Column: Stop comparing football to 2016, it's far too early for that
Let’s get this clear and out of the way — comparing this Spartan team to the 2016 edition isn’t just simple, it’s lazy.
Yes, the gaffes and failures of last year are like a fresh, open wound. Any mention of the 3-9 season triggers MSU fans, and I don’t blame them.
So when Notre Dame returned an interception for a touchdown and jumped out to the 14-0 lead at Spartan Stadium last weekend, there was a collective groan. I’m sure you could hear it watching from home — it was defiantly noticeable.
And because of a 28-7 halftime deficit, those memories of the dark days kept creeping back. It’s why MSU’s student section started to file out with 30 minutes left in the game.
By the end of the blowout, the crowd was sparse, leaving rows upon rows of empty bleachers.
Thus, the questions fired up. All the goodwill the Spartans mustered after a solid pair of wins is gone.
Which brings up the comparisons between this season and the last. To me, it’s partly because of recency bias. Oh, MSU might be bad again, so let’s compare the Spartans to last season despite the glaring differences.
It’s easy to understand the underlying concerns. After the failure of 2016, connecting the old and new is a natural reaction. MSU’s sloppy, three first-half turnovers were reminiscent of last year’s careless psyche.
But even then, not all bad teams are created equal.
The Spartans last year relied upon a myriad of their upperclassmen to guide them. It’s partly why they’re so young this year. Graduations, departures, attrition all decimated the roster, leaving behind these young playmakers.
This year, of course, is entirely different. The leadership is new, fresh, one that’s been stressing accountability for months now. There have been no murmurs of a lack of guidance in the locker room, at least not yet.
And ah, yes, the youth. Let’s not touch on them too much, as fans are already accustomed to their importance. But really, there’s no denying they’re fun to watch. Despite the inexperience, the talent is there, one of the main roots of optimism watching such a squad.
Hell, we’re not even sure the Spartans are bad this year. It’s far too early in the season to make swift generalizations, even if I wanted to make hot takes for all of Twitter to hear.
We’re still just a quarter of the way through the season. Big Ten play is set to begin and we’ll know so much more about the Spartans in the coming weeks.
What we do know so far is that MSU failed its first test. There’s no use hiding behind excuses, the Spartans looked plain shoddy in the primetime matchup, mistake after mistake. But trust me, there are plenty of opportunities to make up for it later.
Last week, I wrote starting strong would be vital for the Spartans. And that still holds true. A win over the Irish would have done wonders for their confidence.
But alas, it wasn’t to be for the MSU faithful.
And as of right now, the Spartans have no identity. They can either lay low, stick to last year’s mantra and go on a long losing streak. Or they can bounce back against an Iowa team that hung tough with a premier foe in Penn State.
Overreacting to an indefensible loss is fun, but let’s cool it off with the comparisons. The 2016 Spartans were one of the worst in decades, it’s not fair — at least yet — for this team to draw such ire due to its play.