Column: MSU still has a long way to go, that's what makes it exciting
What a season it’s been for the Spartans.
A lot — and trust me, I mean a lot — of good came out of the past 12 games.
The gaffes of 3-9 seem like a faraway, distant memory. The narrative of the turnaround to 9-3 is impressive; a clever acknowledgement for everything head coach Mark Dantonio has done.
And while the sweet taste of victory should nurture MSU fans, that twinge of bitterness, a somewhat sour aftertaste is what should be honed in on.
But hey, if the drink tastes so good, just keep chugging, aftertaste be damned.
This team is nowhere near perfect — or even close to the Rose Bowl-winning, 2013 edition. Not only is that more than fine, it should have the Spartan faithful oozing with excitement.
There was a lot to be learned this year, and MSU has executed surprisingly well in those situations, hence the 9-3 record.
The Spartans have done a splendid job closing games down the stretch, squeezing by opponents, brutally leaving them heartbroken. Winning those contests takes a certain skillset; a sense of strong mental fortitude that’ll have head strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie grinning ear to ear.
They also know what primetime means in college football. Trotting out of a tunnel to a raucous crowd over 100,000 strong at Michigan Stadium isn’t ideal, to say the least.
And those are all holistic points. Quarterback Brian Lewerke has been stellar in his first year starting, despite some hiccups. The defense has looked incredible armed with the likes of Joe Bachie, Josiah Scott and others.
Of course, there was the bad, the imperfections of a startling squad. That sour aftertaste, in other words. The losses to Northwestern and Notre Dame were both pretty meh, though there were positives that could be taken away.
Which makes the Ohio State loss easily the ugliest part of MSU’s season. In other words, the worst part about downing the spoils of victory — the hangover.
If this current Spartan brass ever loses another game like the embarrassment to the Buckeyes, I’d be shocked. Being exposed on the national stage isn’t fun for anybody, and MSU should keep that in mind these next few years.
Relative to other sports, college football’s season is short. A series holds a lot more weight than a single pitch in baseball, or a single shot in basketball.
Except there’s still the game-to-game aspect of it all. Just going through the grind of a season — the ups and downs, the highs and lows — should benefit everyone involved, including a coaching staff once coming off a disastrous season.
There will be changes these next few months, before and after the bowl game. The constant rebuilding is what makes the sport of college football much different than the NFL.
The Spartans will have to find new leadership, though the framework of the “bounce back” senior class is still there.
All in all, it’s a ways away from the unknown the Spartans were when the season started. Yes, there were growing pains from a youthful team, but that’s all part of the learning curve.
Unfortunately for fans, MSU had had them on the edge of their seats all season long. A playing style that has resulted in a lot of nail chewing, which doesn’t seem very pleasant.
And the Spartans have shown to them it’s been all worth it. Oh, and that there’ll be a lot more winning these next few years.
With a chance to finish the season with an exclamation point in the bowl game, MSU should take center-stage with all of the hype it’s generated.
That’s a far cry from the anonymity from earlier this year.