How can Michigan State football get back to Big Ten Championship?

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the field with the team before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the field with the team before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

Michigan State football had a winning record and one of the best defenses in the nation. However, the offensive was a disaster. How can it get back to the Big Ten title game?

Yes, I did it. I watched every snap of every play of Michigan State football in 2018. After drowning my sorrows and taking some indigestion tablets, I understood what MSU needs to do to get back to competing for championships.

The departure of Junior defensive back Justin Layne hurts, however, the Spartans have great depth in the secondary. The news of Joe Bachie, Kenny Willekes and Raequan Williams all coming back was great news for MSU.

What do the Spartans need to do?

Part ways with Dave Warner. He is not the problem, though he is easy to blame. Mark Dantonio mentioned that he had a huge part in the offensive gameplan for the Redbox Bowl, yet the offense continued to lay eggs. Let’s face some facts, Dantonio is not going to fire anyone on his staff. These are his ride or dies. Does that mean there is no hope for fans who are frustrated at watching a putrid offense? No.

There is hope, but first, understand that coaches who have been around as long as Dantonio typically do not change their approach. Often, they are fired or forced into early retirement. I’m not suggesting that will happen to Dantonio. However, this 2019 season is vital to his legacy at Michigan State.

Dantonio wants the run the pigskin and that won’t change. Therefore, the Spartans must get stronger at the point of attack and become more physical. Case in point, they were one of the lightest, weight-wise, offensive lines in the Big Ten. If you are going to play smash-mouth football, you are going to need some big hog mollies up front to move defensive linemen. One could argue that the Spartans’ scheme didn’t fit the players and I would agree with that.

However, Dantonio is not going to change, and why should he? He has been one if not the most successful head coaches at Michigan State.

Not only does the offensive line need to add weight, but they also need to be more physical at the point of attack. Oregon is a good team, but they should not be manhandling your offensive line.

Were injuries a factor? You could probably have used that excuse during the season, but the Redbox Bowl exposed the problems on offense. Another major issue that MSU had this season was that there was a lack of focus from the line. Michigan State would start to move the football and put together a nice drive and then a false start penalty or missed assignment would kill good drives.

Again one could argue before the Redbox Bowl that because of injuries players were out of their regular positions, therefore, the penalties would be understandable but the same sloppy play that was seen all season was on full display. A major part of the offensive line woes was due to poor execution and a lack of focus, which falls on the coaching.

Even during the 2015 campaign, the Spartans would often put themselves in a bind with penalties. Yet it was Quarterback Connor Cook who bailed them out. Dantonio is not going to push the panic button and fire a coordinator who has been with him for so long but he knows they have to get stronger and more disciplined up front in order to win in 2019.

Also, being without star running back LJ Scott for most of the season did hurt the Spartans. The inexperience at the tailback position hurt. Sophomore running back Connor Heyward admitted during the season that they missed the holes that were there. You have poor line execution and running backs not certain on what lanes to hit then you have a recipe for disaster.

Dantonio has a strong offensive line class coming in 2019. In a large part, the 2018 disaster has much to do with recruiting as it does with the on the field product. The Spartans missed on some guys and it has shown. Can Dantonio run the ball 40 times a game as he wants? Absolutely, but he needs the players to develop as Wisconsin has done with lower-ranked players.

The 2017 offense was not stellar by any stretch of the imagination either, however, experience at the running back spot and a focused line opened enough lanes for the offense to go. Plus, having a healthy running quarterback like Brian Lewerke helped.

The Spartans can fix these problems and Dantonio knows that. That is ultimately why he will not fire Dave Warner and set to work on fixing things.

dark. Next. MSU football: Final report card for 2018 season

He has shown in the past that he can put together an offensive line capable of getting the job done. He did it in 2013, 2014, 2011 and 2010. He did with player development and it is what he will need to do this offseason or this past season will become the norm.

Will the Spartans be better in 2019? I believe they will.