABC (Line: FSU -2.5)

Hop: Florida State
Connor: Clemson
Emmett: Florida State
MSUrecruits: Florida State
Max: Florida State
Chris: Florida State
Daily: Florida State
Joey: Clemson
Anthony: Florida State

  • No. 19 Colorado at No. 10 Oregon — Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC (Line: Oregon -21)

Hop: Colorado
Connor: Oregon
Emmett: Oregon
MSUrecruits: Oregon
Max: Oregon
Chris: Oregon
Daily: Oregon
Joey: Oregon
Anthony: Colorado

  • No. 22 UCLA at No. 11 Utah — Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX (Line: Utah -4.5)

Connor: Utah
Emmett: UCLA
MSUrecruits: UCLA
Max: Utah
Chris: Utah
Daily: Utah
Joey: UCLA
Anthony: Utah

  • No. 15 Ole Miss at No. 13 Alabama — Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS (Line: Alabama -7)

Hop: Ole Miss
Connor: Bama
Emmett: Bama
MSUrecruits: Ole Miss
Max: Ole Miss
Chris: Ole Miss
Daily: Bama
Joey: Ole Miss
Anthony: Ole Miss

  • No. 13 Oregon State at No. 21 Washington State — Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on FOX (Line: Oregon State -3)

Hop: Oregon State
Connor: Washington State
Emmett: Washington State
MSUrecruits: Oregon State
Max: Oregon State
Chris: Washington State
Daily: Washington State
Joey: Washington State
Anthony: Oregon State

  • No. 6 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame — Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC (Line: OSU -3)

Hop: Ohio State
Connor: Notre Dame
Emmett: Ohio State
MSUrecruits: Notre Dame
Max: Notre Dame
Chris: Ohio State
Daily: Notre Dame
Joey: Ohio State
Anthony: Notre Dame

  • No. 24 Iowa at No. 7 Penn State — Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on CBS (Line: PSU -15)

Hop: Iowa
Connor: Penn State
Emmett: Iowa
MSUrecruits: Iowa
Max: Penn State
Chris: Penn State
Daily: Penn State
Joey: Iowa
Anthony: Penn State

  • Maryland at Michigan State — Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC (Line: Maryland -7.5)

Hop: Maryland
Connor: Michigan State
Emmett: Maryland
MSUrecruits: Maryland
Max: Maryland
Chris: Michigan State
Daily: Maryland
Joey: Michigan State
Anthony: Michigan State

There you have it folks. The picks are in. Looks like the staff is heavily favoring Wisconsin and Florida State so you should probably place bets for Purdue and Clemson accordingly. All joking aside, this is an excellent slate of college football games this week so enjoy it, folks.

Also, please try to come out Saturday to Spartan Stadium if you’re in the area. The players still need all the support they can get. Go Green.

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