Spartans flirt with fire but beat Rutgers 27-21 to keep their bowl hopes alive!

The Spartans beat Rutgers 27-21 and kept alive their tenuous bowl hopes.

It was their second consecutive victory in November, and overall, it was a good day for Spartan Football. The Rushing Offense compiled 197 Yards at 5.6 Yards per attempt which was 131 yards more than its meager Big Ten average of 66 Yards compiled in 6 previous games.

The Spartans also posted 256 Yards Passing at nearly 14 Yards per completion, albeit the completion percentage was just 54%, yet they didn’t incur Interceptions or turnovers.

In total, the Spartans compiled a robust 453 Yards of Offense which was auspiciously 170 Yards more than its Big Ten average.

We should also note, the Spartans controlled the football for nearly 29 minutes (or 6 min more than their Big Ten average which up to that point was last in the Big Ten), and we can also acknowledge that Special Teams converted 2 FG’s (doubling their season total).

So, all in all, it was a good day for Spartan Football and with good luck and good fortune, the Spartans will close out November with 2 more victories which would render a perfect 4-0 record in November and a 7-5 record for the season and qualify for a bowl game.

Can that happen? We’ll see…


A win is a win…but…

And while a “win is a win”, plenty of warning signals persist.

Warning signal #1 is the fact Rutgers, 4-5 overall and 1-5 Big Ten prior to the game, punished the Spartans Defense, outscoring the Spartans 14-13 in the 2nd Half, and nearly pulling off an upset.

Let’s remember, Rutgers is the antithesis of elite.

Over the past 6 years, Rutgers Football compiled a miserable record of 17-53 overall (24%) including a dismal Big Ten record of just 8-46 (15%).

And this season, Rutgers, record in the Big Ten is a woeful 1-6.

So, a “win is a win” but beating Rutgers cannot be construed as a “Badge of Honor”.

Prior to playing Michigan State, Rutgers was acknowledged as one of the worst Offenses in the country. In fact, in stats compiled in 6 prior Big Ten games, Rutgers ranked #14 (dead last) in Total Offense (a meager 253 Yards per game), Scoring Offense (just 12 Points per game), and 3rd Down Conversions (24%).

Yet, Rutgers managed to compile an eye glazing 460 Yards of Total Offense vs the Spartans including the fact they pounded out 224 Yards Rushing, complemented by 236 Yards Passing, and converted 8 of 16, 3rd Down attempts (50%).

By all measures, Rutgers punished the Spartans Defense by compiling 200 yards more than its previous Big Ten average of just 253 Yards.

Yet, football is a fascinating game of many facets, and problematically for Rutgers, they committed an incredible 14 “drive sapping/game killing” penalties which meant they were assessed 108 Yards (-108) which diminished their impressive Offensive production…and in effect, Rutgers participated in beating themselves.


Dodging bullets is not the same as getting better.

We have been told by Mel Tucker and Spartan Beat Writers that the Spartans Defense is getting better, yet I don’t know what they are using as a measuring device.

After all, the stat sheet tells us the Spartan Defense isn’t getting better, it is simply “dodging bullets”.

In the last 3 games, the Spartan Defense yielded 1344 Yards of Offense or nearly 450 Yards per game, and let’s be honest, that’s the antithesis of solid Defense.

In fact, in the last 3 games the Spartan Defense yielded 443 Yards to Michigan, 441 Yards to Illinois, and 460 Yards to Rutgers and yielding more than 400 Yards per game will usually get a team beat on most Saturdays.

And in terms of Rushing Defense, in the last 3 games, the Spartans yielded 276 Yards Rushing to Michigan, 153 Yards to Illinois, and 236 Yards to Rutgers or a total of 665 Rushing Yards.

That’s an “eye glazing” average of 222 Rushing Yards per game in the last 3 games and once again, that will usually get a team beat on most Saturdays.

But let’s reexamine the Spartans Defense vs Rutgers?

In 6 previous Big Ten games, Rutgers was averaging a meager 253 Yards of Total Offense…repeat, just 253 Yards of Total Offense…and that included a meager 90 Yards Rushing, and yet Rutgers torched the Spartans Defense for 460 Yards including 224 Yards Rushing.

In addition, Rutgers converted an impressive 8 of 16, 3rd Down attempts or double their Big Ten average, so how can Mel Tucker, or Scottie Hazelton, or Spartan Beat Writers look at those totals and declare the Spartan Defense is getting better?

They must think Spartan fans are unable to read the Box Score or incapable of reviewing the Stat Sheet.


At the bottom line (broken fundamentals don’t fix themselves):

If the Spartans want to get better, the coaching staff need to balance delusion with reality and replace denial with a plan.

The Spartans 5-5 record is a mirage!

Let’s start with quality of wins: there is precious little dignity knowing that 3 of the Spartans 5 victories have come against 3 of the worst teams in the country including Akron (1-9), WMU (3-7) and Rutgers (4-6).

According to CFN, Akron is ranked #130 (worst in the country), WMU is ranked #117, while Rutgers is ranked #78 when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

Conversely, in terms of losses, the Spartans have posted double digit losses to teams with winning records such as Washington (8-2), Minnesota (7-3), Maryland (6-4), Ohio State (10-0) and Michigan (10-0).

