The Michigan State football team is reeling coming off of two blowout losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin before entering this week's bye week. Sitting at 4-3, a shot at playing in the Big Ten Championship Game seems unrealistic. But, with five games left, there is still enough time to turn what's quickly turning into a disappointing season into a successful year.
The Spartans host No. 7 Penn State next Saturday before going on their second bye week. Then, Michigan State hosts Illinois before traveling to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. The Spartans close the year out with a trip to Rutgers before hosting Maryland on senior day. Most of those games are winnable, and should give MSU a shot to not only become bowl eligible, but maybe play in a Florida postseason game. But first, that starts with turning things around during the off-week.
The State News will take a look at the highs and lows through Michigan State's seven games this season, which one can use as storylines to keep an eye on as the season rolls into the final month.
Considerations: K Matt Coghlin, CB Josiah Scott, WR Cody White
WINNER: Matt Coghlin
With the way Coghlin was kicking the ball coming into the season, and the way he started off the season, the way he has crumbled throughout Michigan State's season is quite shocking.
In 2017, Coghlin made 78 percent of his field goal attempts. He upped it to over 80 percent last season. But that number has tumbled down to 64 percent through Michigan State's seven games this year. In the Spartans' wins against Tulsa and Western Michigan, Coghlin was 7-for-7 on field goal attempts. But since then, Coghlin has made just 50 percent — 5-for-10 — of his attempts.
He missed all three of his field goals against Arizona State, including a chance to send the game into overtime at the buzzer. He finished 1-for-2 at Northwestern, 2-for-3 against Indiana and 1-for-2 at Ohio State. He did not have an attempt against the Badgers.
Through his struggles, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has yet to waiver in his confidence of the junior kicker out of Cincinnati and has said that the Spartans will stick with Coghlin through these troubling times.
Best Junior Player
Considerations: WR Cody White, DE Jacub Panasiuk, LB Antjuan Simmons
WINNER: Jacub Panasiuk
Simmons has been a star in his first season as a starter for Michigan State's defense, but Panasiuk has probably been more important to the success of the Spartan defense. Having a force to rush the quarterback on the opposite side of Kenny Willekes has made Michigan State's defensive line that much better.
Panasiuk has recorded 19 tackles, 11 of which were solo, three sacks which ranks third on the team and three forced fumbles, good for a MSU defensive beast.
After shedding weight in the offseason, Panasiuk has noticeably more speed coming off the edge and has used that to his advantage, as well as one-on-one matchup due to the rest of the talent on MSU's defensive line, and has had one of his most productive seasons to date.
Worst Game of the Season
Considerations: vs Arizona State, vs Ohio State, vs Wisconsin
Is the worst game even called a winner? Regardless of the logistics, this was another award that was a quick and easy decision, just like how the Badgers were able to put away the Spartans in their 38-0 win last Saturday — quick and easy.
From the gun, it was all Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium, giving Michigan State its second-worst loss in the Mark Dantonio era. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor scored two touchdowns while quarterback Jack Coan completed 85 percent of his passes, threw for almost 200 yards as well as a touchdown. Wideout Quintez Cephus made a juggling catch to put the Badgers up 14-0 in the second quarter. A pick six by Zack Baun put them up 31-0, and a 66-yard touchdown run by Kendric Pryor put the Badgers up 38-0 in the fourth quarter.
Fifth-year quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for only 53 yards and Michigan State's top rusher was senior linebacker Tyriq Thompson — on a fake punt.
It was, by far, the lowest point of Michigan State's season and an easy choice to win this award. At least the Spartans got something out of it.