Michigan State football

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Mel Tucker has to be honest about the state of Michigan State football

The state of the Michigan State football team this season is not great. But all we ask is that Mel Tucker be honest with us about that.

Three games, three double-digit losses. All is not well with Michigan State football this season and it doesn’t take a diehard fan to realize it.

The team might not make a bowl this season, just one year after going 11-2 with a Peach Bowl win.

And to make matters even worse, the injuries are piling up, the defense has looked awful all year, and the offense is starting to catch whatever the defense has.

Payton Thorne is off to an awful start, the run game has been non-existent, the offensive line hasn’t progressed, and the receivers had their first bad game against Maryland with drops everywhere.

This season feels like 2012 or 2016. Both years were tough to watch and it felt like the team could just never get it together. The good thing about both seasons? They were followed up by 10-plus win years and Big Ten title contention. Can we expect the same? I wouldn’t be shocked to see MSU turn things around drastically next year, and coordinator changes will help that.

But as we sit here the day after a third straight loss to drop below .500, we have to wonder what the coaching staff really thinks behind closed doors. Do these coaches really believe that Michigan State isn’t “super far away” from being good defensively? Is the faith in the coaching staff still there for Mel Tucker? What about the morale in the locker room? Do they think that this is a ‘death by inches’ thing still?

Listening to Tucker and the coordinators speak after losses this season has been quite disheartening. They’re assuming that we can’t read between the lines. We know when things aren’t good because we’ve been here before.

All we ask for is some honesty. No more ‘death by inches’ quotes or ‘we aren’t super far away’ lines. Those don’t work for us. We know they aren’t truthful quotes.

The truth here is this: Michigan State exceeded all expectations last year and had a really strong team. This year, there are talented players everywhere, but the team has taken three steps back. No, this team isn’t going to win out or even be that competitive against Ohio State, maybe not even Michigan, and I’d be surprised if it was a single-digit game at Penn State. The Spartans will be lucky to beat Wisconsin, Illinois, Rutgers, and Indiana to make a bowl.

So the coachspeak is fine when we’re winning and we don’t need answers for anything, but with a losing skid staring us in the face, we just want honesty.

Tucker isn’t one to usually sugarcoat things, so no more telling us that we’re a few plays away from being really good because we have eyes. We know that’s not true.

This defense is an abomination, the offense is horrid, and the special teams have been a disaster. Be honest about it and we’ll appreciate you even more for it.

Payton Thorne

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Payton Thorne needs to be near-perfect to beat Maryland

Payton Thorne has to be close to perfect if Michigan State is going to go to Maryland and steal a win.

Michigan State and Maryland are both coming off losses. One was demoralizing and one was encouraging (if you can even call a loss encouraging).

Payton Thorne played one of his worst games as a Spartan, passing for just 132 yards and two interceptions on 17-of-24 completions. He had a season-low 5.5 yards per attempt which isn’t going to cut it for the upcoming gauntlet of games.

Although he’s been more accurate this season, on paper, than he has before with a 65 percent completion rate, he’s making poor decisions and freshman mistakes.

That can’t happen on Saturday at Maryland.

We’ve seen Thorne play well and keep Michigan State in a game this season (Washington) but we’ve also seen him as a complete non-factor (Minnesota). He’s been so-so as well (Akron and WMU) but the Spartans need him to be great against the Terrapins on Saturday.

It might be your typical drag-it-out Big Ten game if there’s a lot of rain in the forecast but if it remains dry enough to throw the ball, Thorne needs to have his best game of the year. He may need to have one of his best games as a Spartan.

We know Taulia Tagovailoa — if healthy — is going to get his yards. Scottie Hazelton hasn’t exactly instilled confidence after his post-practice media session this week so don’t expect the secondary to suddenly snap into shape. The Spartans are going to give up yards through the air and if they can hold Maryland to a couple of field goals instead of touchdowns, that’ll be huge for the offense.

Thorne needs to step up and out-duel Tagovailoa. That’s a tall task, but Thorne has shown before that he can play at a high level and put the offense on his back. Jay Johnson needs to play on the strengths of the offense (passing game) and let Thorne throw it deep.

