After their dominating victory on the road against Rutgers in the regular season finale on Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans have successfully and officially completed a six-win turnaround from a year ago.
They put together perhaps their most complete performance of the entire season from start to finish in this 40-7 rout of the Scarlet Knights. Here are the three biggest takeaways from their showing in Piscataway.
The Michigan State offense had arguably their most prolific and balanced performance on Saturday against Rutgers.
It was their sixth game of at least 400 total yards on offense for the Spartans. It was also only the second game this season in which MSU logged 200 yards both passing and rushing, the first time since all the way back in Week 1 against Bowling Green.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke himself wasn’t dominant but he put together a very solid and manageable night, going 21/31 for 222 yards and a touchdown pass. Lewerke was also part of a seven-man crew that eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the game, adding 56 yards on 11 rushes.
For a team that has been pretty inconsistent in the way they moved the football for much of the season, the Spartans end on the highest of notes en route to a comfortable win.
The Michigan State defense has been a pack of ball hogs over the last few weeks and they showed that once more on Saturday.
MSU forced three Rutgers turnovers, two interceptions and one fumble lost. It was the third game in the last four weeks where the defense yielded multiple takeaways, and the first time since the monsoon-aided victory at Michigan where the Spartans were at least a +3 in the turnover margin in a single game.
The turnovers helped dictate the time of possession in this one. Michigan State held the ball for just under 48 minutes of game action against the Scarlet Knights. Grinding down opponents like a pencil has been a staple of these Mark Dantonio-led teams and particularly this year where MSU ranks top-5 nationally in average TOP.
The Spartans controlled the clock and made the most of it against Rutgers.
Many were unsure of how Michigan State would enter the season after winning just three games in 2016 and having about as tumultuous of an offseason as any program could have.
Seeing multiple players depart the program for various reasons, many of which were top-tier performers on the team and/or budding players of that caliber, expectations for MSU were severely diminished. Many felt that just getting back to .500, give or take a game, would be considered enough of a rebound for the Spartans.
But tons of credit has to go to Mark Dantonio and his staff for their handling of everything that happened off the field during the spring and summer. This Michigan State was among the younger and inexperienced teams in the entire country this season. A number of players made big statements, both short- and long-term, collectively re-establishing themselves as a contender in the Big Ten once more.
Whether or not this is sustainable for MSU heading into 2018 and beyond remains to be seen, but in the present, the Spartans stand as one of the better stories and turnarounds in college football this season.