Michigan State Football: What worked and what didn’t against Central Michigan

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Sep 26, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans center Jack Allen (66) gestures to the Central Michigan Chippewas during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line

The much-heralded Michigan State offensive line has not really been up to snuff. It has been good in pass protection, though not so much against Air Force, and only fair in run-blocking. And while this doesn’t seem so bad, it just isn’t what was expected.

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With three likely All-Big Ten players and two potential All-Americans, Spartan fans expected domination from this line. Domination is not what we have seen thus far in the season. Kodi Kieler’s injury doesn’t help the cohesion necessary to produce a great line, but against overmatched opponents you would expect more even from backups.

What went well: No sacks again

The offensive line has given up zero sacks in three of MSU’s four games. That kind of clean living will keep your quarterback healthy and give the offense a chance to get deep down the field. That’s not to say that Cook hasn’t been hurried or hit, but zero sacks given up is still something to celebrate. Benny McGowan didn’t allow free runners at Cook this week and that seemed to help a lot.

What didn’t: Losing Conklin

Aside from losing Connor Cook, Conklin is probably the most irreplaceable player on the MSU roster. Conklin is a beast out there at left tackle. He erases the defensive end on that side with respect to pass rushing and blows up the edge on run plays. He is projected as an early first round draft pick as a junior. And his importance is not simply a function of his stellar skills — MSU just doesn’t have a tackle that’s close in ability to replace him, and neither do most programs.

Dennis Finley came in to replace Conklin when he went down with an apparent knee injury and quickly gave up a holding call. That came on the play after his man got to Connor Cook and hit him before Cook struggled for a one yard gain — and thus no sack. Finley seemed to settle down the rest of the game, but being serviceable and being dominant are very different ball games.

If Conklin is out for a significant period of time, MSU’s goals of a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff are in jeopardy. Going into the first Big Ten game of the season, MSU will be without its top cornerback and linebacker and now possibly its top offensive lineman and tight end. Ugh.

Next: Defensive Line