The Michigan State Spartans won Saturday’s “road” game at Ford Field by a comfortable margin over FAU, barely getting challenged on the scoreboard.
The team was, however, challenged on the field.
The Spartans’ defense still showed signs of worry as the season progresses, especially in terms of coverage. Florida Atlantic quarterback Alex Van Camp found holes in Michigan State’s linebacker and secondary zones—an area of concern the Spartans were hoping they correctly addressed in the offseason.
Too many long passes were given up by defensive backs, while the linebacking corps seems to be too hesitant in pass coverage. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi must find some middle ground.
Arguably the biggest defensive breakdowns occur on third down.
The Spartans had trouble making stops when it mattered, and giving teams another chance on such a pivotal down can result in losing close games. With Notre Dame approaching, MSU has to make stops and get off the field any chance they can.
But while the defense is still a work in progress, the offense has some question marks as well.
Kirk Cousins has not really looked himself in the first two games, playing a bit tentatively and missing open receivers. He has also made some questionable decisions in terms of throwing to receivers covered pretty well.
The offense as a whole seems to be hiding its hand when it comes to play calling. You have to wonder if offensive coordinator Don Treadwell is saving some big plays—or maybe even some trick plays—for games against the Fighting Irish and once Big Ten season starts.
But the gift that keeps on giving for Michigan State? The running game.
Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell continue to run over opposing defenses, and this is without Larry Caper even touching the ball. Bell has been the welcome freshman on the team, showing strength and quickness—including stiff-arming a defender to the turf in MSU’s first touchdown yesterday.
All in all, the Notre Dame game will see how good this Michigan State team really is and whether they have the players to challenge for a Big Ten championship. Seeing Michigan defeat the Irish will surely add some motivation for the Spartans.