Maryland’s passing defense (260 passing yards per game allowed) is just as bad as the Spartans’ (265 yards per game), believe it or not.

We’re going to need to see Thorne taking advantage of that lackluster defensive backfield and the mismatches with Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman. Utilize those tight ends and even the running backs leaking out of the backfield as safety valves. He has to make plays with his legs, too. Extend plays, go through progressions, and avoid turnovers.

If Thorne can have his best game of the year, completing around 60-65 percent of his throws for 300 yards and a few touchdowns with no turnovers, Michigan State will beat Maryland.

Michigan State needs a near-perfect performance from him on Saturday evening.

Michigan State football

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How can Michigan State football beat Maryland?

Michigan State football is the underdog for a third straight week, but how can the Spartans end the skid at Maryland?

If you wish you could erase the last two weeks of Michigan State football from your memory, you’re not alone. The Spartans have been downright awful since heading to Seattle in Week 3.

For the third straight game, Michigan State is an underdog and it just feels like that’s going to lead to yet another unbearable loss. No, I’m not out on Mel Tucker or the future of this program, but this season just feels unsalvageable at this point. Clearly I’m an eternal pessimist.

But I can be optimistic every now and then and while the Spartans look lost, they face a prime matchup with Maryland on Saturday that could correct the course of the season.

Maryland is coming off a close loss at Michigan in which it nearly pulled off an upset while Michigan State football is fresh off a 34-7 beating at the hands of Minnesota at home. The two teams seem to be trending in opposite directions.

Yet I’m not ready to say Michigan State has ‘no chance’ on Saturday in College Park.

The Spartans have the pieces to beat Maryland on the road in Week 5, and here’s what needs to happen in order for that to become a reality.

1. Payton Thorne has to rebound

I’ll say something controversial here: it’s the offense, not the defense, that holds the key to victory on Saturday. If Michigan State’s offense can keep up with Maryland, I like its chances. We know Maryland is going to score and move the ball, but the offense needs to prove it can do the same.

With that said, Payton Thorne needs to rebound after a horrid Week 4 performance.

Two picks, no touchdowns, and under 150 yards. That’s not a stat line that’s going to win you any games in the Big Ten — unless you’re Iowa. Thorne needs to figure things out and turn it around on Saturday with his best game of the season. It’s time he has a short-term memory and plays as well as we know he can.

This is the perfect defense to get back on track against.

2. Win the turnover battle

In the first two games, Michigan State dominated the turnover battle. Sure, Thorne threw some questionable picks, but they never really killed the Spartans. They found a way to get the ball back via the turnover and if they can force some key fumbles or pick off Taulia Tagovailoa a time or two, the Spartans will be in good shape.

Winning the turnover battle is what this defense has to rely on since it hasn’t forced many punts this year.

3. Rush for at least 150 yards

Through the first two weeks, Michigan State averaged over 220 yards per game on the ground. Over the past two weeks, Michigan State has had 80 total rushing yards. That’s quite the contrast of rushing success.

Maryland doesn’t have a very good run defense (as we saw last week) and I think the Spartans need to assert dominance in the trenches and establish a run game. If Michigan State’s offense wants to prove effectiveness, it needs to establish the run in order to set up the pass. Rush for at least 150 yards and a ton of pressure will. be taken off Thorne’s shoulders and MSU will reap the benefits.

4. Receive the ball to start the game

Kicking off to start the game when you know your defense is an absolute liability to surrender a quick 75-yard drive is foolish. Michigan State needs to opt to receive the ball to start the game, assuming it wins the toss.

No more trailing 7-0 before the offense even gets the ball. That’s why this team has been pressing so much; it’s been playing from behind for 99 percent of the past two weeks. The one percent has been the time during those first drives.

Mel Tucker needs to hope to win the toss and receive the ball. Get an early lead and see how much confidence it builds in the team — you’d be surprised.

5. Blitz

Please. I’m actually begging at this point. I feel like it’s a lost cause to beg for the abandonment of the 4-2-5 scheme, but at least give me some blitzes. Get pressure on Taulia Tagovailoa so he doesn’t sit back there and pick apart the defense. Or at least make him decide where to go with the ball within a second of the snap. Getting him uncomfortable will be so important because that’s when he makes mistakes.

