Michigan State faces a relatively unfamiliar situation: not making a bowl for the first time in the Mark Dantonio era. The Spartans are currently 4-4 and 1-3 in conference play, losing two straight games. Michigan State has lost three home games this season, more than they have had combined in the last three seasons.
One thing is for sure, the Spartans are struggling more than usual. They will travel to Madison this weekend to take on a Wisconsin team that has caught fire since Big Ten play has begun, improving their record to 6-2 and working their way back into the rankings at No. 25.
There’s no doubt that this will be a tough test for a Michigan State team looking for their fifth win of the season and trying to avoid dropping under .500 for the first time since 2009. The pressure is definitely on this team to steal a win from the Badgers, but even if they don’t they will still have a good chance to make a bowl game.
Although it seems as if a 4-5 record three-fourths of the way through the season is a lost cause, it’s not because Mark Dantonio has faced adversity before. It was just three seasons ago when Dantonio’s Spartans, behind first-year starter Kirk Cousins, were 4-5 and needed to win their next two games because their last game was against a potent Penn State team. They accomplished that task and made it to a bowl game at 6-6 before losing and finishing under .500 for the only time in Dantonio’s tenure.
This season draws many similarities to that season. Andrew Maxwell is a first-year starter looking to follow in the footsteps of the successful quarterback before him. He has to create new favorite targets as the ones from the year before have gone on to better things. Maxwell’s stats are eerily similar to Cousins’ through eight games of his first season. The yardage is similar, touchdowns are pretty close and the record is the exact same.
Yes, these teams are eerily similar, and they will have a similar result. I believe that the Spartans will take a loss this weekend in Madison, but finish the season strong winning the next two games at home because I just don’t see a Dantonio-coached team losing four or five games at home in a season. Also, I believe they will finish the regular season with seven wins, winning three straight after losing to Wisconsin.
They will get the job done and finish in the middle of the conference, using this season as a rebuilding one as they move forward.
For all of Spartan nation out there, keep faith because Spartans are used to overcoming adversity and they thrive in situations like this, so don’t worry.