Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Can this football season be salvaged?

I went to the MSU/BYU game on Saturday, extending my streak of attending at least one MSU football game per season to 24 years. The way this game went, it may be my last MSU football game of the season. I don't know if I want to witness football played this poorly.

For the good news: The weather was glorious, with mostly sunny skies and game time temperature above 60 degrees and actually feeling much warmer in the sun-drenched bleachers of the north end zone. As usual, the Spartan Marching Band was in excellent form and at least in the beginning the day was everything that is wonderful about college football.

Even the game seemed to go well in the early going, with the Spartans mixing passing with running to deliver a long drive capped off with a touchdown. Even though the rest of the first half was a snooze, it was at least reassuring that the defense had kept BYU out of the end zone and the Spartans maintained a 7-3 lead.

Then the bottom fell out.

The Spartans struggle in every single facet of the game. The offensive line can't block, the quarterbacks struggle to make plays and lead the team (no doubt not helped by the offensive line's struggles), the defense can't get off the field on third down, the kicking game (particularly field goal kicking) is inconsistent at best, and to top it all off the offensive coordinator inexplicably abandons the passing game after the first drive of the game.

There are years when a team can mask one or two deficiencies by excelling above average in other areas. In 2012, MSU's excellent defense compensated--to at least a small degree--for its anemic offense and the team finished at 7-6. Last season's high-powered offense made up for a sometimes spotty defense and dodgy special teams to lead the team to a college playoff berth.

This year, it seems that the Spartan football team excels at nothing, and the result has been a three-game losing streak and 2-3 record.

Based on what I saw Saturday, I don't where or when MSU will win again. Northwestern is at least on a par with BYU, so that game will most likely be a struggle, and Maryland on the road looks like a loss. I definitely do not see the Spartans beating Michigan. If I'm being completely honest, with the way this MSU team is playing now, I only see two games remaining on the schedule that the Spartans can and should beat: Illinois and Rutgers. That means that, barring some kind of miraculous improvement, the Spartans are looking squarely at a 4-8 season.

Someone may need to wake me up when basketball season starts.

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