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B1G 2020: Michigan State HAS To Play, Huh?

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Michigan State v Wake Forest Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

For now, the Big Ten football season is still getting underway in just eight short days, though if you’re getting overly excited, you might be whistling past the graveyard of the conference’s tight protocols and the rising signs of a second, possibly nationwide surge.

But nobody wants to hear that! The pandemic is over, because we’re tired of dealing with and thinking about it! Let’s talk football!

What We’ve Already Written About Michigan State This Offseason

B1G 2020: MSU Cocktail Party

B1G 2020: MSU Offense

B1G 2020: MSU Defense

B1G 2020: Basketball

Off Talkle Empire: Michigan State Offseason

Now...most of this was written back in the Second Pandemic Age, when stay-at-home orders had started to relax and it still felt like we might get a handle on this at some point.

Since MSU week, the conference:

  • released a modified, purportedly pandemic-proof schedule with the assured confidence of Steve Jobs dropping the iPhone
  • postponed/cancelled the season about a week later
  • got protested on by some angry Midwestern dads
  • made some boat guy internet famous
  • got some interesting insight into exactly how Nebraska views this relationship
  • saw Politics insert themselves into Sports, sorry, this time it was Politics’ fault
  • uncancelled the season at a point where now, a single cancellation or postponement for any conference team will eliminate that team from CFP consideration

So that’s all been fun.

What’s Happened With MSU Since Then?

As with many other conference teams, several players announced their intentions to opt out of the season, whenever that would take place. Since the season was rebooted, a few have changed their minds, so here’s where we currently stand:

Opted Out & Still Out:

Senior OT Jordan Reid

True freshman OT Justin Stevens

Opted Out, Then Opted Back In:

Senior DE Jacub Panasiuk

RS Freshman LB Marcel Lewis

Of this group, Reid and Panasiuk were both probable starters this season. Panasiuk’s return in particular is a huge boost for a defense that otherwise only had three returning starters (depending on how you count LB Noah Harvey, who stepped in after Joe Bachie’s midseason suspension). With Panasiuk’s return, it isn’t nearly as much of a stretch to envision a capable defensive line this season.

Reid’s absence is more complicated. Although he was essentially the only offensive lineman who managed to stay consistently healthy over the last three years while getting a ton of reps at RT, he’s never pushed for All-Conference status. All the other injuries to that group mean there are a ton of guys with substantial playing time. Ergo, there’s something of a silver lining here in that there’s one less variable in a complicated OL equation.

Lewis played sparingly last season, and Stevens is an incoming freshman who was a near-lock to redshirt.

The Schedule

October 24: vs Rutgers

October 31: @ Michigan

November 7: @ Iowa

November 14: vs Indiana

November 21: @ Maryland

November 28: vs Northwestern

December 5: vs Ohio State

December 12: @ Penn State

December 19: B1G Mini-Tourney vs TBD

Draw red lines through Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State right now. None of those are reasonable wins to project and it would be surprising if any were within three scores. I’m pretty close to putting Iowa in this category, but Ferentz’s MO often lets inferior opponents hang around.

Toss-ups would be Indiana, because of the track record of Indianiness which cannot be ignored, and that end-of-season game because who knows who it will be.

Probable/should-be-wins, to me, are Rutgers, Maryland, and Northwestern. Lose any of those, and we’ll know exactly how far this rebuild has to go.