Two divergent paths converge in East Lansing
There was a time this season when Nebraska was winless and Michigan State was undefeated. My how things changed.
There was a time not quite two months ago when Michigan State was undefeated and Nebraska was winless. Sure, the Huskers opened with Minnesota and Colorado, a pair of Power 5 programs, while the Spartans played Central Michigan and Richmond, but Michigan State outperformed the point spread in both games. It was an encouraging, if inconclusive, start for a team picked to finish fifth in its division.
One day after beating Richmond to move to 2-0, however, head coach Mel Tucker was suspended after allegations of sexual harassment were published by USA Today. Michigan State fired Tucker with cause Sept. 27. The coach has said he’ll file a wrongful termination suit.
On the field, Michigan State (2-6, 0-5) hasn’t won a game under interim coach Harlon Barnett and enters November losers of six straight.
Nebraska (5-3, 3-2), also picked fifth in its division in the cleveland.com preseason poll, heads to East Lansing having won three consecutive games for the first time since 2016. ESPN’s Football Power Index now puts the Huskers’ chance of winning at least six games at 85%. The Spartans, who would have to win out to get there, are given a 0% chance of reaching six wins. FPI projects a 3-9 final record for MSU, which faces Ohio State, Indiana and Penn State, all away from home, after hosting Nebraska.
These are strange circumstances for a game. It’s not a meeting of two teams with opposite trajectories so much as it’s one team still trying to see where its path leads before nightfall and another that stopped a few miles back to wait and hope for better weather tomorrow. This has been the case all season to varying degrees, but this game is really one where the Huskers may be competing against their own standard.
How does Nebraska walk away with a win? Let’s dig in.