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B1G 2021, Michigan State Potluck #1: Jolting a moribund Sparty

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Who cares about actually being good? You’re probably at least as good as Michigan right now. That’s what really matters, isn’t it?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Monday at 9:30am, and I’m already behind on my work.

That’s no fault of Michigan State though, mind you, the Spartans are a bit of a sore subject, given that they provided the perfect level of speed bump for the 2020 Fightin’ Fitzgeralds. After Papa Fitz finally allowed the kids to take it out of second gear and into third, revving up the emotion of being labeled the Fighting Rece Davises, the ‘Cats promptly made a meal out of Mel Tucker’s Spartans.

That was, though, one of only two highlights for 2020 Sparty. Perhaps that’s good, though — Green Akers noted that “Michigan State’s dramatic roster churn inspires something entirely new: your branch/office/division/whatever just got a complete personnel facelift, made up of equal parts retirement and post-leadership change purge.”

And while he’s opted for a chicken salad metaphor that brings to mind Bret Bielema’s idea of a healthy snack, I (1) am not yet awake enough to contemplate that reality, and (2) am still scarred from western Michigan’s idea of mixing green things, meat, and mayonnaise.

The Food: A Local, Less-Offensively-Named Pick-Me-Up

Instead, let’s get me a jolt. And, better yet, let’s go to East Lansing itself for that pick-me-up:

Lansing State Journal

Some Biggby Coffee would hit the spot right now. We’re, uh, just going to speed on by this East Lansing-based chain’s original name and instead focus on how cofounders Bob Fish and Mary Roszel met at Michigan State, managed something called “The Flap Jack,” and then opened the first now-Biggby’s in a former Arby’s. WHAT COULD BE MORE OTE?!

While the company’s franchises are less Midwestern—MI, FL, KY, IL, OH, NJ, VA, NC, SC, WI(?!?), and IN—and more...eastern?...we are all about celebrating homegrown for our potlucks. In that vein, writers:

1. Tell us your go-to Biggby (or any coffeeshop) order.

2. Any local or homegrown chains from your hometown or college town that you want to spotlight?

Thumpasaurus: About five miles from me is a spot that used to be a Biggby, and I don’t particularly care about them or their coffee. Tucked into this particular Biggby though was Milkster Nitrogen Creamery, which was just a lovely place to visit during those searing 95 degree weeks where the sun’s out 20 hours a day that Michigan just has in the summer sometimes.

The creamery moved to Rochester just in time for COVID-19 to destroy its revenue. The former Biggby is now some slider joint I also don’t care about.

Anyway, we have Portillo’s in Southeast Michigan now.

RU in VA: TBH, I don’t mind Biggby. It’s an orange-and-black Dunkin’. I’m a simple dark roast with a splenda kinda-guy, so the variations on the menu don’t please me. But if you ask my 11 year old female daughter, she’ll give a response you, nor the barista/o will understand - and it’ll come out as a 1000+ calorie milkshake that I’ll have to split across 3 credit cards.

Spotlight? The Wawa versus Quick Chek rivalry, which meets directly in New Brunswick, NJ. It HAS to be one of the only towns in NJ that has both brands. Wawa is the greatest convenience store, and my last breath will be on that hill.

Lemme get a chicken parm with provolone on a kaiser roll and an iced tea.

MNW: Here in my suburb, it’s a 2.5-mile drive to the World Headquarters of Caribou Coffee, which I am also able to get in the Atlanta airport and the Peachtree Center, for some reason. [Gotta get those MSP-ATL Delta flyers, I guess.] Very much a Minnesota-based chain, and one of the most heartbreaking developments of grad school was when they closed their locations in downtown Chicago and eastern Wisconsin—the closest one to me was the Hy-Vee on the East Side of Madison. I’m partial to a latte with skim milk, maybe some sugar-free caramel. That, or an IV of straight espresso.

I’m not enough of a coffee connoisseur to know the difference between beans—only that Starbucks is burnt as a Great Plains buffalo chip—so I grade coffeeshops more on the ambiance. Now that St. Paul’s Dancing Goat closed on me, I do my writing at Caffetto in Uptown Minneapolis—not a place you go for the beans, but definitely a place you go for (1) the seedy basement arcade, (2) the people-watching that accompanies (1), and (3) it being open until 1am in non-pandemic times. Lot of weird dissertation-writing happened in that basement.

WSR: Coffee order? A medium roast that’s black as my soul, please.

I think MNW did a great job of highlighting Caribou. They were great, and now they’re owned by some German conglomerate. But still yet another company that started in Minnesota. Yay!

Kind of…: Even I, Badger fan, know of and like Caribou. I liked Dunn Bros when it was nearby, too, FWIW. But that’s enough praise for Minnesota companies (sorry, 3M). [Ed. note: Great point, Minnesota is wonderful and Dunn Bros. is Good. We could use more wisconsin writers like this one.] In terms of order, see WSR above.

