Can Mel Tucker bring a Big Ten Title to Michigan State?

Can Mel Tucker bring a Big Ten Title to Michigan State?

Can Mel Tucker bring a Big Ten Title to Michigan State?

Former head coach Mark Dantonio won his first Big Ten title in year four after defeating Penn State in Happy Valley. Can Mel Tucker elevate Michigan State and compete for the Big Ten East?
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East Lansing, Mich. – Before Mark Dantonio coached his first game at Michigan State, the Spartans hadn't won a Big Ten title outright since 1987, when George Perles helped lead MSU to a Rose Bowl victory over USC. 

Dantonio began his career inside Spartan Stadium on Sept. 1, 2007, as Michigan State took down UAB, 55-18.  

MSU finished 7-6 (3-5 B1G) that year and lost to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl (21-24). 

Three years later, Dantonio's Spartans defeated Penn State 28-22 in Happy Valley, ending the season 11-2 (lost to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl) while clinching a share of the conference for the first time since 1990. 

From there, his accomplishments featured two additional Big Ten Championships, two victories in the Big Ten Championship Game, a 2014 Rose Bowl victory, an impressive 2015 Cotton Bowl come from behind win, plus an appearance in the 2015 College Football Playoff prior to walking away as the winningest coach in school history.

However, Dantonio's final four seasons (27-24 overall) saw a dip in success, recruiting, and title contention starting with MSU's surprising 3-9 record in 2016. 

Although it's better than Duffy Daugherty's 27-34-1 mark from 1967-1972, it's simply not the story-book ending MSU fans desperately wanted. 

When he retired after 13 years, Michigan State hired Mel Tucker, knowing the program needed an opportunity to rebuild.

Can the second-year head coach bring a title back to East Lansing? Maybe, but right now, success is relative for Tucker. He took over during a worldwide pandemic, nearly hired an entirely new staff, didn't have a single spring practice, endured multiple shutdowns, and a shortened Big Ten-only schedule. 

The Spartans posted a 2-5 record; MSU's first losing season since 2016 and just third overall since Dantonio took over. 

It's also important to mention; Michigan State's NFL Draft streak ended, another sign of the talent left behind by Dantonio and co. 

He had 19 players drafted between 2012-16, but just seven from 2017-20, an alarming drop-off. 

Even so, Tucker prioritized recruiting and aggressively pursued players in the transfer portal, welcoming a roster with tons of new faces (close to 25%). 

The pivotal stretch comes in October, beginning with back-to-back road games at Rutgers and Indiana, then a bye week, and a visit from Michigan. 

It's wholeheartedly unfair, but the bar is higher than usual, especially after the level of success Dantonio attained. He took Michigan State to 12 bowl games in 13 seasons and won six, the most in program history. 

At a minimum, Spartan Nation expects a .500 record and a postseason berth. 

There's not enough talent or experience to contend for the Big Ten East yet, but assuming Michigan State plays its non-conference schedule this fall, the Spartans are looking at 6-7 wins. And possibly more should MSU's newcomers mesh sooner rather than later. 

All things considered, if Tucker is given the necessary time and resources, Michigan State has a chance to return to national relevance sometime during his tenure.


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East Lansing, Mich. – Before Mark Dantonio coached his first game at Michigan State, the Spartans hadn't won a Big Ten title outright since 1987, when George Perles helped lead MSU to a Rose Bowl victory over USC. 

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