OT: Football Study Hall asks: Has the window closed for Michigan State?

Submitted by Caesar on January 7th, 2016 at 6:30 PM

Came across an interesting article (link) that discusses Michigan State's shortcomings against Alabama and why this might be a bigger schematic problem. Apparently, the B1G's teams don't yet have spread passing attacks capable of exploiting this.

I'm not very knowledgable about schematic stuff, but I think it really boils down to Michigan State having a down year in their secondary talent (the article's author disagrees).  



January 7th, 2016 at 6:36 PM ^

... interesting, but I think the reasoning is pretty narrow.  it focuses on defensive scheme vs. talent and attrition.  It also uses Alabama as the example of why the window is closing.  Alabama curb stomps a lot of teams, so if that is your bar, then yes, your window is closed.  While I like the premise of the article and hope it to be true, I found the arguments to be shallow.    


January 7th, 2016 at 7:34 PM ^

The article did mention Nebraska throwing for 320 yards against them.

Didn't mention Vernon Adams throwing for 300 yards on them with a broken finger on his throwing hand.

Didn't mention Western Michigan throwing for 365 yards on them.

Didn't mention Central Michigan throwing for 285 yards on them.

Didn't mention Indiana throwing for 308 yards on only 37 passes.

That's pretty much every team that really used a spread passing game against MSU torched them.  Not just Alabama.


January 7th, 2016 at 6:36 PM ^

I wouldn't say it closed. MSU had been able to overcome the difference in talent between them and programs like Michigan, OSU and their more recent bowl opponents with great coaching and player development. But the talent gap between them and Alabama was too wide to overcome. I see a step back next year for them because of the talent they're losing but I don't think it will be long term.

But fuck 'em anyway.

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January 7th, 2016 at 8:48 PM ^

Sparty's window started closing the day Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh.  It officially closed against Bama.  This was the best chance they were ever going to have to win a National Championship but they proved they didn't have the personnel.

Sparty's "signature wins:"

Oregon: not the "Oregon" of the last few years.

The Sparty Fluke.

OSU: spent so much time and energy on their Michigan Obsession that they couldn't even muster their "B" game against Sparty.

Iowa: benefited from a division that was so weak, their "signature win" was against  non-conference foe Pitt. 

Sparty benefited the most by eight years of Michigan self-destruction.  They have never proven the can be truly elite when Michigan is.  Sparty's losses will combine with Michigan's return to greatness to produce the 9-3 or 8-4 record they should have had this year.

Then, the couches will burn and the invective will fly in EL.


January 7th, 2016 at 6:36 PM ^

MSU plays a primarily power offense. Player for player they can't go toe to toe with Alabama. The only way to beat them is to spread them out and the only teams with the talent to do that are Ole Miss and OSU.


January 7th, 2016 at 6:44 PM ^

and I've had a prediction for a while that msu will slowly transition to an up tempo spread. They seem to be targeting QBs with a bit more mobility while sacrificing throwing ability. Small steps but I think you have to transition in small steps when going from one extreme to another, one build to another. I think msu knows that winning big - truly winning big - is simply harder with a traditional, power, pocket QB system. They hung with Bama for a half and then the natural talent for one team took over because the mutual steroid use canceled each other out (jk?). I could be wrong but I think we see a lot of zone-read option spread from msu next year. At the least they'll try to do what osu did under Tressel - be ready and capable for either system on a moments notice. It's why Urban had no wait time as osu was spread ready when he arrived but also knew the power game. Multi-pro is really the way to go, IMO. Why pigeonhole or shoehorn yourself?


January 7th, 2016 at 8:35 PM ^

Michigan State regularly played UM close when the Spartans were fairly mediocre and Michigan was a perennial top ten team. The fans who think Michigan is going to begin to dominate MSU are going to be really disappointed when it doesn't happen, regardless of how much better Michigan gets over the next few years. 

Mabel Pines

January 8th, 2016 at 8:11 AM ^

but that was when their season hinged on beating Michigan.  They knew they were not going to a bowl and not winning any Championships.  They did really throw their heart and soul into those games and walk away with a win now and then.  Thanks also to their timekeeper and no calls.  And Michigan really didn't care about State back then.  I hated when we would lay an egg and lose to them.


January 8th, 2016 at 11:49 AM ^

It's all relative. 


I do not think that MSU is going back to what they were from the 70s until 2009. Potentially ever. Just a good Michigan cannot do that to them and Dantonio is too good to let that happen (plus, they are recruiting much better now). 


That said, MSU's window to regularly win 10 or 11 regular season games without much difficulty is closing.


I don't think MSU is going to go back to the 5-7 wins of old, but I also don't think they will stay at the 10-11 wins of late. 


I forsee MSU winning about 9 games most regular seasons, with a few 8 wins and a few 10 wins sprinkled in there. The last few years they have been a perennial top 10 team. I think that window has closed, but they will still be ranked at the end of almost every regular season. And they still will win a few more games against Harbaugh, just pray to God that isn't in the next two years. 


January 7th, 2016 at 6:49 PM ^

Its about good execution in the passing game.  After all, Stanford burned them too.  Sparty counts on college offenses being unable to consistently execute good passing plays.  They practically beg opposing offenses to do certain things.  During the regular season, this often works because college teams can't afford to completely focus on doing those things when there is a new opponent every week.  But during bowl season, teams have a lot of prep time and exceptional focus.


January 7th, 2016 at 6:53 PM ^

A very good read. I don't agree the window is closing, but do agree that spread to pass teams (Baylor, Oregon, OSU, Indiana, etc.) have given them plenty of trouble.  After last year's MSU-OSU game, there was another great article that made similar points.  It showed how they used run action to get 1v1's against corners or safeties that resulted in quite a few long touchdown passes. 

