2020 was a weird year for a lot of different reasons. The 2020 Big Ten college football season was cancelled and then put back on just to be somewhat cancelled again at the end of the year. It was also the year Rutgers beat Michigan State for the first time as a member of the Big Ten.
Mel Tucker had the short end of the stick last season having all the off-season distractions of not knowing whether or not he would have a season and not having much if any face to face contact with his players after he was hired in February of 2020.
Last season, the Spartans opened the 2020 season against Rutgers on October 24th in front of no fans. It was an embarrassing loss as the Spartans turned the ball over seven times with five fumbles and two interceptions by former quarterback, Rocky Lombardi. Jayden Reed had two lost fumbles, while Rocky Lombardi, Jordan Simmons, and Jalen Nailor all had one lost fumble in the 38-27 loss to the Scarlet Knights at Spartan Stadium.
Fast forward one year later and the Spartans are in completely different territory than they were that day. Mel Tucker is off to the first 5-0 start for the Spartans since the 2015 season while Rutgers is sitting at 3-2 after dropping their last two games to Michigan and Ohio State.
Michigan State is starting to garner some serious national attention from the national media now. They're ranked 11th in the country, their highest ranking since the preseason in 2018, jumping up from 17th last week after their 48-31 victory over Western Kentucky at home last week. Kenneth Walker III leads the country in rushing yards and Jayden Reed leads the country in all-purpose yards.
Led by a mass overhaul of transfers in and out of the program in the last year, Michigan State appears to be "back". It's hard to label this as a must win game for the Spartans because really Rutgers isn't that good. Although this is another stepping stone to show the program and progress Tucker and Michigan State have made in a short amount of time.