The Michigan State Spartans(2-1) have had a roller coaster start to the 2012 season. They started the season beating the No. 24 team in the country, Boise State, at home 17-13. The next game was a matchup against Central Michigan, blowing them out of the water, 41-7.
Week three featured a much-anticipated matchup between the Spartans and No. 20 Notre Dame(3-0). The result from this game was not as positive as the first two, resulting in a demoralizing home defeat against the old rival, failing to score a touchdown and falling to the Irish, 20-3.
The thing that most people don’t realize is that the Spartans failed to get to the redzone against the Irish and rushed for just 50 yards the entire game. The running game was supposed to be their strong point going into the game and they came out disappointed and with their first loss of the young season.
The biggest problem with this team: the offense.
It all starts with the offensive line. The line is returning most of their starters from a year ago and should be one of the most solid in the conference but look like a line that is still having a hard time gelling. Granted they were missing Senior junior college transfer tackle, Fou Fonoti. This was a big loss before the game with the Fighting Irish because he is one of the more experienced lineman and a two-year starter.
With Fonoti out, there is also another injured starting offensive lineman in junior guard Blake Treadwell who has yet to play a snap this season. The big men up front are still having trouble adjusting to each other and with two veterans out, there is a lack of leadership up front.
The line is just the start of the issues for the Spartans. The first-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell is struggling to find open receivers. He has been thrown into the leadership role after Kirk Cousins left for the NFL after last season.
The jury is still out on whether Maxwell will adjust to his new role as captain of the Spartans adequately and if he can handle the pressures that come with being the guy everyone relies on.
He will have to face the pressures without a true No. 1 receiver like Cousins had last year in B.J. Cunningham. Three of the top receivers from last season have graduated and they are looking at all new starters at the wide out positions this season.
Sophomore Tennessee-transfer DeAnthony Arnett was supposed to be one of the top receivers, but has caught just one pass in three games for 48 yards against Central Michigan. They have four receivers with over 100 yards receiving, so the talent is there, but the route running has to develop more.
This team has the talent to be a top team, they have the potential to be a great team, they just haven’t developed a chemistry that could put them over the top.
They have just two touchdowns against two ranked teams this season, and coach Mark Dantonio will tell you that is unacceptable. The defense can’t be on the field for the majority of the game and keep this team above water by themselves.
The solution? Get Maxwell extra reps. Dantonio can’t quit on him after three games. Give the offensive line some time to develop and gel together and they are getting their two veterans back from injury within the next couple of weeks. The receivers need to practice their routes. Le’Veon Bell can’t be relied on to carry the offense throughout the season. There can’t be any excuses from this point on, they have played enough games to know what to expect.
Although the offense is looking like the young and inexperienced team everyone predicted they would be, they will surprise people and prove them wrong in the remaining nine games. Michigan State will be alright.