As the NCAA regular football season comes to a close, the Michigan State Spartans led by head coach Mark Dantonio, find themselves in a less than ideal position: out of the playoff rankings, fourth in the Big Ten East, with a 7-5 record.
Coming into the season, I along with every other Michigan State fans, had high hopes for a playoff appearance. Preseason rankings placed MSU initially, at 11th in the AP poll and 12th in the Coaches poll. Additionally, Michigan State had the largest group of returning starters in all of Division One football (making the preseason ranking seem, if anything, an undercut).
Back for his junior year after starting all 13 games last season, Brian Lewerke was expected to be a seasoned, high-caliber passer, able to keep defenses on their toes with the QB sneak option. So what in world happened to this team that I had such high hopes for?
1. Lacking at the QB position
Entering the 2018 season, no one would have considered the Spartan’s quarterback position a weakness (let alone the floundering eye-sore it has become). Now however, it certainly has become apparent and utilized in every opposing teams defensive strategy.
Despite Lewerke’s experience from last year, he has performed very inconsistently (to put it mildly), repeatedly under and overthrowing wide open receivers (10 interceptions on the season). Due to Lewerke’s sub-par performance, former redshirt freshman, Rocky Lombardi (best name in college football) has been moved up in the roster, now sharing the role of starting quarterback with Lewerke. While in attendance at Spartan Stadium for the Michigan State v, Ohio State game, the chant “We want Rocky!” would arise every time Lewerke made a mistake without exception.
Despite his athleticism, potential, and Hall of Fame caliber name; Lombardi it seems, is not yet creative or experienced enough to lead the Spartans through Big Ten competition, throwing an even worse completion rate than Lewerke.
2. Poor Offensive Play Calling
In recent years, Michigan State offensive coordinator, Dave Warner, has faced large amounts of fan criticism. The source of frustration among fans (myself included) regarding Warner’s play calling is a simply the lack of adaptability.
I’ve been attending games since before Warner was appointed in 2012, and the number of fruitless runs up the middle I’ve witnessed is infuriating. After the end of this excruciating regular season, it was not long before upset fans were imploring Mark Dantonio to find a replacement.
I predict that if nothing further is done about the situation in the following two years, it will be Dantonio himself who facing termination pleas.
3. Injuries upon injuries
Although having the most returning starters in division one football is nice, the advantage was rendered useless by injuries at key positions. Coming into the season, the Spartans had arguably the best arsenal of wide receivers in the conference.
This however changed when at the same time, the three starting wide receivers: White, Davis III, and Darrell Stewart Jr were sidelined.
Every other position group seems to have been affected just as much. Quarterback Lewerke was game to game throughout the regular season due to a shoulder injury, the offensive line has almost never played with the same starting group, and the defensive backs have been shuffled more times then a deck of cards.
The Spartans are set to play their bowl game December 31 (New Years Eve) against the 8-4 Oregon Ducks. To see the final college football rankings visit (notice Michigan State isn’t listed).
For a full up-to-date list of Spartan injuries visit HERE.