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Spartans Open Mel Tucker Era Against Rutgers on Saturday

Date: Saturday, Oct. 24
Kickoff:12:01 p.m. EDT
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005)
Surface: Natural Grass
Tickets:No public sale

TV/Web/Mobile: BTN/FOX Sports app/
Announcers: Lisa Byington (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst), Elise Menaker (sideline)

Radio: TCF Bank Spartan Media Network | Affiliate Listings
Play-by-Play: George Blaha
Analyst: Jason Strayhorn
Broadcast Host: Steve Courtney
Website/Mobile: Spartans app/Tune In radio
Flagship Stations: Lansing: WMMQ (94.9 FM)/WJIM (1240 AM); Detroit: WJR (760 AM)
Affiliates: 27 affiliates listed at
Satellite: Ch. 138 (Sirius), Ch. 195 (XM), Ch. 957 (

All-Time Series: MSU leads, 8-3
Series in East Lansing: MSU leads, 4-2
Last Meeting: MSU 27, Rutgers 0 (2019)
Current Series Streak: 6 by MSU (2014-)

MSU Head Coach: Mel Tucker
MSU Record: 0-0 (first season)
Overall Record: 5-7 (second season)
Record vs. Rutgers: 0-0

Rutgers Head Coach: Greg Schiano
Rutgers Record: 68-67 (12th season)
Overall Record: 68-67 (12th season)
Record vs. MSU: 1-1

• Michigan State kicks off its 124th season of football and opens the Mel Tucker era against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 24 at noon in Spartan Stadium. The game will be televised on BTN, with Lisa Byington (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst) and Elise Menaker (sideline) on the call.

• Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State is playing a shortened nine-game conference only schedule in 2020, and Oct. 24 marks the latest season and home opener in school history. Michigan State opened preseason camp on Aug. 7 and held four practices before the Big Ten season was postponed on Aug. 11. On Sept. 16, the Big Ten announced the season would restart and the first weekend of games would be on Oct. 23-24. The Spartans returned to the practice field on Sept. 21 and practiced for the first time in full pads on Sept. 30 in preparation for the season opener against Rutgers.

• As previously announced, fans will not be allowed in attendance this season, with an exception for student-athlete and staff family members. In addition, tailgating will not be permitted on the Michigan State campus.

• The Spartans are looking to win their 22nd consecutive home opener. Michigan State’s streak of 21 straight wins in its home opener, which began in 1999 against Oregon, is tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the country (Florida, 31; Oklahoma State, 25; Wisconsin, 24; Illinois, 22; Arizona State and MSU, 21). MSU is 102-21 (.829) all-time in home openers.

• A new era of Spartan football begins in 2020 as Tucker starts his head coaching tenure in East Lansing. Tucker, a 23-year coaching veteran with championship experience, was named Michigan State University’s 25th head football coach on Feb. 12 following Mark Dantonio’s retirement on Feb. 4.

• Tucker’s resume, which began as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Nick Saban, has an impressive track record of success. The journey that has led him back to East Lansing includes a head coaching position at Colorado (2019), five seasons as a defensive coach in the Southeastern Conference (2000; 2015-18), 10 seasons in the NFL (2005-14), and four seasons at Ohio State (2001-04). He was a defensive coordinator in the NFL for seven seasons and 11 seasons overall in his coaching career.

• In 142 games as a full-time coach in the FBS, Tucker’s teams have collected a 106-36 (.746) record, including 10 postseason bowl games (2000 Peach, 2002 Outback, 2003 Fiesta/BCS National Championship, 2004 Fiesta, 2004 Alamo, 2015 Cotton/CFP Semifinal, 2016 CFP/National Championship, 2016 Liberty, 2018 Rose/CFP Semifinal, 2018 CFP/National Championship), three conference championships, three national championship games and two national championships (2002 with Ohio State, 2015 with Alabama). He coached 160 games in the National Football League (64 with Cleveland, 64 with Jacksonville, 32 with Chicago).

• Tucker is looking to go 2-0 in season openers as a head coach. In his head coaching debut last season, Tucker guided Colorado to a 52-31 win over Colorado State in Denver.

• The Spartans welcome back 20 players with starting experience on offense, including redshirt sophomore running back Elijah Collins, who earned third-team All-Big Ten honors last season after leading the Spartans and ranking fourth in the Big Ten with 988 rushing yards (76.0 ypg). Collins is the leading returning rusher in the Big Ten in 2020. MSU is returning 10 players with starting experience on the offensive line, led by multi-year starters Matt Allen, Luke Campbell and Kevin Jarvis. Senior Jordan Reid, a two-year starting right tackle, elected to opt out of the 2020 season.

