Michigan State football: Rutgers shouldn’t be taken lightly in opener

Xavier Henderson, Michigan State football Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Xavier Henderson, Michigan State football Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

Michigan State football begins the 2020 season with what would usually be a sure-win vs. Rutgers. That’s not the case this year.

Rutgers, come on down. You’ve earned the right to take the first shot at Mel Tucker in a new era of Michigan State football.

While that might seem like a golden opportunity for an upset, the Scarlet Knights, too, are in a period of transition, going from Chris Ash to the second term of Greg Schiano. There’s hope once again in Piscataway, but that may have to wait a few years as Ash left the cupboard quite bare so Schiano had to go out and get some grad transfers.

Michigan State, on the other hand, is dealing with the sudden retirement of Mark Dantonio and he left some talent on the roster, but the Spartans are just 14-12 over the past two seasons and they’re losing a plethora of important leaders at key positions.

Who will start at quarterback for the Spartans? Rocky Lombardi could get the green light to begin the game but don’t sleep on Theo Day and Payton Thorne. Whoever starts will have some decent targets, a solid run game, an improved offensive line and fresh playbook to work with.

Defensively, Michigan State holds the edge here with the brilliant mind of Scottie Hazelton taking over, joined by some familiar faces in Mike Tressel, Harlon Barnett and Ron Burton.

Here’s how you can watch Saturday’s Michigan State vs. Rutgers game:

Date: Saturday, Oct. 24
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Venue: Spartan Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: FOX Sports Go

Keys to Victory

For Michigan State, getting off to a quick start is key. Often times in the Dantonio era, the Spartans would start sluggish and that would lead to tight games against inferior opponents late because they let them hang around. This needs to be a battle dominated by Michigan State from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. No slow starts, just foot on the gas and no looking back.

Even if the Spartans build a 2-3 touchdown lead, they can’t let up.

Also, getting after Noah Vedral or Artur Sitkowski will be important. Make whoever starts under center for the Scarlet Knights feel uncomfortable all afternoon long and turnovers and sloppy play will follow.

Betting Odds

Odds via The Action Network

Spread: Michigan State -16.5
Over/Under: N/A


Honestly, I have a feeling this one is going to be your typical ugly Big Ten slug-it-out battle. Michigan State has more talent, on paper, but the Scarlet Knights are finally getting some good coaching and that’ll make this closer than it should be. The Spartans could very well cover, and I think they should, but I see Rutgers hanging on just a little longer than Michigan State fans would like to see before a late touchdown puts it out of reach.

Final Score: Rutgers 13, Michigan State 27

Next. Ranking MSU's 2020 opponents by toughness. dark