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Let’s talk about expectations for the 2020 Michigan State football team

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Maryland at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This year has been an absolute roller coaster for us as human beings. I truly hope we never see anything like it again. I think it’s fair to say that life as we knew it has been affected or altered in one way or another for the majority of the population by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That is no different for those individuals involved in Big Ten football. First we marched toward a season, then in a blink of an eye, that was taken away and now we press on to a scheduled (but not guaranteed) late October start.

With the season now expected to be played in the fall, I wanted to discuss expectations for the 2020 Michigan State Spartans football team. But, how can we even fairly do that right now? Things are going to look and feel a lot different for this campaign.

We’ve never had an offseason quite like this, and Big Ten football has never started a season this late in my lifetime (and probably not in yours, either). Keep in mind, if a player tests positive for the virus, that player must quarantine for 21 days. It’s also possible that full teams may have to shut down for a minimum of seven days. If I understand the Big Ten’s protocols correctly, if a team reaches a point where greater than five percent of the roster tests positive and greater than 7.5 percent of the general campus population is positive, the program must halt operations (practices and games) for at least a week.

So, maybe Michigan State has a depleted roster coming into one week because — in addition to normal football injuries — several players could be shelved due to COVID. Or maybe MSU plays a Michigan, Penn State or Ohio State team that has several players in the 21-day quarantine period, which may open up the possibility of a potential upset victory for the Spartans.

The thing is, we just don’t know. We have already seen several games postponed or canceled in other conferences that are already playing, and Oklahoma almost had to miss its season opener due to an extraordinarily high positive rate within the team, but ended up playing, and easily beating, Missouri State while short-handed.

I guess, all of that rambling from me above is just to say, expect the unexpected when it comes to Michigan State football, and Big Ten football in general. Let’s just enjoy Spartans football while we have it this fall.

While expectations are low for MSU — an inexperienced team with a question mark at quarterback and a first-year coach for the program at the helm, in addition to having to replace eight starters on defense, in a year where spring ball and the majority of a normal fall camp was wiped away — I personally just want to see growth and improvement each week. I’m not too worried about wins and losses. The Spartans are just going to take things day by day.

“The uncertainty is part of the norm,” Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker recently said, via Zoom call, regarding the uncertain future of the season. “I believe you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We deal with it day by day, as things come. We don’t try to get into the hypotheticals of what if this and what if that.”

Again, trying to predict how this season will shake out is a fool’s errand. However, with the newest, and hopefully final, iteration of the schedule now out, we can finally begin to at least discuss — and soon find out — what new head coach Mel Tucker and his staff bring to East Lansing, and what MSU may get out of these young players on the roster.

While the fanbase seems to mostly be tempering expectations, there does seem to be a lot of confidence in the Michigan State locker room. For example, senior defensive tackle Naquan Jones is having none of this mediocre-type record talk.

I think when you look the schedule, three to four wins at minimum should be expected, with a five-to-six win ceiling. The games against Rutgers (home), Indiana (home), Maryland (away) and Northwestern (home) are all winnable.

Anything can happen in the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry game on Halloween — and again we don’t know how the rosters of either team will be impacted by the virus at that point — but I just think that will be a tough game to win as Michigan has the more talented roster as things currently stand. Outside of the COVID-19 issue, it is early enough in the season where both the Spartans and Wolverines should have fairly healthy rosters entering the contest.

The Iowa game is a tough one on the road, but I think the Spartans could potentially pull an upset there if everything goes right and a few bounces come Michigan State’s way, but Iowa should be favored. However, MSU has had plenty of recent success against the Hawkeyes.

And then closing out the season with Ohio State (home) and Penn State (away) in back-to-back weeks is brutal. MSU will then have an extra game for the cross-over contest with an opponent from the West Division on or around Dec. 19. That could give MSU a shot at five (or even six) wins in total. Or, hell, maybe things get even crazier in 2020 and the Spartans play for a Big Ten Championship.

How do you see the season playing out for Michigan State? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments section.

Poll

How many wins do you expect for the Spartans in the eight-game regular season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    0
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    1
    (11 votes)
  • 6%
    2
    (39 votes)
  • 26%
    3
    (163 votes)
  • 29%
    4
    (182 votes)
  • 24%
    5
    (150 votes)
  • 5%
    6
    (36 votes)
  • 1%
    7
    (9 votes)
  • 3%
    8
    (24 votes)
624 votes total Vote Now