Three positive predictions for the second half of MSU’s football season

Michigan State’s struggles during the first half of the football season are difficult to ignore.

They’re so noticeably in plain sight. Almost every week. Last Saturday included.

But at 4-2, that there is a tone of disappointment surrounding the program speaks to what coach Mark Dantonio has created over the last couple of years.

Even if all MSU does is repeat its first half, it’s 8-4 and headed to a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Remember when that was a heckuva season?

Yet, the reasons for any dissatisfaction, from some of you and those within the program, are legitimate. No one wants to see a top 10 defense (until last week, at least) wasted. Or Le’Veon Bell’s season to be something less than special, because the Spartans’ passing game isn’t at all threatening to defenses, which keep 11 eyes on Bell.

For a minute, though, let’s keep it upbeat.

Here are three positive predictions for the second half of MSU’s football season:

1. Bennie Fowler catches 30 passes over the next six games (that’s 50 total for the regular season) and develops into a sound complimentary receiver. Fowler was never suited to be a true No. 1 target, even if he was touted as such. He doesn’t seem to have the explosion or the propensity to make the big play or needed catch when all the pressure is on him. As freshman Aaron Burbridge continues to assume Fowler’s former role, Fowler excels as more of an inside receiver.

2. Le’Veon Bell passes Javon Ringer for the second-most rushing yards in a season in MSU history, trailing only Lorenzo White (2,066 in 1985). Bell has 776 yards through six games, slightly off Ringer’s 2008 pace for 1,637. But MSU has already faced the two most stout run defense it’ll see in Notre Dame and Ohio State — even if the stats don’t bear that out due to non-league scheduling and early season matchups. And the Spartan passing game can’t be any less productive. As long as modest strides are made by in the air, Bell should see more reasonable defensive fronts. The one caveat is an offensive line that isn’t what it was six weeks ago and can’t afford another injury.

3. MSU’s defense will put together at least one brilliant game during the Spartans’ stretch against Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska. This defense has been beyond solid with the exception of the first half Saturday at Indiana. But it hasn’t forced turnovers at an elite rate, a modest nine through six weeks. At some point, that’ll change, even if just for a Saturday. Just as it’s easy to question how MSU will survive its three-week gauntlet against the Wolverines, Badgers and Cornhuskers, given its meager offense, it’s fair to suggest at least one of those three teams won’t survive MSU’s defense.

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29 Responses to Three positive predictions for the second half of MSU’s football season

  1. avatar MayoSpartan says:

    I hope the temporary optimism, with a caveat here and there, wasn’t too difficult for Graham. IMO, it’s not a homer the readers and past blog posters want from the MSU beat writer. I would read more if articles reported on MSU sports without a columnist’s hint of doubt or blind faith.

    For instance, MSU fans could not help but reading the football team was destined for division titles on the laurels of the D,or a first year QB’s familiarity would easily translate to accelerated game experience and success behind the strongest O-line in Coach D’s tenure. To contrast, a few sports writers correctly doubted MSU’s ability to be productive after the departure of 75% of the offense output. Ironically, all the writers touting 2013 MSU success have lambasted the Spartans under achievement during the first 6 games, and we are not reading much from the pragmatic writers whom suggested a there would be trouble.

    Looking at the stats; MSU’s offense has a respectable RB among the rushing leaders, middle of road in sacks allowed and a QB in the top 50… even with all the drops. Yet, scoring offense is abysmal. Has a writer asked any questions or even written about assessing the problems for the low point production? What percentage of drives stall due to penalties, in opportune drops or play calling that may be resolved over the course of the season? What is the coaching staff doing in these areas to increase offensive production?

    Couch, stop writing knee jerk reactions to posters saying your anti MSU, and start thinking what made the LSJ readers love Joe Rexrode.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      No knee-jerk reactions, trust me, Mayo (No relation to David Mayo?). My job is to tell it like I see it and I’ll keep doing that. Your analysis and criticisms, though, are fair. No question there was some Kool-Aid drinking going on within the press. I also don’t think Dantonio or MSU expected to struggle offensively like this. I think they believed what they were preaching in April and August.

