We're still waiting for Michigan State football to play for an entire 60 minutes, and with the team looking closer to a M*A*S*H* unit than a football squad lately, I don't when or if we will see that this season. Quite frankly, this is not the #4 team in the country right now. Whether that changes in the next few weeks or months, I have no idea.
Michigan State is still undefeated, but along with Ohio State, it has to be the shakiest and least impressive 5-0 record in the nation. I'm still trying to determine if this is due to: a) the targets on their backs (with every opponent giving the Spartans their best shot, b) the terrible injury situation, c) boredom, d) losing Pat Narduzzi, or e) all of the above.
The upcoming Rutgers game is important. First of all, MSU needs to find a way to win. And if looking at Rutgers' record you think I'm crazy to simply suggest that MSU needs to worry more about escaping with a win than blowing the Scarlet Knights out of the building, then look a little closer. Though by any statistical standard Rutgers is not a good football team, strange things have happened in Piscataway to high- ranked teams, and the Spartans are possibly the most vulnerable high-ranked team in the nation right now. Add to that, this is a night game and it's being promoted as a "black out" at Rutgers. It will be a frenzied atmosphere at High Point Solutions Stadium. (By the way, could there possibly be a worse name for a college football stadium?).
On the other hand, maybe getting away from East Lansing is just what the Spartans need. It could be the old "circle the wagons" mentality in front of a hostile crowd. It could also be that the Spartans are feeling the lofty expectations in their own stadium and could use a road game to temporarily escape that.
Though it's not Dantonio's approach or philosophy towards the game of football, a blowout win over Rutgers may be exactly what the Spartans need to boost their confidence (if it needs boosting) and, more importantly, get the media and fans off their backs for a week (because the media and fans will already be hyping the Michigan game).
And this leads me to...
...I don't think it's too early to start talking about the MSU/Michigan game:
Michael Rosenberg, on SI College Football Podcast, made an astute observation about the inevitable reaction if Michigan beats Michigan State--and let's face it, with the game in Ann Arbor and the Spartans severely beaten up and not playing well--it is a distinct possibility. Rosenberg said (and I'm paraphrasing) that if Michigan wins, the national and local media will trumpet how the "tide has turned" and "MSU's reign in the state is over" and similar nonsense.
Now listen, Harbaugh has done a great job with Michigan, and I have little doubt that he has already turned the program around, but Michigan State isn't going away under Dantonio. One win over the Spartans does not indicate that MSU's grave should be dug. Rosenberg believes MSU is here to stay under Dantonio and so do I.