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What does Payton Thorne departure say about the MSU football program?

Is Payton Thorne going to succeed elsewhere?



Payton Thorne
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Payton Thorne decided to pack his bags and head to the SEC. What does that say about the MSU football program?

East Lansing, Mich. – It’s November 27, 2021. Top-10 Michigan State football is battling the Penn State Nittany Lions in the final game of a successful season, led by Payton Thorne and Kenneth Walker III. A win gives the Spartans their 10th of the year and a likely New Year’s Six bowl game appearance. 

However, a win looks like anything but a guarantee. Snow is pouring down in East Lansing causing players to slip and slide all over the field, dropped passes and errant throws have been casualties of the blizzard.

Despite a banged-up Walker III and the harsh conditions, Michigan State is clinging to a 3-point lead with a little over five minutes to go.

It’s fourth and very long, 15 yards to be exact. This is usually a no-brainer with the ball placed on the 20-yard line. Kick the field goal. 

The snow has different plans. Mel Tucker knows he can’t trust any kicker in these circumstances, and punting would be foolish. There’s no choice but to go for it.

Walker is the best running back in the country, but 15 yards in one carry is a big ask. So what’s the next best thing?

Trust your record-setting quarterback and future NFL receiver. 

The ball is snapped. Payton Thorne is in the shotgun and takes a three-step drop. By the time he’s dropped back, Jayden Reed has already found his way into the end zone. He’s in single coverage.

Big mistake. Huge.

Thorne lets it fly and his former high school teammate brings down the jump ball, right over the defender’s head.

Touchdown MSU.

Thorne would finish the year with 27 touchdown passes, the most in a single season for any MSU quarterback. Ever. He would also tally over 3,000 passing yards, giving him the bronze medal in the record books for single-season passing yards at MSU.

Michigan State has found its quarterback for the future. 


Thorne’s Departure

Fast forward to April 30, 2023, and Payton Thorne just announced his plans to enter the transfer portal. If you were to go back in time and tell Spartan fans at the end of the 2021 season that Thorne would enter the portal less than two years later, they’d be shocked. They’d be even more surprised to hear he would be leaving whilst in the middle of a three-man quarterback competition. 

On May 5, the former three-star from Naperville, Ill., announced his commitment to play for the Auburn Tigers in the SEC. 

That seems a little quick.

Rumors swirled on Twitter about Auburn contacting Thorne prior to his entrance into the portal (illegally). While no concrete evidence of the tampering has been proven, it is a suspicious situation and wouldn’t be all that surprising. Tampering in the transfer portal has seemingly gone unchecked by the NCAA.

The whole situation raises a lot of questions.

Is Thorne SEC-ready?

In 2010, Auburn won a national championship with a pretty decent quarterback at the helm named Cam Newton. Just 10 years ago in 2013, the Tigers found themselves back in the title game, losing to Florida State.

While they haven’t reached levels that high since then, Auburn is no bottom-feeder program. Fans expect them (even if it’s unrealistic) to be able to compete with Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and the rest of the SEC on a yearly basis.

New coach Hugh Freeze has a tall task and a lot of roster spots to fill after taking the job. One of those being the vital position of quarterback. Freeze found his man in Payton Thorne. And apparently, he liked him so much Thorne was worth tampering for.

Here is how Thorne’s numbers would rank among Auburn’s all-time leaders:

Single-season passing yards: 2nd
Single-season passing TDs: 2nd
Career passing yards: 4th
Career passing TDs: 2nd

All this in only 29 starts.

Does that mean that Michigan State had an SEC-level quarterback in the QB room? Was his lack of success last season not completely on him? Is there someone else to blame?

Can any blame be placed on the MSU coaching staff?

Was the offensive scheme/playcalling a reason for Thorne’s dropoff in production? In his storybook 2021 season, Thorne actually completed a smaller percentage of his passes compared to his 2022 campaign. In 2022 Thorne tallied 242 completed passes (seven more than in 2021) and did it in only 12 games. Despite that, Thorne had over 500 fewer yards and eight fewer touchdowns in 2022 than he did in 2021.

