Michigan State Football: Spartans host Rutgers in Mel Tucker’s debut

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Finally, college football is back! The Michigan State football team will square off with Rutgers in their much-anticipated season opener.

Just a few short, well, long when you considered the pandemic and all of its wrath months ago, the Big Ten Conference postponed its college football from the Fall of 2020 to the Spring of 2021.  After much deliberation and observing the decisions of their competitive conferences, it was determined that Fall football would be back on.  I’m not sure how ‘great’ it is for the college athletes, but it’s undoubtedly great for Michigan State football fans.

The Spartans will open their season at home inside Spartan Stadium as a heavy favorite over Rutgers.  Michigan State enters the game with a dominating 8-3 overall record versus Rutgers with hopes to build upon that in head coach Mel Tucker’s school debut as head coach.

Saturday will have a bit of an eerie feeling to it, as the Detroit Free Press recently explained the Spartans home opener would be without fans.  Part of the Big Ten Conference’s return to play format stated that none of its 14 teams would house any fans this season.  A small sacrifice fans will need to make, but it is undoubtedly better to watch college football on television than having no Big Ten games at all as the conference tries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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Mel Tucker is expected to bring a plethora of much-needed energy to as school that’s lacked some buzz over the last couple of seasons, going just 7-6 in back-to-back seasons under the head coach’s guidance Mark Dantonio.

Tucker seems to be just the motivator the Michigan State football team needs.  He’s a coach that prides himself on stout defense, a unit that regularly flies around the football.  Tucker had previously spent time as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Bears, Jaguars, and Browns.  Like the best Dantonio teams of the past, this Michigan State football team will be a defensive-first group that will look to manage the football on offense.

Expect newly appointed offensive coordinator Jay Johnson who served as an assistant to Tucker with the same title in Colorado, to re-tool a recently limping Spartan offense.  Johnson is expected to insert plenty of shotgun and pistol formations with plenty of run-pass-options (RPO) rather than straight handoffs and option-less drop back to pass play calls the Spartans had grown accustomed to running.

One big mystery remains who the starting quarterback will be operating Johnson’s new offense for the Spartans Saturday when they host Rutgers.

All signs point to Rocky Lombardi as he has the most playing experience, having appeared in 16 total games, including a 2-1 record as a starter.  That being said, his awful career completion percentage of 43% leaves us with little to be excited about.  The other two in the mix are Payton Thorne, Theo Day, and Noah Kim, despite being a longshot for the job this early after joining the program a couple of months ago.

Next. D’Andre Swift emerging as best option out of the backfield. dark

This has the makings of a quarterback by committee, and that is not a good sign.  This Spartans offense may have a long season ahead of them, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past.