Quarterback battles were all the rage this offseason around college football, and the Big Ten along with USC seemed to be the epicenter of those battles. Most of those battles had a winner heading into Week 1, and those winners proved their mettle for the most part.
However, there are two schools for whom the QB battle is still raging on: USC and Michigan State. Sure, the Trojans QB battle is getting all the attention nationally, but the Spartans (oh the ancient Greek irony here) have to answer their own QB questions—and quick—as well.
Without a settled quarterback situation the Spartans are going to drown in the same issues that killed their hopes last season. It's something that surely isn't lost on head coach Mark Dantonio, even if he won't speak about the QB battle publicly.
What was witnessed in Week 1 from Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook clearly isn't going to cut it. The duo combined to lead the Spartans offense to all of 12 points against a Western Michigan defense that wan't stellar a season ago and was adjusting to new life under first-year head coach P.J. Fleck.
That 12 point output would've lost the game, 13-12, had it not been for two defensive touchdowns. Counting on that happening every week is simply foolish.
Yes, one game usually shouldn't give a team or its fanbase pause to push the panic button, but when you are Michigan State, and you remember what went down with Andrew Maxwell under center last year the want to push that button becomes greater.
Especially given the fact that the same issues that cost this team dearly a season ago were seen again against Western Michigan—mainly a lack of chemistry, dropped balls and bad decision-making by the quarterbacks overall.
Michigan State was forced to live and die with its defense last season, and the results weren't exactly favorable for a supposed Legends division contender. Fast forward a year and MSU is still considered a contender by some, despite the offensive issues they were facing once again this offseason.
If the Spartans want to prove those pundits correct and prove the doubters wrong, they need to find a quarterback, fit their offense to said QB's style and stick to it.
Last week showed quite emphatically that this team isn't built to handle two quarterbacks and multiple styles of offense. Switching from the less mobile but more strong-armed Maxwell to the more mobile Cook appeared to confuse Michigan State on offense more than its design to confuse Western Michigan.
Now, the question is will it be Maxwell or Cook, the two QB's that saw action last week, or will Dantonio look to the youth behind those two in freshmen Tyler O'Connor or Damion Terry?
A recent report from Mike Griffith of MLive suggests that it will be a combination of both, as Connor Cook and Tyler O'Connor are set to see action this weekend against South Florida.
What could be most important to winning the job overall, may end up being the ability of the quarterback to find chemistry and rhythm with his wide receivers.
No doubt, after seeing a number of dropped balls this past week one can not lay all of the blame for MSU's offensive issues squarely on the shoulders of the quarterbacks. That showed as wide receiver Bennie Fowler was dropped down the depth chart following his issues hanging on to the ball last week.
Whatever is happening behind closed doors and under tightly closed lips, Michigan State needs to figure it out and quick. If not, it could be a long season once again in East Lansing, and it would be a shame to waste all that defensive talent for nothing on offense once again.