EAST LANSING – Looking back at No. 13 Michigan State’s 30-27 win over Penn State and looking ahead to the Spartans’ week off as they wait for their bowl destination.
What: Bowl Selection Show.
When: Noon Sunday.
The buzz: The College Football Playoff committee's final rankings will be released, setting the four-team CFP field as well as the rest of the New Year's Six bowls — the Fiesta Bowl, the Peach Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. The rest of the bowl field, which should include Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, will also be announced during the four-hour show.
Three things we learned
Thorne masterful: When MSU (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) needed to convert on third down, Payton Thorne was at his best Saturday. The sophomore quarterback went 10-of-14 for 171 yards, with seven of those completions going for first downs; an eighth was his 9-yard touchdown pass to Tre Mosley. Thorne also converted both of his fourth-down passes, including a 20-yard TD to Jayden Reed in the fourth quarter for much-needed insurance. Thorne’s 1-yard rushing TD also came on a third down; he finished 19-for-30 for 268 yards and the two touchdowns. His one mistake came on an interception returned for a TD.
Depth down: Injury and illness issues continued for MSU. With kicker Matt Coghlin reaggravating a right hip injury and leaving the game, three walk-ons ended up taking on his duties. Stephen Rusnak left the game after two kickoffs, leaving Evan Morris to take over kickoffs and Evan Johnson to handle place-kicking. At cornerback, with Chuck Brantley (shoulder) still out and Marqui Lowery (left leg) unable to go, MSU mostly used Ronald Williams II and Chester Kimbrough early. Williams was then paired Williams with walk-on Division II transfer Justin White for most of the second half. With Jalen Nailor (right wrist) remaining out at wide receiver, Montorie Foster remained as the No. 3 option behind Jayden Reed and Tre Mosley. Foster and Terry Lockett Jr. returned kickoffs, with Reed also playing through a right foot issue. Because Tyler Hunt remained out, Maliq Carr stepped up at tight end with a pair of third-down conversion catches for 51 yards, including one for 40.
Walker’s final push: After running six times for 25 yards at Ohio State, both season lows, Kenneth Walker III recovered with one final strong impression for Heisman Trophy voters — especially considering he was playing through illness and on a bad left ankle. The junior ran for 138 yards — his eighth time eclipsing the century mark this season — including a 2-yard touchdown run. His 30 carries equaled the career high he set two weeks earlier in a win over Maryland. Walker ranks second in the nation (and first among Power Five players) at 1,614 rushing yards and 134.5 yards per game, and his 18 rushing touchdowns are tied for fifth among Football Bowl Subdivision players.
Chris Solari's three things to watch
Bowl bound: The win over PSU puts the Spartans in great shape to make a New Year’s Six game — either the Fiesta Bowl or the Peach Bowl. However, plenty of things can still disrupt that over the course of the games this week, starting with a Michigan loss to Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. Should MSU get squeezed out of the NY6 games, its likely destination would be the Outback Bowl or Citrus Bowl in Florida, with a remote chance of heading to the Las Vegas Bowl.
Getting healthy: Coach Mel Tucker said he believes the Spartans are going to get “some key guys back” in the next month before their bowl game. Some of those they hope return include linebacker Quavaris Crouch (right knee), defensive tackle Simeon Barrow (undisclosed) and left tackle Jarrett Horst (undisclosed medical) along with Nailor, Hunt, Brantley and Coghlin. Tucker said he will not discuss season-ending injuries. The time off also should help get others back to full strength, and among those who have been playing hurt have been Walker, Reed, Lowery, Williams (back), safety Xavier Henderson (shoulder), linebacker Cal Haladay (right hand).
Recruiting like crazy: Tucker and his staff will hit the road recruiting over the next two weeks leading up to the Dec. 15 early signing day, the Spartans likely will be active in pursuing additions to the 20 commitments they already have. That could include flipping a few players from other schools, such as four-star wide receiver Armani Winfield, who decommitted from Texas on Friday. MSU currently has pledges from five four-star recruits and boasts the No. 19 class nationally and No. 4 in the Big Ten, according to 247 Sports.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State football must worry about health before bowl