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NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to helplessness.

Who could have saw this coming to start the season? Or to end the 10-win 2017 season? Or after the 2015 College Football Playoff? Or the 2014 Rose B—you get it.

We’re in a state of helplessness. And this is what it means on every level.

What happened Saturday. If you were one of the last souls that thought Mark Dantonio still had some magic, now it’s gone.

Up 28-3 against Illinois in the first half. Up 31-17 to start the fourth quarter. Illinois at 4th and 16 with a stop ending the game. MSU blew it more than those three different ways, but you already know that.

At least when John L. Smith teams had their patented blowups, they were against good teams. This is Illinois. Don’t start with the whole “well they beat Wisconsin!” thing – just because the Badgers choked on their own spit against a bad team doesn’t absolve MSU of doing the same thing. Not after going up 28-3.

This team – coming off a season lauded for their defense – gave up 27 fourth quarter points to make it five straight games giving up 30 points or more. Really could’ve used a senior captain linebacker today.

This team – coached by a shuffled euchre deck of eights and nines on offense – failed to generate a touchdown in the second half.

This was an all-around meltdown, and the kind of meltdown that only happens to poorly coached teams. The kind of meltdown that only happens to teams spiraling downward. The kind of meltdown that only happens to coaching staffs that have lost any sense of grip they’ve had on the program.

28-3. Six second half points scored. 27 given up in the fourth quarter. Two months since winning. One inexcusable meltdown against Illinois. And that’s the recipe to getting to know helplessness.

This is not blindsided helplessness. This is not a fluke. This is not some sort of upset. On a macro level, this was foreseeable in the offseason when no coaching changes were made after a horrific offensive season.

On a micro level, MSU came into this game coming off three straight outings of getting its doors blown completely off in games over by halftime. That just doesn’t happen to good teams. MSU walked into Saturday’s game as just another average-at-best team.

Saturday’s game wasn’t the beginning of helplessness – it was a limp exclamation point to cap it. MSU played like a mediocre-to-bad team and did what a mediocre-to-bad team did.

It will only get worse this season too. Michigan will name their score they want to drop on us. 35-10? Sure. 52-14? You got it. 70-0? It would be silly to rule it out at this point. They will win their third game in the last four seasons with the same effort it takes to open an automatic door. All good fortune built up in the last decade will officially be wiped completely clean.

During the beating next weekend we can differ to lines like “you’ve never been to Indy” or state some record in the last 12 years that doesn’t matter anymore. Heck, I’ll probably do it. But that’s a masquerade – we all know what lies underneath. Indy might as well be on the 47th moon of Saturn for us at this point. Our return to prominence is an uphill battle that’s taken after surviving 10 previous uphill battles.

And I’ll tell you why too…

Let’s talk about the offseason. Let’s talk about things that don’t matter if Dantonio stays or goes.

The recruiting…is not good. Losing battles to Purdue, Louisville, etc. Ranking outside of the top ten in our own conference. No, no, no – I know what you’re doing. You’re going to point out the greats of Kirk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell, Darqueze Dennard and any other low three-star that shined here. Not only is that not a sustainable formula, but it’s a formula you can see falling apart in real time.

What diamonds in the rough does MSU have now? Alright, great, you might have just though to some. Great, now tell me where that has MSU right now. 4-5 with a loss to Illinois and a Quick Lane Bowl not even a guarantee at this point.

Guys, I’m sorry, but recruiting actually does matter. And if you’re looking for quick help in the next season or two, it’s not looking probable based on the recruiting trajectory.

So let’s say Dantonio does stay. Here’s the options, all not good.

1) The whole staff stays, because duh.

2) The offense sputters to continue its downward five-year spiral. The defense continues to get 30-pieced every game, unless you think the departure of Raequan Williams, Kenny Willekes, Josiah Scott, etc. actually helps this defense.

3) MSU misses a bowl game as it replaces good players and still gets its sub-par, outdated coaching against a murderer’s row of a schedule. Don’t believe me? Go look at who leaves after this year and go look at the schedule. The 2020 Pinstripe Bowl might as well be the Fiesta Bowl.

Alright, let’s say Dantonio leaves. Here are the options.

1) Bill Beekman is the athletic director. The guy who did *looks at notes* absolutely nothing to deserve this position allegedly gets to call the shots. I wouldn’t trust this man to identify a football. Now he gets to hire a coach with a background of falling upwards behind him? Yeah, feeling really great about that.

2) Maybe they promote a coach from within. Maybe it’s the offensive coordinator that can’t generate a second half touchdown against Illinois after a three game stretch of 17 total points. Maybe it’s the defensive coordinator that just let up another 30 points while you are reading this sentence.

3) Maybe they’ll hire Pat Narduzzi and chase the golden era as hard as they can. You can have your own opinion on that scenario, because I don’t have a strong one. But my gut feeling is that it won’t work out well.

4) Maybe we hire a guy like Luke Fickell. Or Alex Grinch. Or someone young and exciting and able to recruit. But the odds of this administration making the right call are as good as MSU’s odds of playing in a bowl game somewhere warmer than 40 degrees this season.

And please stop asking Dantonio to be fired. That’s just not happening. You might as well be asking for Sean McVay to come coach here while you’re at it. Beekman wouldn’t fire his own dog sitter if they ran Fido over with their car. Dantonio is more likely to fire Beekman than the other way around. Dantonio simply isn’t getting fired. Guys, that’s just the matter of the fact.

Actually, all of that was the matter of the fact. Delusional people that still think everything will be OK need not comment.

This is the fact of helplessness. The fact of where MSU stands right now with its football program.