Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/16/12

It became quite clear that the Michigan State football team is not ready to compete at the national level. Not this year. The Spartans could not find the end zone last night as they suffered a 20-3 loss to Notre Dame at home.

Michigan State’s offensive line, which is supposed to be the best of the Dantonio era, gave up four sacks for 30 yards. Fou Fonoti’s injury probably had something to do with that. Le’Veon Bell carried the ball just 19 times for 77 yards, Andrew Maxwell completed 23 of 45 passes for 187 yards, and Dan Conroy missed another field goal.

It’s time for Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett, and the rest of the receiving corps to execute on offense.

“Tough day at the office I guess you could say,” Mark Dantonio said. “Without watching the film you don’t really have a great idea about the breakdowns but we didn’t run the football, we didn’t protect the quarterback very well and we had some drops. We need to have more explosive plays on offense.”

Defensively, Michigan State gave up a couple of big plays, but played pretty well for most of the game. If the Spartans were going to have any chance of winning last night, the defense was going to have to come up with some turnovers and points. They didn’t do that.

This isn’t the end of the world for the Spartans, however. In a very similar fashion last year, the Fighting Irish stomped Michigan State 31-13 in South Bend. Then, the Spartans went on to win the Legends Division and came up a play short in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin.

Obviously, this team is very different than last year because there is so much inexperience on offense. It’s not time to panic yet, but the Ohio State game on Sept. 29 will tell a lot about where this season will go.

There is not one team in the Big Ten this year that is the clear favorite to win the conference. Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern are the only undefeated teams left. Nebraska lost at UCLA last week, it’s tough to say how Michigan will be, and Wisconsin and Iowa are close to being 0-3. As of now, and because of postseason ineligibility for the Buckeyes, it looks like it could be Northwestern and Purdue in the championship game.

The Big Ten is wide open this year and I like Michigan State’s chances. Any hopes of being one of the elite teams in the nation were demoralized last night, but this Spartan football team is still capable of winning the conference and getting to Pasadena.

The mistakes that were made last night are correctable ones, but time is running out. Teams are going to start stacking the box and force Maxwell to throw the football down the field. It’s time for Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett, Keith Mumphery, and the rest of the receiving corps to start finishing plays and the offensive line must perform better.

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