In this edition of the College Football Show, Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo look at what Michigan and Michigan State did right and wrong in their weekend wins. They are joined by Matt Charboneau and Angelique S. Chengelis. Detroit News
East Lansing — Two games into the season and Michigan State fans are starting to sound much more optimistic than they were before the season kicked off.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t questions, though. From a potential revival in the pass rush to wonders about the kicking game and taking care of the ball, we covered a lot of ground in this week’s mailbag.
Here’s a taste of what folks are wondering about:
■ Question: Any updates with the defensive line rotation & depth chart? (Hoping) the pass rush and run D can hold up against stiffer competition. — @wallpeace
■ Answer: There was no official update to the depth chart this week, but it remains pretty clear — they’ll keep playing a bunch of guys up front. By my count, 12 players saw action against Western Michigan, some more than others. Defensive tackle seems fairly straightforward at this point with the four main guys getting most of the work, including starters Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk along with Naquan Jones and Gerald Owens. That doesn’t mean Kyonta Stallworth and Devyn Salmon won’t play, but the first four will get most of the work for now.
As many players are seeing work at defensive end, but how that rotation looks as the season progresses is harder to determine. Kenny Willekes and Dillon Alexander have been solid, but I’m not sure they’ve been difference-makers to this point, while Demetrius Cooper has yet to really stand out and Robert Bowers’ work has been limited.
That’s not to say they’re playing poorly, I’m just wondering if we don’t start seeing more and more of Brandon Randle and Jacub Panasiuk. So far Randle has been used more in strict passing situations and he got his first sack last week while Panasiuk made a nice tackle for loss on a run around the end. Both are raw but they both also look like budding playmakers.
■ Q: MSU has yet to attempt a field goal. Do you think the lack of in game pressure will affect the kicking game against — @kroms4
■ A: This wasn’t the only question this week about the fact Michigan State has yet to kick a field goal as @matthewfelan was wondering the same thing about redshirt freshman Matt Coghlin. He’s been perfect on nine extra points, but it’s hardly the same thing. Talking to him after practice this week, he doesn’t sound like he’s too worried about it, of course, that could just be talk. Coghlin said he feels comfortable from 50-55 yards, though I’m betting neither he nor Mark Dantonio hope his first kick is that far.
Look, no one is complaining about scoring touchdowns and MSU has scored seven touchdowns in its eight trips into the red zone. That’s an outstanding number and the Spartans will be in great shape if that continues. However, it’s a safe bet everyone on that sideline is hoping Coghlin gets a chance to kick one next week that counts for three points.
■ Q: After the first two games has your outlook changed at all for the remainder of the season? — @benjamin_jimbo1
■ A: The short answer is no. Now, I have been impressed with the defense, for the most part, and I tend to believe this offense will come together a little quicker than maybe I expected, but there still so much we don’t know. A lot of it involves Michigan State. Will the offensive line get the push they did against Western Michigan? Have the running numbers been inflated by Brian Lewerke’s runs? Is the pass rush really coming to life? Can the secondary get it done against better quarterbacks?
If the progress we’ve seen in the first two games continues, then maybe this season is more than just getting the ship righted and the Spartans can push the favorites in the division. I’ll need to see a little more, however, than wins against two MAC teams. Let’s talk in a few weeks headed into the Michigan game. If MSU is 4-0, an adjustment might be warranted.
■ Q: Is a 8-4 record now realistic? — @spartymiked
■ A: The same question came from @mikedboer and it’s not all that different from the previous question wondering if I’ve changed my outlook for the season. I said, before the Bowling Green game, that Michigan State would finish 6-6. I’m not quite ready to change that, though I’m hardly sold.
Why? Because there are as many questions about the 10 teams left on the schedule as there are for the Spartans. Outside of Penn State and maybe Ohio State, I could make a case Michigan State could win every game. However, I could make a pretty solid case they could lose them all, as well. So, for now, I’m sticking with six wins. Can they be an eight-win team? Sure, but predicting that with any sort of certainty right now seems impossible.
■ Q: Turnovers? Can't have that many if any when trying to return to top. How's coach dealing w/it? — @BruceSucher
■ A: Hard to argue with the idea turnovers aren’t an issue. Three fumbles in the opener, another against Western Michigan and two have been returned for touchdowns. Add in Lewerke’s first interception and the offense has given the ball up five times in two games. You can get away with that playing teams from the MAC, but that won’t fly the rest of the way.
The tougher question is how do you deal with it? Ball security drills have always been a priority and continue to be. Other than that, sometimes there’s little you can do to prevent a fumble. There is some concern with LJ Scott and securing the ball, but if it means anything, he was pretty upset about the Week-1 fumbles and seems determined to make up for it.
■ Q: Here’s a hypothetical for you… Do you think Dantonio and Co. would trade this year’s (JR year) LJ Scott for the JR year versions of Jeremy Langford, Edwin Baker or Javon Ringer? I’m going to say YES to all 3. — Matt in Pittsburgh
■ A: That’s quite the hypothetical, especially considering Scott’s junior year is two games old. Kind of hard to judge that against guys who played an entire season. For what it’s worth, I went back and checked the junior year for all three guys. Ringer ran 245 times for 1,447 yards and six touchdowns; Baker ran 170 times for 665 yards and five touchdowns while Langford carried 292 times for 1,422 yards and 18 scores.
Now, Ringer split time with Jehuu Caulcrick, who had only 23 fewer carries and Baker was behind Le’Veon Bell in attempts by 12. Langford was the only one-man show. What does it all mean? Hard to say, especially considering the Spartans seem determined to get Madre London and Gerald Holmes carries. Yes, Ringer and Langford put up huge numbers, but I’m not sure just yet that Scott couldn’t do the same.