The biggest reason for that? Thorne’s average yards per attempt. In 2021 that number was an impressive 8.5 average yards per attempt, and in 2022 it fell all the way to 6.6 average yards per attempt. A pretty steep drop-off.

That could be the result of many things. Below-average offensive line play, the departure of Walker, a tough schedule, Reed combatting injuries, and maybe offensive playcalling? Could Jay Johnson’s play-calling have hampered Thorne’s play this past season?

It’s a possibility.

Does Auburn see potential in Thorne? Does Hugh Freeze believe he can unlock 2021 Payton Thorne again? If he can, that would be a big upgrade for the Tigers offensively.

Did the Michigan State coaching staff just allow another team to talk an SEC-level quarterback into leaving the program?

How will Thorne fair against elite competition?

The Big Ten is a good conference. A very good conference. However, the Southeastern Conference moves at a totally different speed than the rest of the country. Especially at the top end of the conference.

On Auburn’s 2023 schedule, the Tigers host both Georgia and Alabama. They also have to travel to Death Valley to play LSU.

Georgia is of course coming off of not one, but two national championships. Alabama is predicted to be the sixth-best team in the country (On3 Sports). LSU isn’t far behind them at eighth in those rankings. And LSU at home is a completely different animal than the Tigers on the road.

Payton Thorne has a tall task ahead of him with his new team. Will his performance this season make Michigan State regret ever putting him into a quarterback competition?


Michigan State football: Washington game time, channel announced

Fans won’t be too thrilled about the channel.



Michigan State football
© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington vs. Michigan State football rematch is on Sept. 16, and the Spartans have revenge on their minds.

The game time for the Washington vs. Michigan State football game was just announced and is one I think most Michigan State fans will be happy with. The game will kick off at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 16.

This is a great start time for Michigan State fans. That will give fans plenty of time to travel to East Lansing, enjoy a tailgate and get into the stadium. On top of that, the game will get down around 8 p.m. ET which is good for the crowd that does not like to be out late.

However, I think a lot of fans were hoping for a noon start time in this game. A noon start would have been a 9 a.m. local time for Washington, likely giving the Spartans a slight advantage. It’s no surprise seeing this big of a game scheduled in the evening to avoid that.

On top of the game time announcement, where the game will be aired on TV was also announced. This is where the good news ends. The Spartans game against Washington will only be available for streaming on Peacock. That means Spartan fans at home will have to pay to watch this game. However, a simple Google search showed me that Peacock currently only costs $20 for the entire year. A lot of Big Ten football and basketball games will only be available on Peacock this season, so that may not be a bad investment to make right now if you can.

What would a win mean for Michigan State football?

Michigan State will have revenge on its mind in this game. Washington beat the Spartans last season in Seattle 39-28. The game however did not feel that close. Michigan State made a late comeback to make the final score look respectable, but a lot of fans will tell you we never really stood a chance.

Washington will likely be a top 10 heading into this matchup, so Michigan State has a great opportunity in front of it. A win would would help spring the Spartans into the conference season with a lot of positive momentum.

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Jordan Hall hosts second annual free youth football camp (Video)

Jordan Hall is a legend already.



Jordan Hall
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Michigan State freshman linebacker Jordan Hall continues to show just why he’s one of the best out there.

Jordan Hall is already showing signs of being the next great Spartan on and off the field.

The Michigan State freshman linebacker was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Va. However, he most recently moved to Bradenton, Fla., to play football at IMG Academy.

This past weekend, Hall returned home to Fredericksburg to host his second annual free Jordan Hall Youth Football Camp.

Hall has already been making a name for himself on the field for the Spartans this spring. His play and effort has been praised by fellow players and coaches alike. IMG Academy has a long history of producing high-quality athletes. This makes Hall’s tenure in the program even more noteworthy. He became the first three-time captain in IMG Academy history.

