Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport
Average Rank: 34.8
Michigan State pulled out a win over a good-looking Iowa squad even while missing its leading receiver, Kevonte Martin-Manley, for much of the game. The Spartans stood tall on defense (allowed just 14 points) and special teams (successful fourth-quarter fake punt) to bring home the 26-14 victory.
The offense is the Spartans' weakest link. Their aerial unit is bringing in 178.4 yards per game, and that's "good" for 107th in the nation. It hung 277 on the Iowa Hawkeyes, so there is a sign of vast improvement there, but there's still a long way to go—especially on third down.
Michigan State went 6-of-19 on third down. If they can't keep the defense off the field, it will wear out quickly, and second-half comebacks will end up biting Sparty big time. Connor Cook is the biggest single factor in this equation.
He's gone 68-of-125 for 688 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception as of Week 6, and that needs to change. He played his best, understandably, against FCS foe Youngstown State, and he just needs reps to get accustomed to collegiate speed.
Sparty is already doing everything in its power to succeed. The play-calling is far enough outside Cook's comfort zone to stretch him but not so far out as to put him in unwinnable situations. The coaches at Michigan State are doing an excellent job, and unless someone figures out time travel, this is the best situation the Spartans can be in right now.