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Closing Arguments 2021: Michigan State

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After a late hire and COVID-warped first season, let’s see what MSU has in Mel Tucker.

2021 Big Ten Football Media Day
Uhhhhhh that’s a lot of new guys uhhhhhh
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

I. Case History & Opening Statement

A. 2020 - Can We Freaking Not Do That Ever Again?

And yet viewed through the very narrow lens of where Michigan State started and where they ended up, things could have gone, well, not a lot worse (they still only won two games), but still, some things resolved themselves and even with the remaining challenges, the exact nature of the task is very clear.

It’s hard to do much worse than seven turnovers in your first loss to Rutgers in their B1G membership. But to go from that to identifying and mercilessly exploiting a critical weakness that lets you beat your hated rival as a 20-point underdog? Well, that Michigan win in Week 2 secured Mel Tucker the line of credit he’d need to ride out a season that was mostly just horrible beatings by every decent team on the schedule (except, hilariously, Northwestern) and regular beatings by the non-decent teams on the schedule.

Seriously, every time MSU faced an opponent without a colossal weakness (Michigan’s secondary, Northwestern’s...entire offense), it became clear how far away the roster Mark Dantonio left behind was away from competing even with the above-average teams in the conference, to say nothing of the Ohios State of the world.

B. Opening Statement

If, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you wish to conclude at this juncture that Michigan State will once again be terrible, that this program had its generational run of success and must now pay for it with another twenty five years wandering in the desert, I am not here to dissuade you with firsthand evidence to the contrary. But, I submit, making such a judgment at this point would be based almost entirely upon facts not in evidence, because however putrid this offense was last season, however scrambled their defense looked in its new scheme, the simple fact is this: we’re dealing with a very different roster here than we were at the end of the miserable trainwreck that was 2020.

Over 40 new players between the transfer portal and recruiting class will step onto the field in Evanston when MSU kicks off this campaign. And even those who do return will have had an actual, halfway normal offseason to go through meetings, actually learn the playbook, and partake in a strength, conditioning, and sports nutrition program somewhat more sophisticated than ‘EAT FORTY EGGS FOR BREAKFAST.’

They will undoubtedly feature a new starting QB, probably a new left tackle, two high-profile running back transfers, and a talent infusion in the linebacker and defensive back groups that might actually let them run the entire defense they intended to last year instead of dropping a safety thirty yards deep every play to mop up the constant mistakes.

So no, kind juryfolk, there is no guarantee Michigan State will dramatically improve from last season. But they’ve certainly turned over every rock possible attempting to do so instead of passively waiting for Dantonio’s talent-bereft final classes to trickle through, and that’s an approach that’s easy to get behind.

II. Discovery

A. What We’ve Learned This Offseason

2021 Cocktail Party

Potluck 1: Biggby Coffee & Regaining MSU’s Footing

2021 Offense Preview

2021 Defense Preview

Potluck 2: Cherries & Signs Of Life For MSU’s Offense

2021 Coaching Highlight

Podcast Preview, Football & Hoops

Potluck 3: Dairy Store & Record Predictions

B. Pending Docket

September 3: @ Northwestern

September 11: vs Youngstown State

September 18: @ Miami (FL)

September 25: vs Nebraska

October 2: vs Western Kentucky (HC)

October 9: @ Rutgers

October 16: @ Indiana

October 23: BYE

October 30: vs Michigan

November 6: @ Purdue

November 13: vs Maryland

November 20: @ Ohio State

November 27: vs Penn State

III. Emotional Plea

I’m tapped out here, to be quite honest with ya there folks. Been a long year and counts too much of another year and in a lot of ways there’s no end in sight. So how’s about you just do your ol’ buddy Green Akers a solid here and pull for his team to get back to decent, and never you mind if that happens to tee them up for a possible breakthrough the year after? Whoever you pull for, you can probably envision a pretty good MSU team that’s still no threat to YOUR obvious breakthrough season that’s in the offing here, so what’s the harm? Hand over the good vibes. Now.

IV. The Verdict

Kind of...: 5-7, 3-6 B1G

MNWildcat: 6-6, 4-5 B1G

Pkloa: 7-5, 4-5 B1G

WhiteSpeedReceiver: 2-10, 2-7 B1G

So we have an East German judge, who also happens to project his own sub-.500 team to get to 9-3. Yep, we’re all just seeing things as they are around here.