The Spartans have a lot to feel good about right now. Two games into the season, the Spartans have outscored their opponents 63-24 and the team is yet to allow a defensive touchdown. Nonetheless, there is always room for improvement. Faced with an early in the season bye at week three, here are three things that the Spartans should work on until they face Notre Dame in less than two weeks.
Learn About Notre Dame
This one is obvious. With an extra week to prepare, the Spartans have no excuse for being unfamiliar with the Fighting Irish and their game plan. The Irish will arrive in East Lansing a bit more battle tested than the Spartans through three weeks, having suffered a close, last minute loss to SEC contender Georgia last week. Notre Dame brings Brandon Wimbush at starting quarterback, along with running back Josh Adams who, through two weeks, has already scored two touchdowns and garnered 214 yards, on only 38 carries. Michigan State demonstrated the ability to stop the run last week against Western Michigan, holding them to only 116 yards on the ground after Western put up 263 yards against #4 USC, but Notre Dame will present a different challenge entirely. Last year, the Spartans held off the Irish in South Bend, 36-28.
Improve Ball Security
After the win over Western, Spartan coaches admitted that ball security is something that needs to be fixed. One positive to an early season bye is that they can get out in front of this issue early. There has been nothing more troubling during the first two weeks of the young 2017 season than the amount of turnovers. Through two games, the Spartans are losing the turnover margin five to two, or minus three. By comparison, in 2013, when the Spartans were also breaking in a new quarterback and youth on offense, the team was winning that category six to two, or plus four. A young offense like what the Spartans have simply cannot afford to be minus in that category this season, especially when two of the five turnovers have resulted in touchdowns and a third in a field goal. If the Spartans want a shot at contending in the Big Ten East, which is still a lofty goal for this team, the Spartans need to win this category decisively from here on out.
Build off of Last Week’s Defensive Effort
Just like what was said earlier, the brightest spot of this season, other than Brian Lewerke, is the Spartan defense. Not many would have believed that a defense decimated by the loss of so many players, to the NFL or otherwise, would not have allowed a touchdown through two games, no matter who the opponents. Josiah Scott truly looks special, and was rewarded with the Pro Football Focus True Freshman of the Week after Week 1, only to top that off with his first career interception in Week 2. Even better, the Spartans managed 4 sacks last week against Western Michigan, the most in a game since September 12th, 2015 when the Spartans knocked off the Oregon Ducks. The Spartan defense is well on its way to far surpassing its 2016 sack total of 11, with 5 already registered this season. The key to a rebuilding team, which this team still is, is a strong defense that can tolerate the offense finding itself. If the defense can build off of last week’s effort and continue to develop, this team will truly be headed in the right direction.