• Although the Spartans are replacing seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans bring back leading tackler and senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons, who racked up 90 stops in his first season as a starter in 2019. Senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk recorded career highs in sacks (5) and tackles for loss (11) last year and will anchor the defensive line following the departure of All-American Kenny Willekes.

• Saturday’s game marks the 12th meeting between Michigan State and Rutgers. The Spartans lead the overall series, 8-3, including a 6-0 mark in Big Ten play. MSU is looking for its seventh straight win over Rutgers.

• MSU is 4-2 against Rutgers in East Lansing, including a 3-0 record in Big Ten play.

• Last season, the Spartans beat the Scarlet Knights, 27-0, on Nov. 21 in SHI Stadium.

• Head coach Greg Schiano returns to the Scarlet Knight sidelines after leading Rutgers from 2001-11, when he guided RU to six bowl games, including the first bowl win in school history. He also led the Scarlet Knights to their first national top-10 ranking, reaching as high as No. 7. Schiano departed Rutgers for the NFL, where he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012-13, and was most recently at Ohio State from 2016-18, where he was the associate head coach/defensive coordinator. Schiano has a 68-67 record in his 11 seasons as a collegiate head coach.

• Rutgers returns 12 starters, with five offensive starters and five defensive starters, along with two specialists, from last season’s squad that finished 2-10 overall and 0-9 in B1G play. The Scarlet Knights faced five ranked opponents last season, while RU’s lone wins came in the season-opener vs. UMass (48-21) and Liberty (44-34).

• Schiano led RU to a 7-4 record in season openers during his first 11 seasons leading the program. That includes the 2004 match-up with MSU.

• Rutgers is 77-64-9 all-time in season openers. The Scarlet Knights’ Oct. 24 season-opening game is their latest beginning to a season since 1943, when they beat Lehigh on Oct. 30.

• Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker, who was officially hired on Feb. 12, spent the first two weeks of his tenure putting together his staff. He rounded out his 10 on-field coaching hires on Feb. 28, when he named Scottie Hazelton the Secchia Family Defensive Coordinator. Tucker’s first moves were to retain defensive coaches Ron Burton and Mike Tressel on the staff. For complete bios on all of Tucker’s staff, please visit

• A 24-year coaching veteran with stints at all levels of collegiate football and the NFL, Scottie Hazelton arrives in East Lansing after spending one season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Kansas State in 2019. Hazelton made an immediate impact in his only season at Kansas State, as the Wildcats ranked among the best defensive teams in the Big 12. KSU was second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 21.4 points per game, the program’s best mark since 2003. Part of the reason for K-State’s success on defense was the dramatic improvement on third downs; under Hazelton, the Wildcats ranked first in the Big 12 and second in the FBS in third-down defense (.280), compared to eighth in the league and 110th in the FBS the season prior (.448). Overall, the Wildcats ranked fourth in the Big 12 in total defense (368.4 ypg), the best for the program since 2013.

Jay Johnson will serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Johnson, 50, is a veteran coach and administrator of 25 seasons, including 10 as an offensive coordinator at four FBS schools (Colorado, Minnesota, Louisiana, Southern Mississippi) in addition to coaching quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends as a position coach. Johnson arrives to East Lansing after serving as the offensive coordinator at Colorado for one season in 2019 under Tucker.

Chris Kapilovic (pronounced kuh-pil-oh-vick) joins the Spartan staff as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Kapilovic has nearly 30 years of coaching experience, including roles as an offensive coordinator and/or run game coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-11), North Carolina (2012-18) and Colorado (2019). He has coached multiple NFL players, first-round draft picks and record-setting offenses during his career.

• Former Spartan great Courtney Hawkins is joining the offensive staff as the wide receivers coach. Hawkins, who played nine seasons in the NFL, comes to Michigan State after serving as the head football coach and athletic director at his alma mater, Beecher High School, in Flint, Michigan, since 2006.

Ted Gilmore will coach the tight ends for the Spartans. A 25-year coaching veteran with experience at the FBS and NFL ranks, Gilmore has developed numerous NFL players, draft picks and All-Americans during his coaching career. He was named the 2011 FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year after mentoring consensus All-American Robert Woods and 2011 Freshman All-American Marqise Lee at USC. Gilmore, 52, spent the previous five seasons (2015-19) as the wide receivers coach at Wisconsin; he was also the offensive pass game coordinator his last three years in Madison.

