Column: Football faces first 'test' of season in Notre Dame
If Division I collegiate football — between the sponsorships, money and national attention — was anything like school, so far, the Spartans are passing with flying colors.
A perfect record, two comfortable wins over inferior opponents and an almost renewed sense of confidence in the team, it’s all been there. There’s very little fans can complain about, and trust me, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.
Sure, you can nitpick some parts, especially the fumbling issues. But to deny the Spartan faithful’s optimism would be heartless.
Except, much like football, we’re still at the point of the semester where we have yet to take that first test. Whether that be in the classroom or on the field.
You see, Spartans who have gone on and graduated MSU might forget, there comes a time in the semester where the going gets tough. Exams are introduced and the library slowly fills with stressed college students.
For lack of a better term — shit starts to get real.
And we’re right at that point in the schedule. The bye week has come and gone. For the next 10 Saturdays, MSU football will be on television in one way, shape or form.
That stretch, of course, includes Notre Dame and nine straight Big Ten opponents. A daunting task.
Some of these tests will be harder than others. No one’s going to compare hated rival Michigan to Rutgers, the talent disparity is undeniable.
The Spartans will tell you they’ll be looking at the schedule one test at a time. As they should, it’s a long year. And if you look ahead, you’ll be left a laughingstock after losing to an inferior opponent.
But it all starts with Notre Dame. It might seem silly, I understand. The Spartans still defeated the Fighting Irish last season despite the 3-9 record.
And even then, Notre Dame finished 4-8, just a win better than the Spartans. What is there to worry about?
But here’s reality — conventional college football wisdom doesn’t apply to the blue bloods. There are exceptions to the rule and that includes the Fighting Irish.
Sticking with the school analogy, I might be exceptional at math. But quantum calculus trigonometry III would still give me fits whether I like it or not.
Notre Dame always recruits well, it’s a perk of being a national brand. On another level, the Irish have shown flashes of talent this year, much like MSU has.
Head coach Brian Kelly may be breaking in a new quarterback, junior Brandon Wimbush, but man, can that kid run. Wimbush and tailback Josh Adams both ran for over 200 yards rushing against Boston College — each.
To argue this Notre Dame team untalented is asinine. The Irish may shock a team or two down the stretch, much like the Spartans.
They’ve already gone blow-for-blow against a ranked Georgia team, falling by just a mere point at home.
Notre Dame has an established resume compared to MSU. It’s not very substantial, comparable to a sophomore’s accomplishments and maybe a freshman’s. But it’s a track record nonetheless.
We’ll know more about this Spartan team after this game. A comfortable win over Notre Dame won’t come with the disclaimer of, “Oh, it’s just a MAC school, let’s wait and see how MSU really does.”
A humbling loss will reset expectations for MSU. Murmurs of greener pastures and a puncher’s chance at the Big Ten East title will quiet down. The ghost of Sparta past still haunts some fans’ hopes, wishing for another berth in the College Football Playoff.
But who knows, maybe a win over Notre Dame doesn’t mean anything, that was seen just last year. To say I’ve never taken a class that blindsided me with tests harder than the first would be a lie.
Trust me, I know, it’s only the third game. But after dueling the Irish, that’s already a quarter of the season gone.
Impressions and thoughts will be made the longer the Spartans trek into the season. This is their first chance to impress a national audience, one that has long forgotten of their stretch atop the Big Ten.
It’s far too early to calculate and try to predict a final grade for this year’s MSU. That should be done when all the tests, pop quizzes and iClicker points are accounted for.
But if I know anything about school — and college football — starting the semester off with a bang is crucial to nabbing that degree, or in this case, bowl game.
And who knows, maybe more.