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This program was aiming for Big Ten supremacy not too long ago but have fallen on hard times the past few years. Coach Mel Tucker was hired away from Colorado last year and Covid hit causing all sorts of problems for a new staff. The Spartans sputtered to an uneventful 2-5 record that did include wins against hated Michigan and a good Northwestern team. And the talent level has improved with a solid recruiting class and 20 expected incoming transfers. This program has been good before and could be on their way back.
Offense: The QB situation is the major concern coming out of spring camp and heading into the fall. Temple transfer Neal Russo has started 26 games and has a big arm but has thrown too many costly interceptions in his career. Payton Thorne has the most experience in the Spartan system and showed some promise in relief duty last year. He also is the son of a coach and knows what needs to be done. Transfer RB, Kenneth Walker III had three good seasons at Wake Forest and has a chance to be the feature back. There are two wide receivers with playmaking ability in Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor so that position looks promising. The offensive line has been a mess in recent years and that must be improved dramatically in the fall.
Defense: The Spartans have always been known for their physicality on defense and they need that in order to move up in 2021. The defensive line is deep, experienced, and talented and it will be hard to run against MSU as it usually is. They have Noah Harvey back at linebacker and three returning starters in the secondary so they have returning experience there as well. The defense could be good.
9/11 Youngstown State
9/18 at Miami
10/2 Western Kentucky
There are two must wins in Youngstown State and Western Kentucky. They both are at home and the Spartans have got to have those two games. A win at Miami is too much to ask of this team at this point.
9/4 at Northwestern
10/9 at Rutgers
10/16 at Indiana
11/6 at Purdue
11/20 at Ohio State
11/27 Penn State
When you are a struggling program the schedule looks imposing no matter who you are playing. The road schedule has game at Rutgers and Purdue that need to be wins for the Spartans. Games at Northwestern and Indiana are maybes and Ohio State is impossible. The home games include a must win against Maryland and maybes against Nebraska, and Michigan. Penn State might be a stretch.
Summary: As I mentioned before, this is a proud program that has been at the top and knows what it takes to get there. They aren’t ready yet but they need some success this year as they continue their climb. If they can win the games they are capable of and slip up on somebody else they might be bowl eligible again. That would be a big accomplishment.
Predicted Finish: 5th Place in Big Ten East
Overall Record: 5-7
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