Scottie Hazelton, if you do one thing before you leave East Lansing, let it be this.

I could name about 100 more things that Michigan State football must do in order to beat Maryland, but if the Spartans can drill these five things, they’ll come away with a big road win.

Mel Tucker


Mel Tucker’s early Year 3 struggles eerily similar to Mark Dantonio’s

Mel Tucker is off to a slow start in his third season as Michigan State football coach. That’s a lot like Mark Dantonio.

Michigan State football’s 2022 season is in a precarious position. No one is really sure if the Spartans are going to bounce back or continue to crumble. Uncertainty reigns supreme.

Through four weeks, Michigan State is 2-2 with two blowout wins against inferior foes and two lopsided losses against opponents with a pulse. It’s been a sobering past couple of weeks.

But this tough start to “Year 3” of the Mel Tucker era isn’t unprecedented. It’s actually all too familiar. Mark Dantonio actually suffered the same fate in his third year at MSU.

Yes, Dantonio had struggles in his third year that led to people calling for Pat Narduzzi’s job and potentially Mark’s. He was in a bad spot through four games on his third year.

Dantonio’s Spartans were sitting at 1-3 through four games in 2009 and he had lost to Central Michigan at home in the second game of the season. It was one of those forgettable losses that no Spartan fan likes to recall, but for the purposes of this article, it’s requested.

Think back to how you felt after Central kicked the game-winning field goal against the Spartans to steal a 29-27 win in East Lansing. You had so much hope in Dantonio after he went 9-4 a year earlier and finished in third place in the Big Ten. He was far ahead of schedule — or so you thought. Michigan State football came back down to earth in year three of his “rebuild” with a 1-3 start and home loss to a directional school.

It was ugly.

Fans were calling for his job as well as Narduzzi’s. They were unsure if Dantonio was the right coach to turn the Spartans around.

Dantonio ended up winning the next three games before losing to Iowa and Minnesota in back-to-back heartbreaking games, putting a bowl berth in doubt. The 4-5 Spartans won the next two games before ending the year with a loss to Penn State.

No one was happy with a 6-6 season but they had to realize that the program was in a much worse place three years earlier. Dantonio’s unexpected year two success put him way ahead of schedule and, in turn, it actually ended up biting him. He set the bar too high in year three and a 6-6 season basically felt like 3-9. It was a disaster.

Sound like another coach we know?

Mel Tucker, fresh off exceeding expectations by a mile in year two, set the bar way too high way too early and now he’s off to a sluggish start in year three. It’s almost too similar. Except Tucker is 2-2 through four games instead of 1-3. People are calling for Scottie Hazelton’s job (I may be one of those people) and a bowl game may be tough to reach at this point.

We have to be patient because we’ve seen this movie before.

Dantonio ended up winning 11-plus games in five of his next six seasons, including a Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and a playoff berth. He won three Big Ten titles in the process, including the season after going 6-7.

Tucker is recruiting at a higher level, has the same hunger to win, and — like Dantonio — has coached under some legends and knows what it’ll take to get back on track.

Don’t give in to those questioning if Mel Tucker is the right guy for the job. Just be patient.

Scottie Hazelton

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Scottie Hazelton’s post-Minnesota quotes are disappointing

Listening to Scottie Hazelton speak to the media on Tuesday afternoon was actually way more disappointing than I had expected.

Scottie Hazelton has come under some fire this season, and for good reason.

The Michigan State defensive coordinator has just allowed 500-plus yards of total offense for the second straight game. Also for the second straight game, he allowed a quarterback to have a career game.

While this may happen to defensive coordinators on occasion, it’s been a running theme for Hazelton as he had the nation’s worst pass defense last year and it’s somehow worse this year.

His defense did not force a single punt against Minnesota last week, and that’s flat-out unacceptable.

It’s been time for him to answer questions about his poor coaching through two seasons and lack of adjustments made after the Washington loss.

Luckily for us, he was put in front of the media to answer questions on Tuesday.

Unlucky for us, he didn’t give anyone the answers they wanted to hear.