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Early prediction

      MSU 17
      Iowa 10

  2. avatar mike says:

    Graham Couch is a breath of fresh air, he is the type of journalist that will someday end up in the BTN studios. If we win one of those three tough games it shows me thats where we belong.

    • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

      Hey Mike, we all know you are a scUM fan, go to MgoBlow blog and read about how scUM is gonna lose to State for the 5th straight time

    • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

      Hey Mike, everyone here knows you are a scUM fan, go to the MgoBlow board and talk about how great you are after beating a crappy purdue team

      • avatar mike says:

        Could be worse a come from behind win over Indiana!

        • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

          Considering IU is better than Turdue, MSU had a good come from behind win. Difference is the delusional scUM fans think beating Turdue was tough. What a joke. 4 in a row, going on 5, thanks for playing Mike. Now get back to watching the register at walmart.

    • avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

      Pushing a broom alongside you Mike. I wouldn’t wish that on him.

  3. avatar GreenGuy says:

    Did Graham enter in the “spin zone”? ;)

    For MSU to achieve its primary goal – division championship, conference championship game win, get to the Rose Bowl, they must get better play at the corner from J. Adams (OC’s are finding ways to isloate tall WRs on him and he is giving up inside position regularly); C. Norman playing his assignments rather than freelancing himself out of position like 1st half against both OSU and IU; pressure QBs. Offense: GC has mentioned it – be aggressive from the opening possession by spreading the ball around (if Roushar wants to run play action on 1st down OK, but don’t follow a 1st down incompletion with power over RG that invariably creates a 3rd and 8!).

    Lets say MSU comes out fired up and focused v. Iowa, plays solid defense and continues the improvement in passing game even w/o D. Sims: MSU wins 27 – 17. Sets up the potential division championship game vs. the “Weasels of the Big Outhouse”. Get Sims back, mix up the defense to attack and contain DR and MSU wins that game as well.

    The game at the outhouse is the turning point of this season…imagine the emotions we feel on 10/19!

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Well played, GreenGuy. I do agree that the game in Ann Arbor probably probably makes or breaks it, beyond the boost or letdown from the result. If MSU beats Iowa and wins at U-M, even if it loses at Wisconsin, it’s hosting Nebraska with a reasonable chance at winning out the regular season. That would put the Spartans at 6-2, with tiebreakers over Nebraska and probably Michigan (if there’s another stumble for the Wolverines, say at Ohio State?). Of course, after watching both teams last week, it’s hard to picture MSU winning right now at the Big House. But, as Mark Dantonio said Saturday, “Every game is different.” How’s that for spin? : )

      • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

        MSU has beaten Denard in the big outhouse before, their defense is good enough to do it, and scUM’s defense is greatly overrated

        • avatar mike says:

          Overated?? msu 6th in the nation waaaaaaaaaaaay overated ! First time purdue has led a big ten team in the first half in 3 years, hows that for overrated?

          • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

            Ask Denard how good that MSU defense is ! Purdue was ahead in the first half, I thought scUM was up 21-0? Another scUM fan who doesn’t know what she’s talking about !

  4. avatar kateri says:

    Someone who is not a Spartan is going to have a hard time doing this job adequately. There’s no faking it, fans can tell. It is true, that readers don’t want a “homer” reporter… But they do want someone who cares with their whole heart about the team and the fans. That came through in the tone of Joe’s articles… You just can’t fake that. You either bleed green, or you don’t. Joe is a hard act to follow… but he should be followed by someone that cares equally as much about MSU. I don’t think Couch does.

    • avatar MSUJake says:

      You do know that’s not the role of a reporter, Kateri? Couch isn’t supposed to love the team or care about it, just cover it. Couch also isn’t in the same job as Joe. He’s a columnist, not the beat writer. Joe still does the beat for the Detroit Free Press and Lansing paper.

  5. avatar mike says:

    Graham is so mean!! Idont like hearing the truth about the Spartans!! Why cant he be like the rest of us and pretend that everything is okay?

  6. avatar West Coast Steve says:

    Graham, as you know, a lot of what readers and bloggers do involves heated polemics as much as their asperation for the Spartans. I think we should get more of it back on the field and into Spartans journalism.

