With Michigan State looking to bounce back from its loss to Notre Dame last week, it will head to Big Ten play against Iowa hoping to avoid any sort of collapse like the one last season.
The Hawkeyes come in after a last-second loss to Penn State, so both teams are eager to get back on the winning track.
In this week’s mailbag we take a look at how MSU might finish, whether a poor season could lead to coaching changes and even jump into basketball and how the latest FBI corruption scandal might affect the Spartans.
■ Question: After Notre Dame, what does MSU’s record realistically look like at the end of this season? — @ungerjos
■ Answer: I was asked the same thing after the Western Michigan win and my answer is the same now — I predicted Michigan State to be a 6-6 team before the season, and nothing that has happened through the first three games has changed my mind. That said, this week’s matchup with Iowa is critical in whether the Spartans can improve on that mark. Before the season I predicted a loss for Michigan State, but I’m not so sure about that now. Win over the Hawkeyes and head to Michigan at 3-1, and there’s no telling what Michigan State could finish.
Penn State, to me, is the only team I don’t give Michigan State a chance to beat. Ohio State and Michigan? Not a great chance, but a chance. After that, every game is winnable. Unfortunately, nearly every game maybe not Rutgers — could be a loss. So, again, I’m sticking with 6-6 until something happens that I didn’t expect — like a win this week.
■ Q: What do you think about MSU running the wishbone and bailing on the pass? — @joe_vegan_dude
■ A: Like the good old days in1969 when Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty pulled the opposite the week of the Michigan game, scrapping the wishbone for an I-formation attack? Yeah, that might be a little bit extreme, don’t you think?
And, considering the Spartans’ issues hanging on to the ball, I’m not certain giving up the pass is the best plan. I know, I can’t imagine you mean completely abandoning the pass, but I wouldn’t count on a significant change in the offensive approach.
■ Q: If this season is not successful ... which is more likely an overhaul of the coaching staff or a Dantonio retirement? — @mherek
Why hasn’t anyone on staff been fired? If MSU win 4 or 5 game’s will Dantonio be gone? — @gostate19801
■ A: I’ll go ahead and lump these two questions together considering that while the tone is a bit different in each, they’re both getting at the same point. I don’t see any scenario where Mark Dantonio isn’t the head coach next season, even if they only win two or three more games this year. Just so we’re clear, I don’t think the Spartans will end the season like that. I believe they’ll play in a bowl game.
That said, if Michigan State fails to reach a bowl game, I wouldn’t rule out staff changes. I wouldn’t bet heavily on it, considering that has never really been the way Dantonio has operated throughout his career. In his time at Michigan State, only one assistant left that wasn’t taking another job. That was defensive line coach Ted Gill, whose contract was not renewed following the 2012 season.
■ Q: Percent chance Michigan and/or Michigan State are caught up in the FBI investigation? Both Beilein & Izzo seem to be high-character dudes? — @Fieldof68Freak
■ A: As we sit here today, I’d say I would be surprised if either program was connected to the investigation. However, this thing seems pretty far-reaching and there’s always a chance that one program or the other had some loose ties to someone involved, even if there was never anything unethical taking place.
Critics might point to the fact Michigan was an Adidas school up until the summer of 2016 or that Michigan State heavily recruited Brian Bowen until his senior season. Even so, I can’t imagine either program is caught in the middle of this mess.
■ Q: Not trying to start a QB controversy, but how’s Messiah looking? — @JMar0623
■ A: That’s a tough one to answer considering we’ve been shut out of practice since the season started, so we rely on the feedback we get from coaches and some of the other players. To be honest, there hasn’t been much talk of Messiah deWeaver or Damion Terry. Neither have seen much time — Terry played a handful of snaps vs. Bowling Green — and deWeaver was dealing with a minor injury, Dantonio said.
By the way, there is no controversy in the Spartans’ locker room. This is Brian Lewerke’s job and while coaches like to get the backups some snaps, the bigger priority is making sure a young quarterback like Lewerke gets plenty of snaps.
■ Q: Do you foresee any changes to the starters on offense or defense after the ND loss? — @mccl9121
■ A. The simple answer is no. I’m not sure which starters I would target for replacement at this point. What’s odd is that the only spot it seems to fluctuate is at running back, where LJ Scott’s fumbling woes have led to Gerald Holmes getting the start against Western Michigan.
Other than that, I’d expect things on Saturday against Iowa to look the same as they have the last three games.
■ Q: Mufi Hunt was a big recruit a few years ago, but hasn’t seen much playing time. Can he help the pass rush? — @BrianCorbett3
■ A: Maybe, but that would be tough to do from the tight end spot he was moved to during preseason practice. The Spartans are playing about six different guys at defensive end right now and I wouldn’t expect that number to change.