Published September 15, 2013http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
1. On one level, it wasn't that surprising Youngstown State got dominated by Michigan State on Saturday.
Unlike Pitt, which is still trying to stabilize its program, the Spartans have one of the Big Ten's best and most stable programs. Mark Dantonio is 54-28 at MSU and has been to a bowl game in each of his first seven seasons. The Spartans have NFL level talent at several positions, especially on defense.
MSU should be able to beat up on FCS teams, which is what it did against the Penguins, who looked completely overmatched. I thought Dantonio showed some class in staying conservative in the second half, keeping the 55-17 score closer than it could have been.
2. That said, Eric Wolford has made it clear that he expects to be competitive in money games and Saturday's game was the least competitive of his tenure.
The 2010 game against Penn State (which YSU lost 44-14) was close until just before halftime, YSU was within two touchdowns for most of the 2011 game against Michigan State and the Penguins were flat-out better than Pitt last year.
Saturday was a different story. YSU got off to a bad start, yes, but I doubt it would have mattered. MSU's offensive and defensive lines were dominant.
I predicted MSU would win 28-13 and felt YSU had a 10 percent chance of winning, but in hindsight, that was far too optimistic.
3. Obviously, the loss means little in the big picture. YSU's schedule was set up for it to go 3-1 in the first month.
The real test comes in two weeks when league play begins. The Penguins have gone 4-4 in the MVFC in each of the past two years and will need to go 5-3 (at least) to have a chance at the playoffs.
4. Maybe the biggest downside to Saturday's loss was it cost YSU a chance to make the argument for playing Big Ten teams. There were several thousand empty seats at Spartan Stadium and the outcome was never really in doubt.
The Penguins should still be able to find BCS opponents but YSU athletic director Ron Strollo always starts with the Big Ten because it has the biggest stadiums, which results in the biggest paydays. And YSU typically earns bigger paydays than other MVFC teams, something that is true this year. Here's the list of MVFC/Big Ten payouts from FootballScoop.com
Youngstown State vs. Michigan State (Sept. 14): $650,000
Missouri State vs. Iowa (Sept. 7): $475,000
Indiana State vs. Indiana (Aug. 29): $450,000
Indiana State vs. Purdue (Sept. 7): $400,000
South Dakota State vs. Nebraska (Sept. 21): $395,000
Western Illinois vs. Minnesota (Sept. 14): $375,000
Southern Illinois vs. Illinois (Aug. 31): $350,000
5. As regular readers know, I'm a Torrian Pace fan but he hasn't shown much as the starting running back the past two games. For the season, he has 24 attempts (second-highest on the team) but is averaging just 4.0 yards per carry (lowest among running backs).
Injuries to Demond Hymes and Adaris Bellamy thrust Pace into the starting lineup and if those two don't return this weekend, it might be time to give Martin Ruiz the start.
6. Wolford expected wide receiver to be a strength this year but other than Andre Stubbs (who made some nice plays against Michigan State), the wideouts haven't done enough.
Starting WR Michael Wheary has really struggled, dropping two passes Saturday on YSU's opening drive and losing a fumble. He has just five catches this year and has fumbled twice.
Even more surprising is WR Christian Bryan, who has just three catches in the first three games and went without a reception Saturday for the first time in his career.
7. I thought YSU would be able to get some pressure on MSU's struggling quarterbacks but that obviously didn't happen.
The Penguins had no sacks and played very vanilla on defense. Of course, schemes don't matter much if you can't get off a block.
8. The Penguins' struggles in fielding kickoffs and punts continued Saturday but overall, YSU's special teams look a lot better.
Nick Liste has been booming punts, Joey Cejudo has looked good at kicker and the coverage teams are significantly better than the past few years. You no longer feel like every team is going to start at the 40 after a punt or kickoff.
9. Woody Hayes famously risked running out of gas on a recruiting trip in Michigan, filling up at the first gas station across the state line. I almost did that on my way home Saturday night, but broke down and bought one gallon about 30 miles from the state line, then filled up in Toledo.
Sorry, Ohio. I did the best I could.