    To expand, so far there has been a lack of firein general too — maybe outside of the BSU game — among the Spartans and what you can see it on the sidelines. There is no question in my mind that Cousins and the receivers were some of the very best ever at MSU. Keshawn never touched the ball wherein I failed to light up inside watching for his moves to leave d-backs in his dust. Kirk Cousins’ speech at media day last year has never been matched to my knowledge at that event, and perhaps never by anyone but him in an MSU locker room. Of course, the most terrible damper has been a damaged offensive line — yes, this is getting to be an old story at MSU — that has not been able to hold its ground at any kind of championship level. It HAS TO be addressed by recruiting immediately, as we’ve all thought in the past many, many times.

    Looping back, to replace those former stars in the passing game and many other sources of hot energy, Dantonio, Narduzzi and Roushar have to unearth alternative sources NOW, since they have not surfaced yet.

    As an example, when I listen to Maxwell I’m struck by his intelligence and his poise and his decency, but I’m not inspired ever by his passion at all, and that has to be carried too into the locker room and onto the field. With Cousins, you simply could not miss the fire and the passion. And, of course, that kind of massive kilowattage is hard work and puts a leader at social risk, so you have to be able to back up the reasoning behind it with brain power. But, it also creates an inner blaze that can drive oneself past the fatigue or play-it-safe insecurities. And, you can never build a lie either — you’ll get caught if not speaking to the terribly brain-diluted. In short, it take a superior level of maturity and intelligence.

    Also, Maxwell seems a puritan — not meant to judge, just a way of walking in the world — who keeps his passions miles away from himself and the public, and it’s rather Obama-esque in fact in their public personas. (Not to politicize, but rather to acknowledge style, nothing more.) As a boomer, I see far less public enthusiasm in general than was rampant in our generation in the 60s and 70s, and which is now passe and often pushed away by Millennials both here near S.F. and back in G.R. But, the cultural coldness and calculation in my view come at a massive cost too.

    To me, in times of crisis it really also takes some fire-in-the-belly leadership and that’s where the past five weeks +/- have been: crisis. I think we fans have had it by now with both the shallowness and the blasse attutude we see on the sidelines, and Dantonio has brought it up too. On those sidelines I see faces of inattention, some fear and maybe a “Gee, why am in not in Facebook?” driffing. Somebody on this team has to show us WHO they are, and take the whole team to last year’s massive focus and fire in the belly. That energy has been utterly invisible since early in the ND game.

  7. avatar msu76 says:

    I think the 3 positives, though decidedly viewed through green colored lenses, are quite possible. I’m also surprised, even with a subject as emotional as college football, at all the negativity on this site. We make one more play against the Bucks, and we’re 5-1, and presumably everybody’s happy!

    That said, this Saturday is an absolute must win. We have to blast the Hawks, who nearly lost to Northern Iowa, and did lose to Iowa State and to CMU. I say we do, something like 35-10, then we begin preparations for making Shoelace winless against the Spartans. GO GREEN!

    • avatar ATLSpartan says:

      Exactly. We make the drive with 4 minutes left and kick the winning field goal against OSU, and everything is Peach Creamy.

  8. avatar ATLSpartan says:

    On the big picture, Couch is taking a few jabs from the regulars, and it is not my job to say which shots are legitimate. I will say that I love Joe, but he and I came to literary blows over how his buddy Sharp covered MSU. Joe was staunch in his defense and I gave what I considered irrefutable evidence of bias.

    Being in Atlanta I am starved for content and I appreciate anything written about MSU, whether I agree with it or not. I agree with Green Guy, Couch, and all the rest of us; that have said this season hangs in the balance on what happens in AA on a Saturday in October that looms ever nearer.

    I for one like our chances of a coming out party. We are talented. We have the ability to play much better. Many of the drops and penalties have been 3rd down drops and penalties, which are drive killers.

    I believe we will get better.

    • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

      ATL, I believe Joe was just taking Sharp’s side because they are both journalists. Sharp is a hack, and many Michigan fans agree with that. He’s just another reason not to read the free press, along with Mark Snyder.

  9. avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

    Album think he’s God’s gift to everything.

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