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Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News talks about Michigan State ending its five-game skid by shutting out Rutgers. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

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Five takeaways from The Detroit News' Matt Charboneau after Michigan State's 27-0 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.

Secret Cody

One player stood out on Saturday, and it’s a player the Michigan State offense likely will be leaning on a lot heading into next season. Junior wide receiver Cody White had a career-high 11 catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns, also a career high that also matched the single-game program record. White had a solid freshman season and was expect to break out last season before missing four games with a broken hand. He’s been good again this season, but any individual performances have been largely lost in the fact the offense hasn’t played well overall.

White clearly has a good rapport with quarterback Brian Lewerke, which leads to at least some question about how effective White will be next season as the Spartans will be breaking in a new quarterback. Still, the former Walled Lake Western standout has big-play ability evidenced by a one-handed grab for his third score on Saturday. He might need to work to get that connection with a new quarterback, but he’s clearly the Spartans’ best receiver.

Fresh approach

The youth movement continues for Michigan State as two more true freshmen saw their first action on Saturday, including linebacker Marcel Lewis and wide receiver Cade McDonald. Lewis was in on special teams and McDonald, a walk-on, didn’t get on the field until the final series, but Michigan State now has played 15 true freshmen this season, the most ever for coach Mark Dantonio. Some of the moves have been because of injuries, while others are simply the fact of getting the best players on the field.

The question next week and during a potential bowl game is how many of the true freshmen will hang on to their redshirts. Wide receiver Julian Barnett, center Nick Samac, guard J.D. Duplain, running back Anthony Williams and long snapper Jude Pedrozo have gone over the four-game mark and have burned their redshirts, but three more players currently sit at four games. That group includes Devontae Dobbs, who started this week at left tackle, wide receiver Tre Mosley, running back Brandon Wright and safety Tate Hallock. All but Hallock appear to be sure bets to keep playing.

Return to form

Shutting out one of the worst offenses in the nation might not be reason for many defenses to start beating their chests, but for Michigan State it was a chance to finally not look up and see the scoreboard heavily tilted in the wrong direction. The Spartans had been in the midst of a five-game skid that saw their defense getting bullied on a weekly basis, giving big plays, huge chunks of yards and plenty of points over the course of the five-game slide.

Where Saturday’s performance leads this group is tough to gauge. They won’t get pushed much harder in the season finale against Maryland, so you’d expect to see more of the same after allowing just 140 total yards to the Scarlet Knights. However, the Spartans lose their share of players next season, which leaves at least some question as to what the defense’s identity will be. For one week, though, it looked much more like a typical Michigan State defense.

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No go for Joe

There was one player who was still not on the field for the defense and it was confirmed on Saturday that he, indeed, is done for the season. Dantonio confirmed middle linebacker Joe Bachie’s appeal of his suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs was denied, meaning the two-time captain and All-American candidate has played his last game for the Spartans.

Fifth-year senior Tyriq Thompson manned the middle this week after junior Antjuan Simmons played last week. But what happens next year is tougher to determine. The Spartans like Simmons on the outside and Thompson is graduating, meaning someone will have to step in. Sophomore Noah Harvey played some in the middle this week, but it will be worth seeing if redshirt freshman Edward Warinner gets any work next week or in a potential bowl game.

Goal is to bowl

Michigan State expected to be playing for a championship in the final week of the season, not simply trying to become eligible for a bowl game. However, that’s exactly the position the Spartans find themselves in with one game to play in the season. They’ll need a win next week at home against Maryland to pull it off, something they’ll be favored to do against one of the worst defenses in the nation.

It won’t be something anyone is celebrating, especially considering it means there would be a better than decent chance Michigan State would end up playing in Detroit at the Quick Lane Bowl. Still, the prize shouldn’t be the Quick Lane Bowl, it should be avoiding not being bowl eligible. Not getting there would be a blow to the collective psyche, and judging by the way the Spartans played at Rutgers and the way they talked, they’re all-in on getting that sixth win and not allowing the season to end.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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