William Peagler is the program’s running backs coach. He was the director of quality control for the offense last season at Colorado and has been coaching in college for the past 10 seasons. This will be the fifth time he has been on the same staff with offensive coordinator Jay Johnson (Michigan State, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Louisiana).

• A 30-year coaching veteran, special teams coordinator/linebackers coach Ross Els spent the last three seasons (2017-19) as the inside linebackers coach at Colorado; he added duties of special teams coordinator under Tucker in 2019. Els, 53, has previous experience in the Big Ten, serving as the defensive coordinator at Purdue in 2016 and four seasons at Nebraska under Coach Bo Pelini from 2011-14.

Harlon Barnett is back in East Lansing to coach the cornerbacks after two seasons (2018-19) as the defensive coordinator at Florida State. He was MSU’s associate head coach in 2017, his 11th season on the Spartan staff under Mark Dantonio, before departing for FSU. During Barnett’s time in East Lansing from 2007-17, the Spartans were 100-45 with three Big Ten Championships (2010, 2013, 2015) and were selected for the College Football Playoff in 2015. He coached the defensive backs his entire 11 years under Dantonio at MSU; he was promoted to assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator prior to Michigan State’s victory in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic over Baylor, and was appointed the program’s associate head coach in June 2017.

Ron Burton, a 28-year coaching veteran who also played four seasons in the NFL, is in his eighth season on the defensive staff at Michigan State and will coach the defensive line. He has coached in a bowl game 12 of the past 13 seasons, including six bowls with the Spartans (2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton, 2015 College Football Playoff Semifinal, 2017 Holiday, 2018 Redbox, 2019 Pinstripe). After spending his first four seasons at MSU coaching the entire defensive line, Burton shifted his focus to the defensive tackles for three seasons (2017-19). He is the only coach to win the FootballScoop National Defensive Line Coach of the Year Award twice, an honor he won for the second time in 2018 after MSU finished with the top-ranked rushing defense in the country. Burton also won the award during his first season in East Lansing in 2013 when the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Championship, won the Rose Bowl, and finished No. 2 in the FBS in total defense and rushing defense.

Mike Tressel enters his 14th year on the Spartan defensive staff, his first as the safeties coach. Tressel served as the program’s linebackers coach from 2007-19 and also was the special teams coordinator his first eight seasons at MSU. In addition, he was the co-defensive coordinator for three seasons (2015-17) and the sole defensive coordinator for two seasons (2018-19), in addition to being the assistant head coach in 2019. During Tressel’s tenure at MSU, the Spartans have ranked in the FBS Top 10 in total defense and rushing defense on six occasions (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018). Four of those times, Michigan State also ranked among the nation’s top 10 in scoring defense (2011, 2012, 2013, 2018). Michigan State has led the Big Ten in rushing defense six times since 2007, including No. 1 in the FBS in 2014 and 2018.

• Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State will play a shortened nine-game conference-only schedule in 2020. The Spartans opened preseason camp on Aug. 7 before the Big Ten Conference postponed the season on Aug. 11. On Sept. 16, the Big Ten announced the 2020 season would start on Oct. 24 with a nine-game schedule.

• The Spartans open the Mel Tucker era on Oct. 24 against Rutgers in Spartan Stadium. Michigan State is riding a six-game winning streak against the Scarlet Knights. It will mark the latest season opener and home opener in Michigan State history. It also marks the first time since 1996 MSU will open against a Big Ten opponent (Purdue).

• Michigan State will travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines in Michigan Stadium on Oct. 31, followed by another road trip on Nov. 7 to face the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

• MSU returns home to face Indiana on Nov. 14 in Spartan Stadium in the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. The Spartans have won 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Hoosiers, including a 40-31 victory in East Lansing last year.

• Michigan State heads to Maryland on Nov. 21 before returning home on Thanksgiving Weekend to face Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 28.

• The Spartans will host defending Big Ten Champion Ohio State on Dec. 5 in Spartan Stadium and close out the Big Ten East portion of the schedule Dec. 12 at Penn State.

• On the last weekend of the season (Dec. 19), the Big Ten will match teams from the East Division and the West Division for Big Ten Champions Week.

• Michigan State is 84-36-3 (.695) all-time in season openers, including a 19-2 record (.905) in its last 21 games. The Spartans have won their last 11 season openers (last season-opening loss was in 2008 at California).

• The Spartans are looking to win their 22nd consecutive home opener. Michigan State’s streak of 21 straight wins in its home opener, which began in 1999 against Oregon, is tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the country (Florida, 31; Oklahoma State, 25; Wisconsin, 24; Illinois, 22; Arizona State and MSU, 21). MSU is 102-21 (.829) all-time in home openers.

