Michigan State Football Preview: From Rose Bowl Hopes, to Barely Bowl Eligible


Well I am sure like me, other Spartan fans are extremely happy that the 2012 football season is over. Unfortunately, today is the day that we re-live the brutal 2012 Michigan State season.

Expectations were high, and many were picking the Spartans to reach their first Rose Bowl since 1987, but everything seemed to go wrong as MSU finished 7-6 (3-5). 

The 2013 season looks to be a redemption year for the Spartans, but this piece isn’t about looking forward, unfortunately this is about what happened in 2012.


The Good:  The Spartans won back to back bowl games for the first time since 1989/1990 (before I was born), which is a positive for this program. The win also prevented a losing season, again a positive for this program. The final positive is that the Spartans were able to knock off Boise State and TCU in the same season, maybe that’s more of a moral victory than anything else but I’ll take it.

Individually, Le’Veon Bell was the Spartan offense, and his effort landed him 5th nationally in rushing yards with 1,793 and was named a first-team All-American by collegefootballnews.com. Bell was also named First-team All-B1G by the coaches as were: Max Bullough, Johnny Adams, Darqueze Dennard and Mike Sadler. MSU tight-end Dion Sims was named to the Second-team All-B1G by the coaches. Le’Veon was also named to the first-team All-B1G by the Media, while Max Bullough, Dion Sims, William Gholston, Johnny Adams, Darqueze Dennard and Mike Sadler were all named to the 2nd team.

Coach Narduzzi’s defense continued to shine in 2012, as the Spartans ranked 9th in the nation in points against as they only allowed 16.3 points per game. The MSU defense ranked in the nation’s top 10 in all four major statistical categories, and has brought a hard-nosed mentality to East Lansing.

The Bad: Michigan State lost 5 of their 6 games by four points or less including: 17-16 vs OSU, 19-16 vs Iowa, 12-10 at Michigan, 28-24 vs Nebraska and 23-20 vs Northwestern. Poor coaching, poor offense, whatever you would like to call it, the Spartans needed to find a way to hold on in many of these games and were unable to do so.

With a Top-10 defense, the Spartans didn’t need to score many points, but the offense always seemed to stall when they were needed the most.  Against Iowa, the Spartans could have sealed the deal with a touchdown late, but settled for a 22 yard field goal with 7:41 left in the 4th to go up 13-6. Iowa scored with 55 seconds left, and eventually won the game in double overtime. MSU also took a late lead against Michigan 10-9 from a Dan Conroy field goal with 5:48 left in the 4th. Again, the Spartans ended up losing that game with 5 seconds left from a 38 yard field goal. Similar stories could be said about both the Nebraska and the Northwestern losses, and the Spartan coaching staff must find a solution for the 2013 season.

The Ugly:  The passing game was just that, ugly. Everyone, including myself, expected Andrew Maxwell to have at least a decent season, but we were dead wrong. Maxwell only completed 52.5% of his passes (10th in B1G) and only averaged 5.84 yards per completion (8th in B1G). Andrew did throw more touchdowns than interceptions 13/9, but found himself ranked 6th in the B1G in touchdown passes. His quarterback rating was pretty awful as well, as his 107.1 rating ranked 9th in the B1G, barely ahead of Nathan Scheelhaase. Maxwell was also sacked 21 times, which ranked 5th most in the B1G and speaks to the offensive line problems the Spartans faced in 2012 as well as Andrew’s inability to get rid of the ball at times.

Andrew is not the only one to be blamed for the passing offenses inability to move the ball, as the Spartan wide outs had a tendency to drop the ball. One example would be the 23-7 come-from-behind victory over Eastern Michigan, where the MSU wide receivers dropped 6 passes. This seemed to be the norm, as all of the receivers, including freshman star Aaron Burbridge dropped open passes.

The Outcome:  All of these things added up to a disappointing 7-6 season for the Spartans. But, previous years and a consistent defense have shown that Michigan State is becoming a threat to win the B1G and go to the Rose Bowl. For now, that will be the goal, and Mark Dantonio will surely keep his players thinking: Play for the Rose Bowl or #P4RB as the twitter world would put it.

For more #MichiganStateWeek coverage and all things Big Ten follow us on twitter @TheB1gTime and for strictly MSU, follow @TheB1GTimeMSU . 

About Will Nahikian- @SpartanWilliam