Michigan State Spartans

Northwestern's Joe Gaziano, left, sacks Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke for a safety during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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Sparty woe: Michigan St. could go from playoffs to home for postseason a year later

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My how things have changed.

Last season was one of the most successful ones in Michigan State history.  In 2015, 12 wins, second-most in school history, were capped off by the program’s first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff.  Nine months later?

In East Lansing Saturday, MSU jumped out to a quick 14-point lead on Northwestern midway through the first quarter.  That was essentially the high-water mark in the game as the Wildcats outscored the Spartans 54-26 the rest of the way to claim a 54-40 win.

With the loss, MSU drops to 2-4 on the season — the same number of losses they had in their previous 27 games heading into this season.  It’s also the team’s fourth straight loss, the longest same-season streak since 2006.  That was also the last time the Spartans failed to qualify for a bowl game.

Given the remaining schedule, that streak of nine straight bowl appearances since is in jeopardy.

MSU still has to face rivals No. 4 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State, although the silver lining there is they get both Big Ten East powerhouses in East Lansing.  They also have to go on the road to face a pair of teams currently 4-2 in Maryland and Penn State.  Arguably the only gimmes on the remaining slate are 2-5 Rutgers and 2-4 Illinois, with both of those teams serving as the current basement dwellers in the B1G East and West, respectively.

Suffice to say, Sparty will have a tough row to hoe in just getting to within shouting distance of six wins, let alone getting to that postseason plateau.

Riley Bullough returning to Mich. State after three-game injury absence

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 8: Dontre Wilson #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes fumbles the ball on a kick return after being hit by Riley Bullough #30 of the Michigan State Spartans in the first half of the game at Spartan Stadium on November 8, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Desperately looking to snap a three-game losing streak, Michigan State will be getting back a defensive leader who, coincidentally or not, hasn’t played during the skein.

According to mlive.com, a school official has confirmed that Riley Bullough will play in MSU’s game Saturday against Northwestern.  The starting linebacker has missed the last three games, losses to Wisconsin, Indiana and BYU in Weeks 4-6, respectively.

Prior to the Wisconsin game, Bullough, a senior, was tied for the team lead in tackles.

As for the nature of the injury that has kept Bullough on the sidelines for a third of the regular season?  MSU has yet to divulge any specifics, although the program stated that it dates back to before the start of the season and was aggravated in the Week 3 win over Notre Dame.

Last season, Bullough was named second-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches.

Michigan State’s QB picture looks fuzzy

EAST LANSING, MI - AUGUST 29: Quarterback Damion Terry #6 of the Michigan State Spartans escapes from defensive lineman Allan Carson #95 of the Jacksonville State Gamecocks during the second half at Spartan Stadium on August 29, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images
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Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio may have bumped the panic button when it comes to his quarterback situation in East Lansing. With Michigan State preparing to play Northwestern, the Spartans have listed three quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart this week, a distinct contrast to Dantonio’s previous show of support for Tyler O’Connor last week.

Of course, three straight losses for a team replacing Connor Cook after making the College Football Playoff and winning the Big Ten can do that to a program. After Michigan State lost on the road at Indiana to fall to 0-2 in Big Ten play, the Spartans were roughed up at home by BYU. Now, O’Connor is listed at the top of the depth chart along with Damion Terry and Brian Lewerke. Terry replaced O’Connor during the loss to BYU last weekend. Lewerke was last seen running the offense late in the game in a blowout loss to Wisconsin.

How the three quarterbacks will be used against Northwestern remains to be seen. Will Dantonio give each player a series to see what they can do? Two series? A quarter? Might they be used depending on the situation? This likely will not be the old Steve Spurrier method of rotating quarterbacks, but it does seem to indicate Michigan State has reopened the quarterback competition just about midway through the season. That is not exactly the ideal situation

Michigan State’s passing offense ranks eighth in the Big Ten with an average of 213.0 yards per game and eight touchdowns to six interceptions.

Florida, Miami, A&M reportedly among teams showing interest in ex-‘Bama QB Blake Barnett

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, a former highly-touted recruit is garnering a significant amount of interest in his second go-’round on the recruiting trail.

Blake Barnett‘s high school football coach told 247Sports.com that Cal, Oregon, UCLA and Washington have already spoken to him about his former player.  Additionally, Florida, Miami and Michigan State have expressed interest.

An unnamed source also told the recruiting website that Texas A&M has spoken directly to the quarterback about moving on continuing his collegiate playing career with the Aggies.

Late last month, reports began to surface that Barnett had decided to leave Alabama.  A short time later, and after Nick Saban expressed hope Barnett would stay, the program confirmed that Barnett had officially withdrawn from school.

Barnett, who started the opener against USC but held on to the job for just two series, was a five-star 2015 recruit who 247Sports.com rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country.  The California high school product originally committed to Notre Dame in November of 2013 before decommitting from the Irish in June of the following year.

Reportedly, Barnett is enrolled at a junior college with the hope that, utilizing a loophole, he can play at the FBS level in 2017 after sitting out the first four games next season.

Mich. St. LB Riley Bullough to miss third straight game

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 12:  Riley Bullough #30 of the Michigan State Spartans during their game at Spartan Stadium on September 12, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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If Michigan State is to bounce back from back-to-back losses, it’ll have to do so without a pair of defensive starters.  Again.

Mark Dantonio announced Tuesday that linebacker Riley Bullough will miss Saturday’s non-conference game against BYU because of an unspecified injury.  This will e the third straight game Bullough has been sidelined as he missed the Week 4 loss to Wisconsin and last Saturday’s overtime loss to Indiana.

Prior to the Wisconsin game, Bullough, a senior, was tied for the team lead in tackles.

MSU will be again without another starting linebacker as well.  Jon Reschke sustained an ankle injury in the loss to the Badgers and will be sidelined “for a significant period of time.”

In addition to Bullough, Dantonio also acknowledged that starting defensive tackle Raequan Williams will miss at least this Saturday’s game as well.  There’s a chance the lineman could miss the Northwestern game the following Saturday as well.