Will Michigan State make a bowl game? Does Mel Tucker deserve the contract extension he got last year? What is wrong with Michigan State? These are all questions currently surrounding the Spartans program and Mel Tucker heading into this weekend.
The 2-2 Michigan State Spartans go on the road for the second time in three weeks to take on the 3-1 Maryland Terrapins. This is a massive road test for MSU to see if they can snap their two-game skid. Maryland played well against Michigan, and they look to make a statement against the Spartans at home.
The biggest key for Michigan State in this game is for the defense to get stops on 3rd down. Minnesota went 10-for-12 on third down last week. It’s hard to win football games when you allow that many conversions. Maryland has an impressive offense and will take advantage if given the opportunity to convert manageable third downs.
The next thing is getting pressure on the Maryland quarterback, which will most likely be Taulia Tagovailoa. The Terrapins offense is explosive, and wide receivers Dontay Demus and Rakim Jarrett are an absolutely filthy duo who can be lethal. The MSU defensive line needs to help out the secondary and not give Tagovailoa time to throw. Otherwise, Maryland’s offense will light up the Spartans’ secondary.
Michigan State’s offense must find a way to establish the ground game. They haven’t been able to get the run going the past two weeks, and it’s no coincidence both games were losses. If MSU wants a chance to win this one they must rush for more than the 38 yards they managed against Minnesota and the 42 yards they gained against Washington.
Getting the run going would also help Payton Thorne by giving him a chance to open up the passing game. Thorne wasn’t good last game, but his offensive line has struggled to get him time in the pocket.
Wide receiver Jayden Reed was a big-play threat in 2021, but he has been a non-factor all season. He and Keon Coleman need to contribute on Saturday because MSU will desperately need big catches.
Coach Mel Tucker said the keys to the game will be to stop the run, create third and longs, and get off the field. For offense, it was as simple as scoring more points and creating some explosive plays.
Michigan State plays Maryland Saturday at 3:30 pm ET at SECU Stadium. MSU has a grueling schedule, with upcoming games against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and a resurgent Illinois. If they don’t beat Maryland, it’s hard to picture them making a bowl game this season.