It was a rough Sunday for Michigan State football with news of three Spartan starters having suddenly, abruptly, and, to many, shockingly entered the transfer portal.

It was the kind of development that would send any fanbase into a social media tailspin. But for Spartan fans, the news is even worse given the context of the 5-7 season they just endured. Plus, the surprise transfers weren't just starters — they were team leaders, guys who were seen as the faces of Mel Tucker's program in East Lansing.

Michigan State Football Suddenly Loses 3 Starters To Transfer Portal

Sunday, April 30, 2023 — not a great day for Mel Tucker and Co. News broke that three starters and team leaders for Michigan State had entered the transfer portal. The abrupt nature and post-spring-football timing, in context with the Spartans' 5-7 mark in 2022, have turned the heat up on Tucker going into the 2023 season.
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What Happened?

Payton Thorne's decision to leave Michigan State, although not a complete shock, is still at least mildly surprising. Coming off of a disappointing 2022, Thorne lost the starting quarterback job when MSU head coach Mel Tucker announced at the beginning of spring practice that there would be an open competition for the role heading into the 2023 season.

In the public practice held on April 15 to end the spring football season, Thorne clearly separated himself from his backup Noah Kim and heralded redshirt freshman Katin Houser. Still, in talking afterward with the media, Thorne appeared obviously bothered by the competition and the idea that he'd have to win back his job.

Keon Coleman's abrupt entrance in the transfer portal was the real shocker. With his stock as an NFL prospect clearly on the rise, Coleman figured to be the backbone of MSU's offense in 2023. His departure is a big one and takes the Spartans' wide receiver group from being one of the team's strengths to yet another question mark.

Charles Brantley's choice to leave has garnered the least attention, due in no small part to how terrible MSU's defense has been the last two seasons (and, really, throughout the entire Tucker era in East Lansing).

Several players who remain on MSU's roster took to Twitter to assuage distraught Spartan fans.

Sunday's roster news has further engulfed Tucker, who was already feeling the heat after he followed up a 10-year, $95 million contract with a 5-7 season. It was already apparent that the pressure was on for the 2023 season. Things just got tougher.

It should also be pointed out, though, that the roster attrition that's set MSU's fanbase on fire is par for the course in this day and age of high-level college sports. Between instant-eligibility transfers and Name, Image, and Likeness money, there's more incentive than ever for players to change schools.

It could also be worse.

Colorado has lost 18 players to the transfer portal since its spring game last week. First-year head coach Deion Sanders has ushered in a new era, one that lends itself to the new normals of college football. Forty-one players have left Colorado since Sanders took over. In all, 63 of the team's 83 scholarship players from a season ago have moved on.

Michigan State's Protected Rivalries In A Division-Less Big Ten

There's much speculation that the Big Ten will abandon it's division-based format for football in the 2024 season.

If/When that happens, each team will likely have three opponents that are protected. That means that those specific games will be played each season.

With that in mind, we've come up with some choices for Michigan State's three protected games in a division-less Big Ten.