When coaches are recruiting players, they are hoping to find the perfect mix of talent and character. You don’t become a three-time captain of a storied school like IMG Academy without having both.

In a recent interview with Spartan Shadows, Cryeeta Hall said of her son, “One of his favorite things he loves to do is teach the game of football to kids. He loves to coach.”

Michigan State fans are excited to see what Jordan Hall can contribute on the field, but his character off the field so far is creating just as much excitement. When you see a young man with the heart and determination to give back to his hometown, it lets fans know this is the sort of player you can to rally around and support. Mel Tucker has shown intentionality in his recruiting. He has a specific type of player that he’s looking for. Jordan Hall epitomizes a Tucker type of player.

Hall has the potential to earn immediate playing time this year as a true freshman. I’m not a betting man but if I were, I’d wager that we’ll see him as a team captain for the green and white sooner than later.

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Mel Tucker is best coach in the Big Ten when it comes to one stat

This may surprise you.



Mel Tucker

Mel Tucker is the best coach in the conference when it comes to this one surprising stat.

Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten when it comes to close games.

This may surprise some considering two of Tucker’s three years at Michigan State have resulted in losing seasons. But the data shows that Tucker knows how to come out on top when the game is close.

He has been at Michigan State since 2020. During that three year timeframe he boasts a 10-1 record in games decided by 10 points or less which is the best record in the conference during that span.

Here is a list of all 11 of those games:


  • at Michigan (W 27-24)
  • vs. Northwestern (W 29-20)


  • vs. Nebraska (W 23-20)
  • at Indiana (W 20-15)
  • vs. Michigan (W 37-33)
  • vs. Penn State (W 30-27)
  • vs. Pittsburgh (W 31-21)


  • vs. Wisconsin (W 34-28)
  • at Illinois (W 23-15)
  • vs. Rutgers (W 27-21)
  • vs. Indiana (L 39-31)

How impressive is this really?

A 10-1 record when games are within 10 points is extremely impressive. The only loss on this list is Indiana from last season, a game Michigan State likely should have one. The Spartans ended up losing in overtime to the Hoosiers, but were a chip shot field goal away from winning in regulation. That is a field goal college kickers make almost every time, so Tucker’s one loss on this list could easily have been another win.

Regardless, 10-1 is the best winning percentage in games decided by 10 points or less in the Big Ten during that three-year span.

This is how the rest of the Big Ten teams fared during this same timeframe:

  1. Michigan State: 10-1 (.909)
  2. Maryland: 8-3 (.727)
  3. Iowa: 11-5 (.688)
  4. Indiana: 7-4 (.636)
  5. Purdue: 12-7 (.632)
  6. Ohio State: 3-2 (.600)
  7. Michigan: 6-4 (.600)
  8. Minnesota: 9-7 (.563)
  9. Rutgers: 7-6 (.538)
  10. Wisconsin: 6-7 (.462)
  11. Penn State: 5-7 (.417)
  12. Northwestern: 5-9 (.357)
  13. Illinois: 6-11 (.353)
  14. Nebraska: 5-16 (.238)

What does this tell us about Mel Tucker?

One thing this tells us is the Tuck is a great in game coach in tight situations. No coach goes 10-1 in close games by accident. Sometimes there is a lot of luck involved with winning close games, but that’s not necessarily the case when you win them this efficiently. Anyone can close a game out when you are up by 20, but not everyone can win a close game in the closing seconds.

This statistic is not all good though. Michigan State has won 18 games during the past three seasons. This means that over half of the games Mel Tucker has won at Michigan State have been within 10 points. For a program with extremely high goals, that fact is a little scary.

As I mentioned before, sometimes luck has to be on your side to win these close games. So relying on winning a lot of close games to have a great season is not a recipe for success.

One things for sure though, as long as Mel Tucker is the coach at Michigan State, we stand a very good chance at winning any close game.

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