Spartans lose 27-13 at Maryland and it’s about to get worse!

Mel Tucker

Mel Tucker declared at Big Ten Media Days… “We have shifted our culture at Michigan State”…fair enough.

He also declared “we have a very high standard of performance” (unquote), yet last weekend at Maryland, the Spartans managed to mishandle and miss an XP, miss an FG, had an FG blocked and the Spartans were held scoreless in the 2nd Half.

So much for high standards of performance…

Of course, the missed “kicks” wouldn’t have changed the final score, yet if converted, they could have changed momentum, but such is the fate of a program when the compass is pointed south.

The Spartans are 2-3 with victories vs WMU and Akron, two of the worst teams in the country yet the Spartans are winless vs Power 5 opponents, and the most difficult part of the Big Ten schedule awaits.

Meanwhile the Spartans head coach is speaking in platitudes such as “we play complementary football…we keep Choppin’…it’s been death by inches…but, we are Relentless…

Enough of the buzz phrases and coach speak, is the head coach or anyone on his staff watching the miserable product they put on the football field? 

Miserable measurables:

I would dearly enjoy writing about Spartan triumphs and victories on a path to the College Football Playoffs, but Spartan Football continues to demonstrate new ways to bequeath victories to their opponents.

The stats underscore the futility.

In fact, in 3 games vs Power 5 opponents (ie. Washington, Minnesota, and Maryland) the Spartans Defense has yielded a grand total of 1500 Yards, and while Mel Tucker repeatedly refers to “death by inches”, he should know that 1500 yards is the better part of a mile, not inches.

When we look at “key” statistical categories the Spartans are seemingly in a race to the bottom.

Spartans vs 130 Schools:

You hear me frequently reference NCAA statistical rankings of 130 D-1/FBS Schools and let me clarify.

The NCAA rankings include Power 5 Schools such as ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12 and SEC, and that comprises 69 schools in all.

It also includes Group of 5 schools such as American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid America Conference, Mountain West Conference, Sunbelt Conference etc, and when you combine Power 5 with Group of 5 it’s a grand total of 130 schools.

By all measures, the statistical rankings represent a large and viable sample of 130 schools, so let’s take a painful look at Spartans dismal statistical rankings and we can easily determine “just why” the Spartans are getting humiliated by Power 5 opponents:

  • Pass Defense #115 (bottom 15th percentile).
  • Pass Efficiency Defense #105 (bottom 20th percentile)
  • 3rd Down Conversion Defense #107 (bottom 20th percentile).
  • Total Defense: #100 (bottom 25th percentile).

The Spartans also rank 90th or worse (bottom 30th percentile) in 5 other statistical categories including #99 Rushing Offense…#98 Red Zone Offense…#96, 4th Down Conversion Defense…and #92 Total Offense.

Some say “stats are for losers” yet I would argue, disregarding statistical rankings is a proposition for losing.

Stats are simply measuring tools, prime indicators if you like, no different than corporate financial statements or the balance in your Investment accounts.

So, I would submit that statistical rankings are critically relevant in tracking strengths and weaknesses, and to put the Spartans statistical dilemma into perspective, we can note the discrepancy between the Spartans near the bottom of 130 schools, as compared to Alabama which is at the top.

Alabama ranks in the Top 10 in eight key statistical categories including #1 Total Defense…#1 Scoring Defense…#2 Rush Defense…#3 Pass Defense…#4 Pass Efficiency Defense…#4 Scoring Offense…#5 Total Offense…and #8 Rushing Offense.

Year to year, Alabama consistently ranks near the top of the statistical rankings so it’s no surprise they have won six National Titles in the past 13 years, so it would be fair to say, statistical rankings are incredibly viable measuring tools and the stats make it easy to argue the Spartans are a poorly coached team!

Assistant coaches not up to the task:

I would argue, Mel Tucker has failed at his most basic job and that is to build a Championship caliber coaching staff.

Every championship program has a staff of championship caliber assistant coaches, in fact we can look back to the Spartans championship history for reference.

Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty employed some of the brightest coaches in the land, but unlike Biggie’s staff and Duffy’s staff, there are no Hank Bullough’s, Dan Devine’s, Bob Devaney’s, or Bill Yeoman’s on Mel Tuckers staff.

Let’s remember, Bullough, Devine, Devaney and Yeoman comprise a short list of Spartan assistant coaches who participated in winning/sharing 6 National Titles at Michigan State.

