Michigan State football: This writer was dead wrong about Spartans coach Mel Tucker
A Band-Aid hire.
The guy before the next guy, who may or not end up being the real guy.
Disaster following Mark Dantonio’s departure.
Without spring practices and recruiting in Year 1, there was no way in hell that Mel Tucker was going to have success at Michigan State. He needed that first season to really get things rolling.
Well, his first year wasn’t great, finishing 2-5; but he did beat Michigan 27-24, so there’s that.
After recruiting and raiding the transfer portal this past cycle, Tucker has put together a top-5 program — MSU is now No. 5 after beating UM 37-33 this past Saturday — and he has to be the leader in the race for national coach of the year honors.
Yup, I’m eating my words right now.
MSU was supposed to win 6 or 7 games, tops, and barely hover above the basement of the Big Ten East this year.
Well, Tucker has built a Woodshed over that basement and has his Spartans at 8-0, their best record since 2015, when they started 8-0, beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.
Could it be that kind of year for the Spartans?
I didn’t think so a couple of months ago, but now I’m wondering if these guys might go unbeaten. Unlike their in-state rival, the Spartans have actually been relatively competitive against Ohio State. In fact, during the Dantonio era, MSU vs. OSU was the game to watch, not UM vs. OSU.
It wasn’t out of bounds to think that the Spartans could beat the Wolverines this year. I readjusted expectations after the first few games and predicted that the Spartans would win 28-24. I was right on the point differential but wrong on the score.
He’d never beat Harbaugh, because he wouldn’t stay in East Lansing long enough to create a worthwhile series. Well, that part was wrong. He’s the first MSU coach to ever start 2-0 against Michigan. However, if LSU throws wads of money at him, he may go 2-and-through and bounce to the SEC, leaving behind what could have been a historic early ownership of the Wolverines.
That’s another story for another day. Whether he stays or goes is still up for debate.
But his Year 2 has proven that, with proper resources and a full schedule, Tucker is definitely the coach for the Spartans. Years ago, back in 2011, Michigan fans thought the same about Brady Hoke, who went 11-1 that year before falling flat the rest of the way. Tucker was MSU’s Hoke, I joked on Twitter.
I remember that because some MSU fans reminded me of my well-aged post.
Michigan State has never gone 12-0, and has only gone undefeated and untied twice: 1951 and 1952. MSU went 9-0-1 in 1966, the year it tied Notre Dame 10-10 and claimed a share of the national championship.
If Tucker’s Spartans finish without a loss this year, there is no other choice for coach of the year: It has to be him. Even a 10-win season would probably put him firmly in the driver’s seat for that recognition. He wasn’t supposed to do anything this year, let alone start 8-0 and send Michigan angrily heading back to Ann Arbor.
MSU has been ranked in the top 10 six times since 1999, peaking at No. 2 in 2015. From the 1950s through the late 1960s, the Spartans hit No. 1 seven times. They were a national powerhouse.
Could Tucker get MSU to the top spot this season? Alabama has a loss, so does Ohio State. If Georgia, Cincinnati and Oklahoma slip up, and MSU keeps winning, it’s possible to see the Spartans reach the pinnacle of the Associated Press rankings.
Year 1 was enough reason to doubt, I suppose. But totally write-off?! Maybe I jumped the gun.
Year 2 has proven that Tucker, who’s working with a team full of transfers, has what it takes to guide Michigan State to Dantonio-level heights and beyond.