The countdown clock continues to tick towards Saturday. Mel Tucker and Michigan State soccer’s oft-interrupted, two month-delayed wedding ceremony turns into official when toe meets soccer at Spartan Stadium in opposition to Rutgers.
It’s the kickoff of a difficult schedule and the baptism of the Spartans’ new coach who was employed late, couldn’t conduct spring practices, endured a COVID-19 shutdown in an unorthodox summer time and waited out a one-month shutdown by the Huge Ten earlier than studying there would truly be soccer this fall in any case.
A number of the plusses? MSU will face 5 new beginning quarterbacks, together with every of the primary three video games.
Draw back? Again-to-back highway video games at Michigan and Iowa in Weeks 2 and three, then closing the common season with Ohio State and at Penn State — with not one of the Huge Ten getting a bye within the subsequent 9 weeks except a COVID-19 outbreak happens.
Tucker’s problem will probably be changing legendary coach Mark Dantonio. His cost is to carry the Spartans again to the elite degree this system’s winningest coach elevated MSU soccer over the previous 13 seasons, with three Huge Ten titles and 6 seasons of 10 or extra wins within the final decade.
Right here’s a game-by-game rating prediction for Tucker’s debut season.
Oct 24: Rutgers
Final season: MSU gained, 27-0.
The thrill: Rocky Lombardi already has one win over the Scarlet Knights, and the junior QB will start his tenure as full-time starter by utilizing the passing sport to arrange Elijah Collins and the offensive line to manage the sport on the bottom. It offers Tucker a detailed victory in Greg Schiano’s return to Rutgers.
The choose: MSU wins, 20-13.
Oct 31: at Michigan
Final season: U-M, 44-10.
The thrill: Whereas the Spartans keep aggressive early, Tucker’s mentor Nick Saban stays the one MSU coach to win his first sport in opposition to the Wolverines. MSU struggles to maneuver the ball and endures sturdy strain within the backfield, whereas its retooled entrance seven on protection has problem bringing down U-M’s Zach Charbonnet.
The choose: U-M, 21-13.
Nov 7: at Iowa
Final season: Didn’t play.
The thrill: Lombardi’s homecoming will get off to a promising begin, with Collins and the offensive line making the most of a depleted Hawkeyes entrance 4. However Iowa’s veteran offensive line dictates the move and tone in controlling the clock for lengthy drives, grinding down the inexperienced MSU protection.
The choose: Iowa, 27-17.
Nov 14: Indiana
Final season: MSU, 40-31.
The thrill: This collection has been shut the previous 4 years, with MSU profitable final yr on a Matt Coghlin subject objective with 5 seconds left and a bonus TD as time expired. Count on one other one to go right down to the wire for the second straight yr at Spartan Stadium, with the Spartans’ offense producing its finest sport to date and coming via late to carry off QB Michael Penix Jr. and RB Stevie Scott III in a shootout.
The choose: MSU, 33-31.
Nov 21: at Maryland
Final season: MSU, 19-16.
The thrill: Again to again video games in opposition to Penn State and Ohio State go away the Terps aching and reeling. It’s an ideal likelihood for the Spartans’ protection to construct some momentum. And it’s a likelihood for WR Jayden Reed to flash his velocity and playmaking capability on offense and within the return sport.
The choose: MSU, 28-13.
Nov 28: Northwestern
Final season: MSU, 31-10.
The thrill: MSU stays Peyton Ramsey’s white whale after falling quick as QB in opposition to the Spartans in 2017 and 2018 whereas the starter at Indiana. The grad switch now offers the Wildcats a veteran presence with poise to come back into Spartan Stadium and compete on offense, however Xavier Henderson and Shakur Brown make key performs within the fourth quarter to stymie Ramsey one remaining time.
The choose: MSU, 28-24.
Dec 5: Ohio State
Final season: OSU, 38-0.
The thrill: Tucker, like Mark Dantonio earlier than him, got here via the Jim Tressel teaching tree and served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator in Columbus. Dantonio used this sport as a measuring stick for his program’s value on the nationwide stage. The Spartans spent a lot of the final decade going toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes. Not but for Tucker. Not even shut.
The choose: OSU, 35-10.
Dec 12: at Penn State
Final season: PSU, 28-7.
The thrill: Congratulations should you made it this far — not with these predictions, pricey reader, however with the season not being interrupted. All indicators level to disruption rising, so there is no such thing as a telling whether or not these video games will probably be performed as scheduled or in any respect. But when the Spartans get to State School in mid-December, issues get rather a lot colder and rather a lot snowier excessive up within the mountains. Penn State will know its destiny and be coming off a blowout of Rutgers, and MSU falls to a still-productive 4-4 for Tucker’s first yr and waits for its Week 9 pairing and potential bowl vacation spot.
The choose: PSU, 27-14.
MSU’s document: 4-4
This text initially appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State soccer 2020 schedule predictions: Recreation-by-game picks