Is It 2002 All Over Again For Michigan State Football?
After Michigan State got drubbed by Minnesota 34-7 last Saturday to fall to 2-2 on the season, it got me thinking about another Minnesota drubbing of Michigan State in Spartan Stadium.
You have to go back to 2002 to see the last time the Golden Gophers beat the Spartans that badly in East Lansing. On October 19th, 2002, the Gophers came to East Lansing and pounded the Spartans 28-7 behind the running of Thomas Tapeh and Terry Jackson, II. They combined for 385 yards rushing as the Gophers dominated the line of scrimmage.
Spartan fans, you remember the 2002 season don't you? It was the season of high expectations. Lots of hype. You had junior QB Jeff Smoker at the controls with All-American wide receiver Charles Rogers as his top target. And head coach Bobby Williams (pictured above) entering his third season at the helm.
Many people had Rose Bowl aspirations for that season, but if you're old enough to remember, it completely collapsed on them. They finished 4-8 and Coach Williams was fired after a 49-3 blowout loss at Michigan.
Remember when Williams was asked after that game if he had lost the team by Mickey York of Fox Sports Detroit, and he replied "I don't know."? That comment sealed his fate, and he was fired by then-AD Ron Mason two days later.
Well, if MSU loses this coming Saturday to Maryland on the road (and the Terrapins are a favorite in the game), you have to ask the question in the headline: Is it 2002 all over again for MSU football?
Let's play this out...
For arguments sake, let's say they lose to Maryland. That puts them at 2-3 (0-2 in the Big Ten). Then they have THE Ohio State Buckeyes coming to town on October 8th. The way State's playing right now, they ain't winning that game! So that's 2-4. And then the homecoming game tilt on October 15th against Wisconsin. You can't eliminate that as a possible loss either given their struggles on defense. Ok, let's say they lose, so 2-5.
Which brings us to Michigan after the bye week on October 29th in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have said publicly that they are taking this game more seriously this year, given that they've lost the last two years to State. Well, if they do, they should win that one (just going off of what we've seen so far). So that's 2-6 for the Spartans.
After that, it's a road game at Illinois. Then they are home for Rutgers and Indiana. Finally, they close out the regular season at Penn State. Will State have anything left emotionally for those games if they're 2-6? Will it even matter at that point? We'll see. But another 4-8 is possible, and that was unthinkable six weeks ago.
You remember how the team collapsed in 2002 after there were high expectations (some say it was the worst season EVER for MSU Football). If they lose to Maryland this Saturday, will the same thing happen again? One wonders aloud...
Also, let's make it clear...Mel Tucker is NOT going to get fired (like Bobby Williams did) if State goes 4-8. That is NOT happening, nor do I advocate that happening if the bottom falls out. I know that's a matter of opinion, technically, but that will not happen in 2022 for various reasons. I may write about that at a later date if the bottom really does fall out.