Michigan State Football: Back to Earth and Bye Week Hope

Almost all the exclamations I heard around East Lansing on Saturday sounded like “Go to the week off. Get your momentum back and recover your health before heading to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines.

The Michigan State Spartans seemingly accomplished all that with a double overtime win over Wisconsin. MSU clawed back key defensive pieces, redshirted junior quarterback Payton Thorne synced up his goals for 265 yards and two touchdowns, and it felt like the locker room had regained the morale it gave in during of a four-game skid.

Tangible benefits

Rivalry week has begun – much earlier than usual.

Michigan and Michigan State will meet in two weeks as each comes off a bye for the first time in series history.

Debates about whether Kenneth Walker is superior in 2021 or Blake Corum in 2022 have arisen. Iconic moments from the rivalry resurface. The opposing school buddies have already become a temporary enemy. The vitriol is fully effective, but we still have to wait until October 29.

But the bye week might be the only tangible benefit MSU has in Ann Arbor.

Fifth-year senior safety Xavier Henderson and redshirt senior defensive tackle Jacob Slade returned from injury last Saturday and showed how much we miss them. Henderson returned to his position as captain in the field and orchestrated constant adjustments in the defensive backfield. The resulting 131 passing yards given up was the lowest allowed by a Michigan State team coached by Mel Tucker. Slade’s presence in the middle rounded out redshirt second defensive lineman Simeon Barrow en route to a sack and helped keep a strong Wisconsin point offense (152 total yards) at bay.

Perhaps most notably, senior linebacker Jacoby Windmon returned to his natural linebacker position and Week 1 self, recording 11 tackles, intercepting a pass and forcing a double-overtime fumble that set up MSU for the win.

However, the Spartans still missed a myriad of contributors on defense against Wisconsin. Senior safety Kendell Brooks, whose contributions anchored the defense in Henderson’s absence, did not dress. Senior defensive end Khris Bogle failed to play once again after being out against Minnesota with an injury. Freshman safety Jaden Mangham missed the contest after suffering a head and neck injury against Ohio State. Junior defensive end Jeff Pietrowski Jr. also did not appear. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Marqui Lowery Jr. has been out for a few weeks. There are also more injuries the team has to deal with.

Point being, for MSU, and specifically its defense, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

Other than that, while competent passing coverage has been hard to come by, sophomore cornerback Charles Brantley has been a bright spot for the defense, continuing to work against the opponent’s toughest mission. . The Florida native recorded a crucial sack as he volleyed Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz in the second half.

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Brantley is the headliner for a group of underclass defensive players trying to plug the many holes in this Michigan State defense. Freshman safety Dillon Tatum almost had a pick, and freshman defensive end Zion Young occupied a consistently shorthanded line throughout the fight against the Badgers.

A defense as young as MSU’s due to injuries could realize more upside with continued reps and a well-deserved week off.

Obvious Obstacles

Michigan holds advantages seemingly everywhere else, including the nation’s No. 7 scoring offense (42.7 ppg) and No. 9 leading offense (241.7 yards per game). Michigan State holds a slight advantage in the passing game at 242.9 yards per game to Michigan’s 231.9.

While the strength of the schedule might have warned some to take Michigan’s offensive numbers with a grain of salt, the Wolverines made a statement Saturday, as Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum each eclipsed 150 yards in a victory in the top 10 against Penn State, which posted the nation. fifth-best point defense heading into the contest. Michigan finished with 418 rushing yards. The Wolverines ground game is real.

The final installment of the rivalry will take place under the floodlights and, of course, in Michigan’s stadium. All signs point to this game being favored by the Wolverines by at least three scores, perhaps even more than they were favored in a loss to MSU in 2020. While Michigan was clearly not unprepared that day, it seems UM’s coaches and players have been emphasizing the importance of rivalry — that’s usually Michigan State’s calling card in this game.

Bye Week Guess

Michigan State has won the last two meetings, both times as underdogs, to complete a 10-in-14 game streak for the Spartans. In the final game, MSU used the tempo against Michigan to collect penalties and propel Kenneth Walker III to five scores. The previous year, offensive coordinator Jay Johnson tapped Michigan’s secondary to produce a career day for wide receiver Ricky White.

Tucker will need to be sharper than he was at the end of regulation against Wisconsin to land a national title hope. His team, however, showed resilience and secured a win.

“Obviously things have been tough this year…we never lost faith in each other,” redshirted senior receiver Jayden Reed said after the win.

That’s all we asked for before arriving in Ann Arbor.

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