Michigan State football opens fall practice later this week.  And it's a new era for MSU for a couple of reasons.  The advent of the transfer portal, and the start of players actually getting money while still in college through name. image, and likeness (NIL).

The fall roster will have around 40 new players this year, with 20 incoming freshmen and 20 incoming transfers.  That is unheard of.  But that's the reality with the transfer portal.

Get our free mobile app

Because of all the roster turnover, you really don't have any concrete idea what to expect from a team coming off a 2-5 campaign.  But they had victories over Michigan and Big Ten West champion Northwestern.

Temple transfer Anthony Russo or sophomore Peyton Thorne will be the quarterback to start the season (unless there are injuries). The running backs include Jordan Simmons and Elijah Collins, and the wide receivers include Jalen Nailor, Jayden Reed, and Ricky White.  So even though there's lots of new players, there is some experience returning on offense.

Defensively, they lose Antjuan Simmons, but Jacub Panasiuk, Kalon Gervin, and Xavier Henderson all return.

Kicker Matt Coghlan returns for a final year, and Bryce Baringer will be the likely punter.

With all the new players, I believe that the season opener at Northwestern on September is HUGE for this team.  If they can win on the road in the season (and conference) opener, that could set them up for an above .500 season.

The rest of the schedule is difficult:    @ Miami, @Ohio State, @Indiana.  And Michigan and Penn State are at home.  And games like Rutgers and Purdue (road) and Nebraska (home) are no locks either way.

Check Out Their Full Schedule Here

IMO, if this team goes 7-5, head coach Mel Tucker (pictured) should get some Big Ten Coach of the Year votes.  There is some talent on this squad.  But the unknown factor of all the new players and, of course, injuries give me caution to think any higher than that.

Let us know what you think.  The season opens September 3rd at Northwestern.  You'll hear the game on Lansing's Big Talker 1240 WJIM & 94.9 WMMQ that night.

MORE: Michigan's Greatest Sports Traditions

Part of the allure of sports is the sense of tradition, and these Michigan traditions are something that fans look forward to every year.