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.