In the 2020 season opener against Rutgers, Mel Tucker will attempt to become the 14th head coach in Michigan State history to produce a win in his Spartan debut.

Here’s how Michigan State’s previous 24 head coaches have fared in their opening games (winning coaches in bold: 13-11 record in debuts):

• Mark Dantonio – Sept. 1, 2007 vs. UAB (W, 55-18)
• John L. Smith – Aug. 30, 2003 vs. Western Michigan (W 26-21)
• Morris Watts – Nov. 9, 2002 at Indiana (W 56-21)
• Bobby Williams – Jan. 1, 2000 vs. Florida (W 37-34) in Florida Citrus Bowl
• Nick Saban – Sept. 9, 1995 vs. Nebraska (L 10-50)
• George Perles – Sept. 10, 1983 vs. Colorado (W 23-17)
• Frank “Muddy” Waters – Sept. 13, 1980 at Illinois (L 17-20)
• Darryl Rogers – Sept. 11, 1976 at Ohio State (L 21-49)
• Denny Stolz – Sept. 15, 1973 at Northwestern (L 10-14)
• Duffy Daugherty – Sept. 25, 1954 at Iowa (L 10-14)
• Clarence “Biggie” Munn – Sept. 27, 1947 at Michigan (L 0-55)
• Charlie Bachman – Sept. 30, 1933 vs. Grinnell (W 14-0)
• Jim Crowley – Sept. 28, 1929 vs. Alma (W 59-6)
• Harry Kipke – Sept. 29, 1928 vs. Kalamazoo (W 103-0)
• Ralph Young – Sept. 29, 1923 at Chicago (L 0-34)
• Albert Barron – Oct. 1, 1921 vs. Alma (W 28-0)
• George “Potsy” Clark – Sept. 25, 1920 vs. Kalamazoo (L 2-21)
• George Gauthier – Oct. 5, 1918 vs. Albion (W 21-6)
• Frank Sommers – Sept. 30, 1916 vs. Olivet (W 40-0)
• John Macklin – Oct. 7, 1911 vs. Alma (W 12-0)
• Chester Brewer – Oct. 3, 1903 at Notre Dame (L 0-12)
• George Denman – Sept. 28, 1901 at Alma (L 5-6)
• Charles Bemies – Sept. 29, 1899 at Notre Dame (L 0-40)
• Henry Keep – Sept. 25, 1897 vs. Lansing High School (W 28-0)

• Michigan State has a deep family legacy on the 2020 roster, from siblings to fathers to relatives. In fact, 10 players and four staff members have direct family connections who played Spartan football, or are alumni of the program.
Legacy: Matt Allen (brothers Jack and Brian); Michael Dowell (brothers Andrew and David); Dallas Fincher (father Mark); Tate Hallock (father Ty, brother Tanner); Jacob Isaia (grandfather Bob Apisa); David Kruse (brother Connor); Darius Snow (uncle Percy); Alante Thomas (brother Lawrence).
Brothers: Jacob/Zach Slade
Coaches/Staff: Ron Burton (son, Reid)

Alumni: CB coach Harlon Barnett (CB from 1986-89), Director of Player Engagement Darien Harris (LB from 2012-15), WR coach Courtney Hawkins (WR from 1988-91).

• Michigan State just completed its winningest decade in school history based on total wins, as the Spartans went 92-40 (.697) from 2010-19. The 92 wins were third most in the Big Ten and 13th most in the FBS.

• In addition, Michigan State became the fifth Big Ten program to win at least 90 games in a decade (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin) and the 92 wins were the seventh-most ever by any Big Ten team in a decade.

• During the 2010s, MSU won six bowl games (2012 Outback, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings, 2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton, 2017 Holiday, 2019 Pinstripe), three Big Ten Championships (2010, 2013, 2015) and three Big Ten Division titles (2011, 2013, 2015). The six bowl wins tied for second most by a Big Ten team in a single decade.

• MSU’s .697 winning percentage last decade was the fourth best in school history. MSU was the only school to finish in the top-six of the national polls from 2013-15 (No. 3 in 2013, No. 5 in 2014, No. 6 in 2015) and the 36 wins from 2013-15 marked the winningest three-year stretch in the history of the program.

• In addition, the Spartans have earned 12 bowl bids since 2007, including a school-record four consecutive bowl victories (2012 Outback against No. 18 Georgia, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings against TCU, 2014 Rose Bowl Game against No. 5 Stanford, 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic against No. 4 Baylor).


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