I would have figured Meyer would have remembered the game plan from the prior year, but who knows what they were thinking this year. 


January 7th, 2016 at 9:15 PM ^

Maybe urban was thinking we have been in the lead this entire game, zeke was in the hospital for three days prior to this game, by the way the weather is possible the worst urban at osu has ever played in... Let's ride our defense that has all kinds of talent, get through this game and be healthy for the game everyone is waiting for.

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January 7th, 2016 at 6:58 PM ^

I don't think it's necessarily spreads, but rather any offense that can put those safeties is run/pass conflict while making them 1-on-1 cover while vertically stretching the field. Not quite the same D but Harbaugh's Stanford offense in the Orange bowl did it with TE's to a very good VT defense.

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January 7th, 2016 at 7:20 PM ^

Since that sam linebacker is going to charge at the line of scrimmage on any run action from the offense, that leaves the slot receiver with a two-way go and a lot of space to work against that free safety. Essentially, that safety is being asked to play man coverage 10 yards off the receiver. Even for a good athlete like Montae Nicholson or Demetrious Cox that's exceptionally hard.

I think this strategy above was more of the key in that game for Alabama. A mainly power offense that could do this and leave in a blocking TE and RB to buy a quarteback some time for the WR in the slot to work could give Michigan State fits. Harbaugh's offense - at least from what I remember - does this and usually leaves a TE in to make the reception.


January 7th, 2016 at 7:26 PM ^

We will see what happens after the 2016 Season. MSU has a ton of roster turnover following this the 2015 season and next years 2016 season. As Harbaugh rises, it will be harder for State to maintain their current status quo.

Ohio State will always be good, Penn State will get better. Maryland will ride under Durkin. We already know Harbaugh will turn Michigan into a perennial power regardless of what other schools do. State was allowed to rise thanks to its unholy alliance with Tressel, a down Michigan, bad Penn State and a weak rest of the Big Ten. The perfect storm for State to succeed. Those days are fading.

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January 7th, 2016 at 7:34 PM ^

4 things:

1) Good coaching.  No doubt about it.  All the respect to Dantonio and staff.

2) Solid identification of lower ranked talent.  This has  been a combination of scouting and luck.  As we've seen, they can't always make two star DB recruits into first round draft picks.  

3) Us being bad.  Very helpful when your biggest rival is down and represents a high win probability

4) In-game luck.  They've won a ton of close games.  Many on 50 50 type plays near the end.  I'm not discounting their very solid run (we had similar luck in the late Carr years) just saying they could have 5-8 more losses pinned onto them in the last 3 or 4 years if balls bounced a little differently for them.

Is their window closed?

Yeah.  It is.  They need a QB and an O-line and DBs and they need to get them from a collection of recruits who were not elite.  They will get the benefit of their current class in a couple years, but by then they will no longer see elite as a team.  Of the 4 items listed above, all but #1 are a serious risk of disappearing.  The B1G East now belongs to M and OSU with two pretenders and 3 also rans.  Go Blue.



January 7th, 2016 at 7:42 PM ^

As far as winning a national title, I'd say yeah. If they were gonna win one, this would have been the season. With Michigan getting back to form, it will be increasingly difficult as the years go by for MSU to maintain their trend upward. They're about to take a step back next season with the loss of Cook and their best wideout. Their defense should be on par with this past season's D with question marks in the secondary. If they aren't mindful, the'yll be looking at a 5-6 loss season with possible losses against Notre Lame, Wisconsin, NU, MICHIGAN, and the suckeyes which could hurt them as far as recruiting goes. 

I think they go 8-4 this upcoming season though and remain competitive. I just don't think they'll be competitive enough for playoff contention again any time soon. 


January 7th, 2016 at 7:59 PM ^

MSU has received good qb play that, at times, rose to very good. It is not coincidence that UM's solo victory against both MSU and OSU came when OSU had a freshman slinger and no real coach.

Dantonio has instilled a culture of playing mean to the point where they sometimes cross the line but all in all, his players have a belief they will win.

Undoubtedly, they know they were outmatched vs. Bama. Hell, who isn't in a normal year? I don't think that signals the end of their greatest run post Duiffy.

All successful teams, as long as the head man stays there, should be given benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. If we win 2 in a row they might get nervous. Three in a row, then it's clear mindset, along with talent level has diminished greatly.

The Mad Hatter

January 7th, 2016 at 10:51 PM ^

They hired a good coach while we spent the last 7 years shooting ourselves in the dick. Now that we've stopped doing that they'll be back to recruiting our and OSU's table scraps and winning 8 games per year.

They'll always play us tough, and dirty, because we're their super bowl, but they'll be losing most of those games from now on.

Some people just have no sense of historical perspective.

Perkis-Size Me

January 7th, 2016 at 9:27 PM ^

As long as Dantonio is there you can never really count them out.

Next year might be a 2012-ish kind of year for them. A ton to replace on both sides of the ball, but better recruiting and talent will still net them at least 8-9 wins. I'd bet they'll reload for another good run in 2017 and the couple years following.

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Bill Bafferty

January 7th, 2016 at 11:37 PM ^

I don't think Staee will return to a 5-7 team under Mike, but once Harbaugh gets rolling and IF PSU can get on track, I don't see Staee winning 11-12 games every year.


January 8th, 2016 at 3:42 AM ^

I have no doubt that as long as Mork is there State will remain competitive. But I do doubt that they will be winning many B1G titles.

I dont think that scheme was really States downfall against Bama. It was more a lack of talent in the secondary. We knew all year long thier secondary sucked. And they sucked against more than just spread to pass teams.