Obviously the questions being brought up were about how poorly the defense has looked and what kind of fixes can be made. And Hazelton made kind of a head-scratching statement:

This defense isn’t super far away? Does he actually believe that or is this coachspeak? I honestly don’t know what I’d prefer. Maybe he does see the fixes that need to be made but why are the results to these issues so drastically awful? If this is just coachspeak, that’s concerning because how dumb does he think we are as a fanbase?

We watched as a veteran quarterback who hasn’t had a good season in 2-3 years had a career day against the Spartans with as many touchdown passes as incompletions. Before that, we saw as a quarterback who hadn’t started in two years because of an injury torched MSU’s secondary for nearly 400 yards. Oh, and they had film of Michael Penix against this defense already.

No changes were made from one debacle to the next.

That quote was as confusing as it was disappointing to hear.

And here’s the second quote that spiked my blood pressure this afternoon:

If you watched the Washington tape and noticed what you needed to do better, why didn’t the necessary fixes happen? Why did nothing change?

Oh, and the “death by inches” quote would make sense if the Spartans were losing games in heartbreaking fashion. They’re not. This is what you call demoralizing fashion.

Hazelton’s poor job over the past two seasons have placed added pressure on the offense and we’ve seen what the result of that is — it’s not good.

If you’re like me, you see these quotes and are left shaking your head. Maybe he does have the fixes in mind. Maybe he’s close to figuring it out.

My question is this: why hasn’t it happened after the previous dozen defensive debacles?

Michigan State football

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Michigan State football in fragile state after Minnesota debacle

Michigan State football is in its most fragile state since 2019 after an embarrassing loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

Saturday’s Minnesota vs. Michigan State football game felt like a blast from the past in the worst way possible. If you felt the same amount of embarrassment and disappointment as that 2019 Illinois loss, you were not alone.

Spartan fans everywhere were embarrassed by what they saw from their team against unranked Minnesota.

Down 34-0 with just a few minutes remaining, Michigan State put Noah Kim in the game and he led the offense down the field for a pity touchdown to avoid a shutout. Although it was nice to avoid the dreaded shutout at home, it was far too embarrassing to celebrate. Kim’s touchdown pass to Germie Bernard was the best play of the game for the Spartans by a mile, and that’s a problem.

Sure, it was a great pass and Kim has shown some nice flashes this year, but Mel Tucker is standing behind Payton Thorne and, honestly, he’s far from the biggest issue.

Has Thorne been bad this year? Yes. Does he make way too many mental mistakes? Unfortunately. Does Michigan State beat Minnesota if Kim gets the start? No. Unless Kim is also an All-American defensive back, he had no shot of beating the Gophers on Saturday.

And that’s exactly the problem: defense.

No, Jay Johnson isn’t getting a pass here, but the defense has arguably been in its worst state since the John L. Smith era. Even in the forgettable 2018 and 2019 seasons under Mark Dantonio, the defense was elite. Scottie Hazelton has dropped the ball and Tucker continues to let it happen.

Overblown instant reactions during the game aside, I do not believe in firing coaches midway through the year, especially this early on. It just doesn’t make sense to leave the defensive side of the ball without a coordinator. Hazelton isn’t doing this defense any favors, but maybe Tucker should scale back how much say he has in the play-calling throughout the year before making a chance at the end of the season.

Hazelton isn’t alone in failing to do a bang-up job. Harlon Barnett has been bad for the past two years and while I think Chris Kapilovic will turn things around when he gets his guys, the offensive line has been awful.

The Michigan State football program is in a fragile spot much like it was after the 2019 Illinois loss.

How so? There’s added pressure on Tucker to make changes on the defensive side of the ball schematically and although he’s said he has faith in his current staff, he will be judged on his offseason moves — or lack thereof. Dantonio was in a similar position before the 2019 season and instead of letting guys go in business moves, he decided to shuffle the staff and reassign coaches. It turned out to be a disaster. Loyalty was his biggest downfall and it led to his sudden retirement.

Tucker can’t let that same mistake plague his coaching tenure. He can’t let loyalty to his original MSU coaching staff hold him back from growth.

