Spartans offense continues to sputter as MSU falls at home to Arizona State to close out non-conference slate
When the Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio announced in January that he was keeping his offensive staff in place but was making the bizarre decision to simply have them coach different positions, the reaction inside and outside of East Lansing was predictable disbelief. After all, the Spartans have struggled on that side of the ball for years now and that has largely held the team back from reaching the top of the Big Ten again given that their defensive units have consistently been some of the best in the FBS.
No matter though, the foxholes were already dug and minor changes for change sake were all that the ever-loyal Dantonio was ever going to do.
That decision, in light of MSU's all-too-avoidable, 10-7 home loss on Saturday to an Arizona State team starting a true freshman on the road, seems to have played out as expected and we're not even into October. The stagnant offense in green and white remains just as it ever was even with the title changes for Brad Salem, Dave Warner, Don Treadwell, and Jim Bollman. Those same voices that have been trying (and failing) to produce the desired yards and points needed to keep up with the caliber of play of their defensive counterparts have fallen flat once again.
Through three games, Michigan State's offense is ranked fifth in the Big Ten and in 57th the nation in yards per game (429.7), and tied for 10th in the conference and tied for 73rd nationally in points per game (28.7).
Now there's a real question mark about Michigan State and where the Spartans go from here because more of the same simply isn't going to cut it with four teams in the top 13 coming up on the docket — at No. 6 Ohio State (Oct. 5), at No. 13 Wisconsin (Oct. 12), vs. No. 13 Penn State (Oct. 26), and at No. 11 Michigan (Nov. 16). Michigan State's first Big Ten contest is Saturday on the road against defending West Division champion Northwestern, a team the Spartans have lost three in a row to.
Dantonio deserves all of the blame for this even if he is much more likely to dig his heels in if anything. Though he values continuity as a way out of this mess that is most certainly to his detriment at MSU lately and especially with this year's team. It was painfully obvious in last season's 7-6 RedBox Bowl loss to Oregon that serious changes needed to be made, just as it was in the season opener or on Saturday afternoon.
Dantonio had the perfect opening to pull a Bob Stoops, who swooped in for Lincoln Riley and rode off into the sunset. Nobody would have batted an eyelash — not even the coaches he could have pushed out the door. But that didn't happen. There was no lower-level offensive genius being brought in to fix things. There was no splashy coordinator hire.
Heck even across the state, equally stubborn Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh gave in and made the move to bring in Josh Gattis' new system. The jury is still out on that decision but at least Big Blue was smart enough to realize that the definition of insanity, as the old adage goes, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
In college football nowadays, one simply has to watch Michigan State's offense consistently shoot themselves in the foot to discover just how well that saying rings true. And the worst part for Sparty just might be that everybody saw it coming nine months ago.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.