The 2012 Michigan State University Spartans need to prove something this weekend when they play the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Sure, their record might show 3 -1 overall, but of those four games, only one was supposed to be a challenge to them.
It was against Notre Dame, which resulted in their one loss. The other three games were non-conference games against schools in smaller leagues and the Spartans surprisingly didn’t dominate. None of those four games counted in the conference, where the standings really matter when it gets down to the end of the season.
So what needs to happen in order to prove they are a legitimate force in the Big Ten this season?
1. Andrew Maxwell needs to show up with his A game intact. It was a tall order to step in behind Kirk Cousins, but it can be done. Maxwell has shown glimpses of being great with his throwing abilities, but he just needs to be more consistent and connect on the big plays that matter. He also needs to switch up and have more than one target, who almost always happens to be Le’Veon Bell if he is open.
2. The offensive line needs to provide some serious blocking. A lack of blocks has made for what should have been near blowout games to be much closer than anticipated. When there is pressure on Maxwell, he forces the ball and no completions are made.
3. Bell needs help from both Maxwell and the offensive line. If Maxwell can’t throw on target and the line doesn’t block according to plan, Bell isn’t getting the yards from passing or running. The defenses playing against the Spartans know he is their only tool right now and sufficiently prepare their game plan to defend him and limit his scoring opportunities.
4. The defense needs to tighten their belts and come up with some big plays. Force a turnover against the Buckeyes or prevent them from converting the third downs–something to keep the momentum with the Spartans and to get Maxwell more time on the field in order to connect and score.
The Spartans came in to the season highly ranked and a favorite to win the Big 10. However, after four unimpressive games against teams that weren’t ranked–with the exception of Notre Dame–the Spartans look to be weaker on offense than originally predicted. Their chances for winning the Big 10 have slipped almost as low as their possibility of getting in to a BCS Bowl game that has meaning to it. Playing strong and winning this weekend will prove they have what it takes to be a great team down the road.