Hazelton is not the answer on the defensive side of the ball, and I think that much has been fairly obvious. Barnett is probably not the answer as a defensive backs coach as that group has gotten worse from a year ago when they ranked dead-last in college football. Johnson has to prove himself because he hasn’t been calling plays to his offense’s strength this year.

And how the heck do our players tell the media after the game that they didn’t expect Tanner Morgan to throw a lot? Are the coaches that delusional that they believe teams aren’t going to target the Spartans’ biggest weakness? Unacceptable.

What we’ve seen from the coaching staff over the past two weeks has been a failure. It’s been unacceptable. It’s injected doubt back into the fanbase for the first time since 2019.

Michigan State is in a fragile state and Tucker must respond aggressively and prove that he’s not willing to let any aspect of his team remain mediocre.

Time to make some changes.

Payton Thorne

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Michigan State football: 5 burning questions ahead of Minnesota matchup

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.

Michigan State football


3 best bets for Michigan State football vs. Minnesota in Week 4

Michigan State football and Minnesota will face off in a huge Big Ten showdown on Saturday. Which bets catch my eye?

For the second straight week, Michigan State football enters a game as an underdog.

The Spartans host undefeated Minnesota on Saturday afternoon for their Big Ten opener and all eyes will be on this game as both teams are looking to make a statement. Will the Spartans bounce back? Will Minnesota prove to be the tougher team? A lot is riding on this game.

Michigan State still has all of its goals in front of it and a win over the Gophers would help kick off an excruciatingly-tough stretch on the right foot.

If you’re like me and never bet on Michigan State football games, there’s no need to read on. But if you’re unlike me and love to just throw money on everything, I’m going to give you my best bets for Saturday’s contest.

Disclaimer: These are my opinions and shouldn’t be considered betting advice. All odds are from Fanduel as of Friday afternoon.

1. Michigan State moneyline (+118)

This might be a bit of a homer pick, but I honestly think Michigan State pulls this one off on Saturday and it has a lot to do with trusting Mel Tucker. He usually makes necessary adjustments after losses and I see him doing just that on Saturday afternoon. Michigan State is a home dog but I think it handles the Gophers on Saturday in a strength-on-strength battle. This is a classic Tucker statement game.

2. Jalen Berger anytime TD scorer (-105)

Jalen Berger was held out of the end zone against Washington and it was the first game of his Spartan career in which he didn’t score. I think he gets back on track with a touchdown against the Gophers as the Spartans will try to establish the run.

3. Total first-half points under 25.5 (-106)

Minnesota’s defense is known for being stingy and its offense relies much more on the run than it does the pass. If anything, the long drives that the Gophers put together on the ground will melt the clock and they may score a couple of times, but it won’t be a shootout. I’m thinking this one is a 14-10 score at halftime in favor of the Spartans.

If you combine these three bets, you could get +640 odds. Throw a quick $5 on that and you win over $32. Not too bad for what I would consider a rather safe parlay. These bets are in order of what I like the best to which one I’m least confident about.

Payton Thorne

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Good news: Payton Thorne got his mojo back vs. Washington

Payton Thorne was able to get some of his mojo back despite it being in a losing effort against Washington in Week 3.

I might get grilled for saying this, but some good did come from Michigan State’s loss to Washington last Saturday.

What could that have possibly been?

Well, Payton Thorne got his mojo back.

The junior quarterback had struggled through the first two weeks of the season and fans were starting to worry whether he had regressed or was just in a slump. He was missing his targets high and throwing off his back foot way too much. It seemed like he and anyone not named Jayden Reed or Tre Mosley were not on the same page; they weren’t even in the same book.

But on Saturday, he looked like the old Payton Thorne again.

We got the old version of the talented quarterback back. Sure, Michigan State lost as the defense wasn’t able to stop Michael Penix Jr. but Thorne looked great.

Playing behind an offensive line that felt like it wasn’t blocking anyone, Thorne was left running for his life all night long. On top of that, he was missing his favorite target in Jayden Reed who didn’t travel to Seattle due to an injury. The odds were stacked against Thorne to get back on track versus Washington.

It didn’t matter.

