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Football Preview Launch

Time to start looking ahead to the 2023 season

Big Ten Football Media Days Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Happy August, TOC Nation. Yep, August is here. That means summer is going to start winding down soon. And with that comes the return of football. Michigan State’s season begins in 31 days, on September 1st with a Friday night game against Central Michigan. And the college season officially begins the previous Saturday, just 25 days from now, with a bunch of insignificant games.

Between now and September 1, TOC is going to be active with a series of articles to help get you ready for the upcoming season. There will be articles about the different position groups. There will be articles for all of our opponents this season. We will have staff predictions for each game and for final record. And we are going to dive into the state of the program as well.

Actually, I am going to start with a few words right now on the state of MSU football. I will keep this short as we will go into more depth as August goes on. So where is this team right now? I was thinking about this earlier today as I was driving around and I feel like we are at “Two roads diverged in a wood” as Robert Frost wrote in his famous poem. And what I mean by that is I don’t really know which way this program and this team are about to go. 2020 was obviously a horrible season, but there were extenuating circumstances that year and really the whole world did not make sense back then. 2021 was amazing, but many will say in hindsight that that was mostly due to a historic performance from Kenneth Walker III. And 2022 was an incredibly infuriating season for us fans, one that ended in a 2OT Senior Day loss to a poor Indiana team followed by a romping at Penn State to complete our season with no bowl eligibility.

So here we are on the brink of a new season and many of us, judging from having read your comments all offseason, are quite uncertain what to expect for the new campaign. There are a few factors that will determine the success or lack thereof which we will see in 2023. The first is whether the roster, now comprised primarily of Mel Tucker recruits, is going to be improved from a talent perspective. Has Coach brought in the right guys to run the offensive and defensive systems he is trying to put in place? The second factor is Coach Tucker himself. I think it is safe to say the jury is still out on his effectiveness as a coach. Can he get the most out of his talent, something that was Dantonio’s strength? Can he design appropriate game plans? And can he make in-game adjustments when they fall behind?

And the third, and perhaps biggest, determinant is going to be the mental resolve of this team. Last year, as mentioned, was a disappointment; I’m sure the players felt the same. Certainly, the fallout of the “tunnel incident”, with players being suspended from the team and even having criminal charges brought against them, weighed heavily on everyone in the locker room. This offseason saw more wrenches thrown at the roster, with the departure of some of the most marquee names to the transfer portal, including the starting QB of the last two seasons and last year’s leading receiver. It would not be surprising to see that there are some feelings of doubt about the foundation of the team by some younger players, though I hope that is not something that manifests itself. This could be Tucker’s biggest job this season, getting the attitude we saw in 2021 back. Everyone needs to bring their axe and “keep chopping”. Not just the coaches, but the veteran players are going to have to step into leadership roles and make sure the 2023 team bounces back. And of course, the most important player is going to be whoever wins the QB battle. Whoever Coach Tucker tabs as the man under center needs to be someone who can lead the huddle and carry the team during adversity.

If the chosen quarterback and the veterans are not up for the task, this could be another painful football season in East Lansing. On the other hand, if we find out that Payton Thorne had reason to believe he was going to lose his job and that is why he transferred out, and if the woodshed attitude reemerges, then maybe we see this team get back to some of the highs we have seen over the past decade or so. Whichever way the team goes this season could also very well pave the road for the ensuing seasons. Is Coach Tucker the right man for the job? Or are we destined for another turn on the coaching carousel, leaving us to have to rebuild the program under new leadership?

At this point, I cannot make a prediction one way or the other. Maybe some of the research that the TOC staff is about to do as we roll out our season preview articles will help me formulate an opinion. Looking forward to getting you all prepared for the season. I hope you all enjoy the content that is coming your way.