Meanwhile, the Spartans only victory over a winning program was Illinois (now 7-3) and we should note that in Big Ten competition, the Spartans are scoring just 19 points per game while yielding 29 PPG…and that doesn’t need explanation as a losing ratio.

So, what does that say when 3 years into Mel Tucker’s coaching tenure Spartan Football boasts a single victory vs a winning program?

In my mind, it says there is a sobering reality regarding the lack of fundamentals.

Right now, the Spartans rank in the bottom 20th percentile (#100 or worse) in 17 statistical categories, and the following 8 categories are a sobering reminder of how badly the fundamentals are broken:


  • #113 Total Offense (344 YPG)
  • #115 Rush Offense (109 YPG)
  • #123 Red Zone Offensive Efficiency (73%)
  • #129 Time of Possession (25:13)


  • #106 Pass Defense (257 YPG)
  • #107 Total Defense (430)
  • #113, 3rd Down Defensive Efficiency (44%)
  • #117 Pass Efficiency Defense (151.99)


There is nothing good about any of the preceding statistics, the fundamentals are broken on both Offense and Defense, and it underscores “why” the Spartans have only beaten one team with a winning record.

But let’s be clear, this isn’t due to a lack of talent, this is due to lack of coaching and lack of consistency.

Of course, nothing grinds Spartan fans more than success of Michigan Football, and while the fundamentals of Spartan Football are foundering, meanwhile Michigan is demonstrating efficiency of the highest order

Michigan ranks in the Top 5 in five of the most important statistical categories including: #1 Total Defense (233 YPG) …#1 Scoring Defense (14 PPG) …#4 Pass Defense (160 YPG) …#4 Rushing Offense (251 YPG) …and #5 Scoring Offense (41 PPG).

In brief, Michigan is scoring 41 PPG while yielding just 14 PPG.

In fact, Michigan rank in the Top 5 in an astounding 19 statistical categories, so we can declare Michigan fundamentals are Championship caliber while Spartan fundamentals are broken.

So, how do Spartan fans feel when Spartan Football is holding on for dear life, hoping to qualify for “any bowl”, while Michigan is in the daily conversation for the Big Ten Championship as well as the national conversation to reach the College Football Playoff?

As a Spartan alum I am not pleased with this set of events and after 3 years into Mel Tucker’s tenure, I expected better…

Yet all I have heard is “we want to play Complementary Football” (but what the heck does that mean?). Of course, I know what that implies, but we don’t see consistent, complementary football.

Let’s remember, at Big Ten Media Days, Mel Tucker suggested his team was prepared to compete for Big Ten and National Titles, so he either underestimated every Big Ten opponent, or he is incapable of assessing talent on his team.

In either case, the Spartans are 5-5 with just one victory over an opponent with a winning record and the statistics tell a sobering story about broken fundamentals so, I humbly suggest, Spartan fans should reassess Mel Tucker’s capability of leading Michigan State Football to the promised land.

Is 5-5 and hoping to get invited to the lowest echelon of bowl game what you expected after 3 years?

After all, Mel Tucker told us after the Rutgers game the Defense is getting better and yet in the last 3 games, the Defense has yielded an average of nearly 450 Yards per game, including 222 Yards Rushing.

Mel Tucker also told us prior to the season he would “fix” the Pass Defense and yet the Pass Defense is ranked #106 in the land.

Does that sound like Defensive improvement to you?

We need to ask the question: Does Mel Tucker and his coaching staff have the wherewithal to compete with Michigan and Ohio State for the top echelon of the Big Ten, or is Spartan Football slowly descending into the abyss?

In the latest College Football Playoff rankings, Ohio State is #2 while Michigan is #3, but more importantly 2 teams in the Top 20 CFP are guided by coaches hired in 2020, the same year Mel Tucker was hired by Michigan  State.

The Top 20 CFP include #14, Old Miss coached by Lane Kiffin; and #20, Florida State, coached by Mike Norvell, both hired in 2020.

Meanwhile, #15 is University of Washington, coached by Kalen DeBoer, remember him? DeBoer was hired just last year, and in fact he beat Michigan State 39-28 in September. In that game, Washington put up more than 500 Yards of Offense, including an eye glazing 397 Yards Passing.

For the record, DeBoer inherited a dysfunctional team that posted a record of 4-8 just last season and now Washington have a record of 8-2 and ranked #15 CFP.

I promise you, neither Kiffin, Norvell or DeBoer have a compensation package anything close to $95 Million. In fact, of the 5 schools mentioned, only Ryan Day at Ohio State has a compensation package larger then Mel Tucker.

So, what are we doing? Spinning the “Wheel of Fortune”, writing checks and hoping for the best? Or does Michigan State have the collective intellect to study the coaching landscape and hire a championship caliber coach?

Right now, Spartan Football is no closer to being ranked in the CFP than Indiana or Rutgers, so Spartan fans need to ask themselves, is that what they signed up for when they celebrated Mel Tucker earning a $95 Million payday?

Thank you for reading and I always welcome your comments and opinions.