In his toughest test since 2021, Thorne went out, slung the ball around to a few different targets, got back on the same page with Keon Coleman, and had his most accurate game of the year. When halftime rolled around, he had just one (!!) incompletion. So all of the “he’s just not accurate” fans were awfully quiet. He was making throws that we haven’t seen from him all year and he was extending plays with his legs.

Thorne got his mojo back.

He finished the game 30-for-42 with 323 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, but Jay Johnson is right, he played his butt off. And all of his interceptions this year have been him trying to do too much. Just look at the pick he threw against Washington. He was flushed from the pocket in his own end zone immediately and was forced to try and make a play but he just couldn’t connect with Germie Bernard on the sideline in a tight window.

Predictably, there were fans who knocked Thorne’s performance (not sure how) and said that changes needed to happen at quarterback. That’s not even close to the case.

If anything, Thorne proved why he is the team’s QB1. He was impressive all night long even when his defense decided to remain in East Lansing with Reed.

Thorne getting his mojo back was priority No. 1 of getting Michigan State into contender mode. Now the top priority is fixing that defense followed by repairing the offensive line, making necessary personnel changes, and getting healthy.

Michigan State is far from perfect, but at least it got its QB1 back.

Michigan State football

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What are Michigan State football’s biggest concerns after Washington loss?

Michigan State football was unable to show up on the road against Washington and these are my biggest concerns from the Week 3 loss.

I am concerned about Michigan State football after Saturday’s loss at Washington. That’s not a hot take.

Does that mean I think Michigan State is doomed? No. Does that mean the Spartans don’t have what it takes to compete in the Big Ten? No. Does that mean I’ve given up hope? Not even close.

I’m concerned but I’m hopeful.

Michigan State didn’t look like the team we expected to see after an 87-13 advantage through two weeks of the season. It wasn’t the same team that led the nation in sacks. It wasn’t the same team that came off its first shutout in years. This just wasn’t the 2-0 team (ranked No. 11) that we expected to see in Seattle.

Spartan fans showed up in Seattle, but the coaching staff did not.

Am I saying that Mel Tucker should have left Scottie Hazelton in Seattle after the loss? No, but I’m also not not saying that. I’m willing to cut certain coaches a break, but after having the nation’s worst pass defense in 2021, not seeing any improvement in 2022 is more than disappointing — it’s unacceptable.

Changes have to be made. Is it a talent issue? I don’t think so. Is it a schematic issue? Absolutely.

There’s no reason this talented of a Michigan State football team should go into Washington against the fourth or fifth-best Pac-12 team and look overmatched. Zero reason for that.

I’m concerned, especially since the schedule doesn’t get any easier. And here’s what concerns me most about Michigan State football after the Washington loss.

1. Scottie Hazelton

I really hate putting the blame on one position coach or coordinator, but Hazelton has not improved this defense since last year’s debacle. He already had film on Michigan State football against Michael Penix Jr. and still couldn’t draft a game plan to slow him down.

The 4-2-5 scheme just isn’t working. Teams are figuring it out and slinging the ball all over the Spartan defense. It wasn’t ready for anything on Saturday and that’s both on Tucker and Hazelton.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about Hazelton’s ability — or inability — to turn this defense around.

2. The offensive line

This is pretty self-explanatory. The offensive line was horrible against Washington.

No open lanes, Payton Thorne was running for his life all game, and I would have trusted a wet paper bag over this unit to stop the Washington front. I am very concerned about the offensive line, especially when they have to face Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Penn State

3. Depth

I’m not even going to lie, without Jayden Reed, I thought the passing game was pretty much limited to two receivers and the tight ends. It was Keon Coleman, Tre Mosley, and the duo of Daniel Barker and Tyler Hunt.

It might just be time to dip into that freshman class and get Antonio Gates Jr. some reps or even utilize Tyrell Henry some more. We know that the latter’s redshirt will be burned because he’s on special teams, but does the staff truly believe he cannot be of service in the passing game? Thorne needed help on Saturday without Reed and he had to rely heavily on Mosley, Coleman, and the two tight ends.

As for the other guys missing, Jacob Slade’s absence was felt big-time. Does his absence on the line really make that big of a difference? Well, the Spartans had 12 sacks through the first two weeks and then zero on Saturday and just one tackle for loss without him. You tell me.

Injuries are killing depth.