Each went on to achieve distinguished coaching careers at other schools, and all but Hank Bullough went on to win NCAA Championships, of course Hank opted for the NFL in lieu of coaching college.

By comparison, I would submit there is not a single assistant coach or coordinator on Mel Tucker’s staff that is employable at championship programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, or Ohio State.

We also know statistically, the current cadre of assistant coaches on Mel Tucker’s staff are failing miserably at their respective jobs, especially Harlon Barnett, Scottie Hazelton and Chris Kapilovic. So, if you don’t have championship caliber assistant coaches, then why should we expect championships?

Of course, Alan Haller is the executive in charge, but how is Alan Haller managing this scenario?

Is Alan Haller having executive level meetings with Mel Tucker? Is he asking the brutally tough questions? For example:

  • How do we fix our Pass Defense currently ranked #115 in the land? Is it scheme, players or coaching? The Pass Defense was “dead ass last” last season, and it’s sliding toward the bottom again. What “fixes” do you plan to implement?
  • How do we fix the Rushing Offense currently ranked #99 in the land (next to last Big Ten)? Is it scheme, players or coaching?
  • How do we improve 3rd Down Conversion Defense currently ranked #107 in the land, enabling opponents to convert 44%? Is it scheme, players or coaching?
  • What about your assistant coaches…are they proposing fixes or just content with steady as she goes?
  • How do we stop the bleeding!

Those are just a short list of questions from a long laundry list that Alan Haller should be asking Mel Tucker, but is Alan Haller meeting with Mel Tucker at all?

Is Haller asking those questions or simply meeting Mel Tucker at the water cooler and sharing social pleasantries?

Let’s make this clear, fans are the lifeblood of college football and with each loss, fewer and fewer will show up at Spartan Stadium. Can Alan Haller or Mel Tucker write that check when fans stay home?

If Alan Haller isn’t meeting with Mel Tucker to find “fixes” then Alan Haller is just as accountable as Mel Tucker for every loss.

Keep in mind, Chris McIntosh, Wisconsin AD just fired Paul Chryst one of the most successful coaches in Wisconsin history because fans were furious with recent losses.

Chryst won 72% of his games in 7 years including 3 Big Ten West titles and 6 Bowl victories, yet Chryst posted a 2-3 record this season with embarrassing loss to Illinois.

Wisconsin fans were irate and McIntosh was worried about fan boycott. It’s Big Business and McIntosh made a business decision, what will Alan Haller do?

At the bottom line (now comes Ohio State)

This game won’t be pretty…

The Buckeyes are 26 point favorites, but it won’t be that close unless Ohio State benches their #1’s at Half Time. After all, Ohio State is a model of Offensive and Defensive efficiency, or the statistical opposite of the Spartans.

Last season, the Buc’s beat the Spartans 56-7 by way of compiling an eye glazing 655 Yards, or 206 Yards Rushing and 449 Yards Passing, including 2 Rushing TDs and 6 Passing TDs.

This season, Ohio State is arguably better, ranked #1 Big Ten in 5 key statistical categories, including but not limited to: #1 Scoring (50 PPG) …#1 Offense (476 YPG) …#1 Defense (yielding just 242 YPG)…#1 Rush Offense (255 YPG)…#1 Pass Defense (92 YPG).

I expect the Buc’s will score on their first possession and won’t stop until the clock ticks zero…no punts required.

I would argue the Spartans are headed for a 3-9 record (4-8 at best) with one or possibly two victories at home vs Rutgers and/or Indiana. If the Spartans post a 3-9 record, Mel Tucker’s record over 3 years will be an uninspiring 16-16, no championships and 1 bowl victory.

If we add in Mel Tucker’s record at Colorado, his 4 year record as Head Coach would be a miserable 21-23.

A losing record is an ominous sign…

In fact, that record would never be tolerated at Alabama, Clemson, Georgia or Ohio State and we know a losing isn’t tolerated at Wisconsin because they just fired their coach, but seemingly Spartan fans are content with stay the course…or are they?

Let’s close with a few questions:

Are fans content to stay the course with Mel Tucker?

Is Mel Tucker, content to stay the course with Harlon Barnett, Scottie Hazelton and Chris Kapilovic?

Is Alan Haller content with a football program that is likely to post losing records in 2 out of last 3 seasons and how does he intend to manage a head coach with a losing record?

I’m just asking the questions!

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