Last time I was in Madison, I was provided some Cadence Cold Brew, and that really made me consider the whole “willingly drink cold coffee” thing. It was very good, and locally run.

The Football: A Less-Local, Less-Offensive Coach

Now that we’re jolted awake and thinking about it...oh god we have to talk Michigan State football. So, uh...the 2020 season wasn’t a total disaster? The Spartans tripped up a division-winner in Northwestern and reclaimed the Paul Bunyan Trophy from their hapless eastern rivals. So there’s that!

Look, Mel Tucker already deserved a Year Zero in East Lansing, given Mark Dantonio’s February 2020 resignation and the smoking crater of an Athletics Department at Michigan State. And then COVID hit. So 2-5 was, uh...not entirely unexpected.

Add to that, as Green Akers noted, 25 out-transfers, 17 in-transfers, and 3 NFL draft hopefuls. There’s been what we in the business call “turnover”. (Another thing Michigan State football is very familiar with—HEY THERE’S A ROCKY LOMBARDI JOKE.)

So what, writers, is needed to jolt Michigan State football back to relevance under Mel Tucker?

Should Tucker go all-in on reviving the defensive tough-mindedness that worked for Dantonio and has supposedly characterized his stops with the Jaguars, Chicago Bears, and Georgia? Is an offensive revival under OC Jay Johnson ready to throw it back to the Kork Coupons days?

In other words: How does Michigan State stay relevant in the East with the Big Two of Ohio State and Penn State, relevant in Michigan with Harbaugh sucking up all the air, relevant in the standings with Indiana making its move under Tom Allen?

Thumpasaurus: Same answer I’ll give for any moribund program, but it starts up front. Recruit and develop your offensive and defensive lines. In general, that’s a solid way to give yourself a chance to win any given Big Ten game.

If we’re looking specifically at Michigan State’s recent history, the moment it all started to fall apart for Mark Dantonio was the moment they showed up unable to compete in the trenches (the 2016 season). 2016 was of course a low point, but they never did put together a complete O line or D line after that despite having some decent individual players on the defensive side. Mel Tucker’s from the SEC. He’s gotta understand the importance of recruiting and developing linemen.

RU in VA: To Thump’s point, I agree. But looking at the transfer in/out list from MSU this year (damn, that’s a long list) - they’re losing a lot of depth on O and D lines, and not necessarily replacing it through incoming transfers. This does some weird things with rosters since eligibility is a mud puddle. There ARE a lot of redshirt Freshmen coming in from P5 programs, so maybe Tucker knows what he’s doing?

What I do find somewhat humorous this year is that Rutgers hasn’t been able to field a competent QB post Gary Supernova - but somehow Sitkowski and Russo are gonna have starting jobs this year in the B1G. STOP PICKING UP RUTGERS QB TRASH. Morons. There are no diamonds in the rough here. Chris Ash didn’t “overlook the talent”. Anthony Russo is going to recoil in horror when he truly realizes the amount of fried food a Mid-Michigan resident consumes in a day.

MNW: I want more attitude.

I don’t want this “the rivalry is ‘something we embrace’” bullshit or the awkward “It’s just different” remarks. I want a goddamn public FEUD with Michigan. You know that “the school down the road” schtick that definitely doesn’t rankle Michigan fans? Double it. The Paul Bunyan Trophy? Tweet a picture of you sleeping with it. Tucker joined elite company with the 2020 victory—only Nick Saban won his first meeting with Michigan—and now I want him to take those passive-aggressive, #disrespekt shots at Jim Harbaugh and Michigan whenever he opens his mouth.

Thump looked at whether Illinois had become just another meme under Bert—Michigan State at its best is punching you in the mouth, winning a 13-10 football game, and then proclaiming they can’t get no respect at all while dishing out shoulder chips like they’re Halloween candy. Give me those memes back, Sparty, and get back to dragging your games with Ohio State into the mud, not losing by 42 to Iowa and getting shut out by Indiana.

WSR: All they need is for Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State to have hiccups. No problem at all, right?

Kind of…: This feels like a trick question. The MSU recipe for success for the last 40 years has been 1) dour, defensive-minded head coach, 2) minimize mistakes, 3) control the lines, 4) win ugly.

But if you want a “jolt of relevance,” these aren’t things that come to mind. Winning cures all, but if MSU wants to stand out that adds a degree of difficulty.

HWAHSQB: Who cares about actually being good? You’re probably at least as good as michigan right now. That’s what really matters, isn’t it?

Look, why are you even asking me this question? I watch Illinois football. I have NO EFFIN IDEA what it takes to make a football program relevant because I’ve never seen it happen. I remember Illinois football being good, but it’s been all downhill since 1991 and as far as I know, once you get not good, you have to stay that way for at least a ¼ century.

So, to summarize, you’ll probably suck. My team will probably suck also. See you at Arby’s.