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B1G 2023 Michigan State Cocktail Party

High anticipation led to huge disappointment in Mel Tucker’s Year 3, and high turnover continues; what do we make of all this?

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan State
The presumed Guy, unless a redshirt freshman swipes it from him
Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

About 2022...

One supposes it could have gone worse, but how much worse? Coming off a pleasantly surprising 11-2, Peach Bowl winning-2021, expectations for Mel Tucker’s Michigan State program soared amongst the faithful. The 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes, while not up to the level of the conference elite, were certainly a large step in that direction, and a couple of interesting staff moves suggested Tucker was thinking in the kinds of ways that get you a $95 million contract.

For this author, that optimism lasted until about midway through Week 4, when the Spartans were finishing their second straight game of the worst defensive football I’ve ever seen from a team I root for (in before Indiana fans begin lifting their shirts as one to show you their scars). It was one thing for a rejuvenated Washington to get whatever they wanted, but that kind of effort against a Tanner Morgan-led offense should have resulted in firings.

MSU scratched out wins here and there, but gave away the Spittoon in 2OT after the dumbest sequence of coaching decisions Tucker has made yet to end their realistic shot at a bowl.

Damn. Well how did the offseason go?

Not great! Fans waited with bated breath for, first, some kind of assistant coaching changes. In particular, defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton and special teams coach Ross Els (yes, THAT guy) seemed to deserve some defenestration consideration.

Instead, what MSU fans got was an exodus of a lot of the staffers lauded as reasons for the surprise success in 2021. Recruiting coordinator Saeed Khalif, defensive line coach/recruiting ace Brandon Jordan, even head nutritionist Amber Rinestine (laugh if you want but so, so many people cited her as a reason MSU pulled off the upset @Miami in 2021) all departed.

Well, but none of those people actually play the games, right? Are we making too much of some fairly normal turnover in a very turnover-y industry?

You could be right about that. In terms of personnel, MSU’s offense in particular was set to return the large majority of the guys who showed real promise, including a QB with two full years and part of a third under his belt in Payton Thorne and a definite future NFL receiver in Keon Coleman. More on that to come, we don’t want to spoil our appetite with the hors d’oeuvres now, do we?

Let’s scrounge around under the bar for some good news, though. It’s true, if not exactly acceptable, that MSU’s defense was buried in injuries quickly last season, and only loses a handful of guys from that side of the ball, so even refusing to change the scheme or the coordinator, there could be considerable improvement on that side of the ball. Tucker also continues to work the transfer portal, and it’s a fairly well-regarded group headlined by DL Tunmise Adeleye (TAMU) and OL Keyshawn Blackstock (JUCO), two should-be-starters on lines that got worked over way too often last season.

The schedule, though, she is uhhhh not merciful:

Sept. 1 (Friday): vs Central Michigan

Sept. 9: vs Richmond

Sept. 16: vs Washington

Sept. 23: vs Maryland

Sept. 30: @ Iowa

Oct. 7: BYE

Oct. 14: @ Rutgers

Oct. 21: vs Michigan

Oct. 28: @ Minnesota

Nov. 4: vs Nebraska

Nov. 11: @ Ohio State

Nov. 18: @ Indiana

Nov. 24: vs* Penn State (at Ford Field)

Woof, not what you want to see when you were 5-7 and your best player and also your starting QB took the bag and ran.

Well, this is what we get for scheduling interesting series, right? We happen to have Washington on an upswing instead of playing Hawaii three times every year like a certain other team in the state.

Do note, however:

  • two Friday games
  • two home games after September 23rd
  • Washington is now a 5:00 kick on Peacock
  • MSU agreed to move the Penn State game both to a Friday and away from their home stadium at the Big Ten’s request, because otherwise we all would have had to give some money back since that absolute goddamn imbecile Kevin Warren double-committed the conference’s product, the only fucking thing we paid him all that money to sit around and do was make the TV contracts nice and neat and large and he didn’t even do that right

I may comment on this at more length later this week, but the question I would pose to MSU’s athletic department is: why would I ever pay the exorbitant seat license for the privilege to buy tickets to that slate, especially now that the Penn State game is getting pulled from that?

Anyway, in terms of the on-field prospects, this team will most likely go into the Michigan game at either 3-3 or 2-4, depending on what you think of Rutgers. And then after that, will still have games @Minnesota, @OSU and neutral site against PSU.

All this probably means a difficult fight for a crappy bowl very few MSU fans would attend. It should go without saying that’s probably not what AD Alan Haller thought he was getting when Jimmy Sexton tricked him out of $95 million he gave Tucker the big-dollar extension intended to keep his eye from wandering.