1. This defense is a work in progress
It is hard to tell how good this Michigan State defense is. It played well against Jacksonville State, but struggled at points against Oregon – which is hard to gauge just how much it means because of how good Oregon is. But this much was clear Saturday in the 46-27 loss: The Spartans have work to do. There were flashes of brilliance, but missed tackles, losing containment and blown coverages doomed the Spartans.
2. Connor Cook can compete with the best of them
Two interceptions? Okay, Cook had two picks and one was really bad, but for the first two and a half quarters, he outplayed a Heisman favorite. On the road, at that. He set career highs in completions (29), attempts (47) and yards (343). Impressively, Cook set previous career highs in yards against Ohio State and Stanford, so he keeps putting up numbers in big games. Whatever it was that changed the plan in the second half – just play calling or the Oregon defense – Cook still had a big game. Also, one thing that struck me in the post game interviews was the difference in Cook from the Notre Dame loss last year to this loss. He shouldered all the blame and took it on himself. That is not the way he was last season and it was noteworthy.
3. Jeremy Langford does not look healthy
Langford was held out of preseason scrimmages, left last week’s game hurt and just does not look like the player that he was last year. Apart from his touchdown run, he lacked the burst he had last season. The toughness is there usually, but there are some plays where he seems to go down more easily than he did a year ago. He played pretty well Saturday, but it seems that he is not quite himself. Reality is, Michigan State is not the same team with Nick Hill in and Langford out.
4. Connor Kruse needs to come back quickly
When Kodi Kieler went down and left the game for a bit in the second half, it put Michigan State in a precarious position. Brian Allen came in and played right guard, moving Donavon Clark to right tackle. Left on the bench in the rotation? No one. Michigan State is thin on the offensive line and the sooner Kruse gets back, the better the then seven-man rotation will be. His presence is needed.
5. Michigan State was ready for the big stage
The score will not reflect this, but the Spartans were ready to be a big-game team on a big stage. They have the players to do it like Cook and Shilique Calhoun, the coaches to do it and the system to do it. There was a definite point early in the third quarter where it looked like Michigan State was just going to run away with it. What separates good teams from great teams isn’t much, but this team could be very, very good if it corrects mistakes from this one.