Harlon Barnett fails test: Spartans humiliated 41-7 and become a rebuilding project of the highest order.

With statistical metrics as my guide, in February 2020 I warned that Mel Tucker would shift Spartan Football into reverse.

I took a lot of heat for that prediction, but fantasy is fantasy and facts are facts.

Mel Tucker was over his head and less than 4 years after the fact, the fundamentals have decidedly declined, and Spartan Football has officially become a rebuilding project of the highest order.

Mel Tucker has set Spartan Football back in immeasurable proportions.

Gone are the days of competing for Big Ten Championships or playing in the Cotton Bowl or Rose Bowl, today the Spartans won’t even qualify for a low tier Bowl game, you know, those are the mid December Bowl games that no one watches. It won’t matter…the Spartans won’t get there!

The fall from grace is the result of Mel Tucker’s incompetence.

After all, MT coached for 25 years and never spent more than 3 years at any stop, never distinguished himself at any stop, and brought a losing record from NFL and college.

Yet, Tucker even managed to exceed my most dire expectations.

Collectively, Mel Tucker, Jay Johnson (O-Coordinator), Chris Kapilovic (Running Game Coordinator), Scottie Hazelton (D-Coordinator) and Harlon Barnett (formerly D-Back coach and currently interim HC) have steered Spartan Football into the abyss.

I instinctively knew the Spartans wouldn’t beat Washington, in fact I declared prior to the season that no way, no how would the Spartans beat Washington, Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State this season (all Top 10 teams), yet I thought the Spartans could comport themselves with some measure of competitiveness.

After all, Mel Tucker told us this was his most talented roster before the season. (Of course, Mel Tucker, the disgraced former Head Football Coach has told us a lot of things that didn’t come to pass).

Regardless, the Spartans were totally hopeless vs Washington as they yielded an “eye glazing” 713 Yards of Total Offense which was by the way, “the most” yardage ever yielded by a Spartan Football team…in history.

That was compounded by Spartan D-Backs and their coaches (Yes, Harlon, that includes you) all of whom looked on helplessly as Washington completed 74% of its passes for 536 Yards, or a blistering 19 Yards per completion.

In fact, it looked like a playground game of “pitch & catch” as Washington completed 8 pass plays of 30 Yards or more.

Did Harlon Barnett and his assistant coaches respond with fixes and adjustments?

Well, no…there were no fixes or adjustments. Just helpless, hapless football.


Spartan Offense exposed as fraudulent:

All the celebratory words extended by patronizing Spartan Beat Writers and hyperbolic Fans after beating tiny Richmond (an FCS School) stood for nothing.

Let’s remember Beat Writers and fans wildly celebrated Nathan Carter helping the Spartans post 162 Yards Rushing when they beat tiny Richmond 45-14 as if 162 Yards vs an FCS school was a Badge of Honor.

But Washington is amongst the best coached Power 5 teams in the land, and, well, Richmond is an FCS school that previously lost to equally tiny Morgan State, which ranked #69 in the FCS, by a score of 17-10.

Meanwhile Washington represents everything Michigan State isn’t, they are extraordinarily well coached, extraordinarily well prepared, and they stopped the Spartans “dead” in their tracks.

At the end of the day, the Spartans managed just 261 Yards of Total Offense, including a meager 53 Yards Rushing at just 1.9 Yard per attempt and Nathan Carter the heralded replacement for KWIII totaled a meager 48 Yards.

Let’s make this clear, Nathan Carter is nothing more than a journeyman Running Back, and by no measure is Nathan Carter a “go to…move the sticks” caliber RB.

Anyhow, the Huskies exploded for a 35-0 Half Time lead. Increased their lead to 41-0 after 3 Qtrs, then put their game plan on “auto pilot” and won the game without breaking a sweat 41-7 (the scoring margin could have been bigger).

For its part, the feeble Spartan Offense didn’t score until 5:48 remained on the Stadium clock and by that time, Washington was playing with anyone and everyone they brought on their Travel Team, while an estimated crowd of 71,000 had dwindled to 3000 patrons or so who stayed to watch the bitter end.


At the bottom line: it will take years to repair the damage done by Mel Tucker!

There is really no need to expend more verbiage discussing the Spartans feeble performance vs Washington, because the Spartans were exposed as inept and their prospects going forward are bleak.

Once again, with metrics as my guide, it is nearly impossible to muster confidence the Spartans can win a single Big Ten game this season.

Perhaps the Spartans have a “punchers chance” at home against Nebraska (1-2), and perhaps they have a “hail Mary” chance at Indiana (1-2).

Yet there certainly are no “automatic” victories that stand out on the forthcoming Big Ten schedule.

In fact, future opponents not named Nebraska and Indiana have compiled a cumulative W/L record of 20-1 (95%) this season and the schedule will not favor the Spartans going forward.

Immediately below is a list of forthcoming opponents, in order, including their current W/L record:

  • Maryland (3-0)
  • @Iowa (3-0)
  • @Rutgers (3-0)
  • Michigan (3-0)
  • @Minnesota (2-1)
  • Nebraska (1-2)
  • @Ohio State (3-0)
  • @Indiana (1-2)
  • Penn State (3-0).

In days gone by, Maryland would be an anticipated Spartan victory. But that has changed.

The Terps led by HC Mike Locksley are being rebuilt into a formidable team. The Offense led by dynamic QB Taulia Tagovailoa is averaging 300 YPG Passing (call it Michael Penix lite) and nearly 40 Points. Of course, they will visit Spartan Stadium next Saturday. The Terps are favored by 8 points, but forget the spread, the Spartans are in for another afternoon of confusion and humiliation.

Also, in years gone by, Rutgers was generally considered an easy out for the Spartans, but HC Greg Schiano is rebuilding Rutgers for the second time and the Scarlet Knights have become a fundamentally solid team.

Rutgers Defense yields just 10 PPG and a meager 70 Rushing YPG. The odds have not been set, but Rutgers (3-0) will arguably dominate the trenches and send the Spartans home reeling with another loss.

So, which team can the Spartans beat going forward?

Spartan fans may not like it, but a Bowl invitation is essentially off the table.

But don’t get angry with me, I’m just the messenger who tracks the stats and metrics and the metrics underscore that Mel Tucker’s architecture has rendered a hideous, inept, unprepared, undisciplined product, and Spartan Football is now a rebuilding project of the highest magnitude.

But, once again, don’t be angry with me, because if a 2-10 or 3-9 record is unsatisfying, then you should share your thoughts with AD, Alan Haller and demand that he hire a better coaching staff which can build a competitive team.

In fact, if Spartan fans don’t demand better, it won’t get better, and fans will get more of the same.

It didn’t have to go this way because Mel Tucker should have never been hired, and that will be the topic of my next missive whereby we will discuss “how did we get here…and given Big Ten realignment, can the Spartans reverse course in a conference with more than 16 teams competing in open competition…or will Spartan Football simply fall into the abyss of irrelevance?”

Thank you for reading.

Dayne Thomas


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