B1G questions: Breaking down UM's, MSU's revised 2020 football schedules
The Big Ten revealed its 10-game schedule for the 2020 season on Wednesday, prompting The News’ Matt Charboneau and Angelique Chengelis to tackle some key questions created relative to both Michigan State and Michigan.
1. UM-MSU moves to Ann Arbor. What do you make of that?
►Chengelis: Based on Matt’s reporting of MSU athletic director Bill Beekman’s comments that Michigan and Michigan State will play in East Lansing in 2021, it’s about time the Big Ten made the decision to adjust their schedules so both teams can stagger their “big” conference games. It was ridiculous that Michigan played both its rivalry games against Michigan State and Ohio State at home one season and away the next, and the same for Michigan State. The point is, for the fans, this gives them at least one “premium” game at home each season. How many times did you hear season ticket holders upset because every other year Michigan didn’t have Michigan State or Ohio State on its home schedule? Not to mention, the brutal East Division, it seems fair for them to have one of those games at home. About time.
►Charboneau: It’s not like this is the first time it’s happened. Back in 2013 and 2014, Michigan had to play at Spartan Stadium in back-to-back seasons, and that came right smack in the middle of the best run in recent Michigan State history, when the Spartans were piling up 36 victories and two Big Ten championships in three seasons. That quirk in the schedule came when things were reshuffled with the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers to the conference, and now we’re in this pickle because of the COVID-shortened season. Does it hurt Michigan State? Perhaps. But if you’re playing in the Big House with no fans, is there really a home-field advantage? Plus, it gets UM and OSU off the same season.
2. Does October make or break their seasons?
►Chengelis: That’s a brutal section of Michigan’s schedule with the game against MSU, followed by a bye, then back-to-back road games against Indiana and Ohio State and a game against Wisconsin at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 31. It’s already going to be strange for the Michigan players to prepare for Ohio State in October when it’s traditionally been the final regular-season game. So will the Wolverines be thinking about OSU when they prep for MSU and IU and should they lose to the Buckeyes, how will that affect their psyche the remainder of the season? So yes, October could break Michigan’s season.
►Charboneau: This isn’t all that different from the gauntlet Michigan State ran through in 2019 when it spent October traveling to Ohio State and Wisconsin in back-to-back games before hosting Penn State. There were a couple bye weeks sprinkled in, but it was a brutal stretch, especially for a team that couldn’t put points on the board. This year’s run won’t be a whole lot easier, though throwing Rutgers in the middle of it doesn’t hurt. It begins at Michigan followed by a week off before MSU hosts Ohio State and Rutgers before heading to Iowa on Halloween. There’s no Penn State and Wisconsin in this stretch, but it is tough, nonetheless, for a team rebuilding under a first-year coach.
3. What are the most compelling crossover games?
►Chengelis: Michigan hasn’t played for the Little Brown Jug in three years so it will be really interesting to see how the Wolverines play P.J. Fleck’s Gophers on the road in Week 2. It will be Michigan’s first road game after facing Purdue in the opener at home. Of course, playing Wisconsin is always compelling, but Minnesota will be a good test.
►Charboneau: Michigan State still gets Minnesota and Northwestern at home along with a trip to Iowa while adding an away game against Nebraska. Playing the Cornhuskers never seems to go well for the Spartans, but the most intriguing matchup comes in the opener against Minnesota, a team that won 11 games last season and likely will compete for the West Division title. The original schedule had a home date with Northwestern to kick off the season, a much more winnable game. Now, the Spartans will immediately jump into the fire.
4. Does the schedule change the way you feel about their season?
►Chengelis: Not really because it has been hard to formulate an opinion because Michigan didn’t have a spring practice. No one saw the quarterbacks, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton, and has a feel for that competition, and no one knows how Ed Warinner will reshape an offensive line that lost four starters. There are a lot of good pieces there, but without spring ball it’s been impossible to get an educated feel for how the Wolverines will be this fall.
►Charboneau: The simple answer is, no. The addition of one game and shifting some home/away assignments doesn’t change the fact this season — whenever it is played — isn’t about who Michigan State is facing on a week-to-week basis. It was already going to be a rebuilding year before Mark Dantonio announced his retirement in early February and that hasn’t changed with the arrival of Mel Tucker. When Michigan State takes the field again, it will be more about what the Spartans look like than who they’re lined up against.
5. Will they play?
►Chengelis: Seeing a schedule release for this altered 10-game season was fun and for a few minutes things felt almost “normal.” But nothing is normal these days, and the health and safety of the players is, quite rightly, the priority. Who doesn’t want a college football season this fall? Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has from the start cautioned that a schedule doesn’t mean there will be a season. Everyone needs to remember that. And with that said, it’s hard for me to believe there will be a season and if it starts, that all 10 games will be played. There are just too many question marks and issues, some they’ve seen and many unforeseen.
►Charboneau: I think there will be a college football season, I just don’t think it will be played on the schedule the Big Ten has laid out. Every school in the Big Ten — and in Division I, for that matter — needs the revenue produced by football. Not having that would be devastating to most programs. However, all signs are pointing to it being nearly impossible to hold a traditional season in the fall. After all, how can MSU President Samuel Stanley urge students to stay home and take online courses but ask football players to stick around? He can’t. Which means, a football season seems far-fetched. A spring season brings all sorts of obstacles — potential neutral-site games, players leaving for the NFL Draft, etc. — but none are too much that the option would be not to play. It’ll be weird, but spring football will be better than no football.