Sunday's news that Michigan State starters Payton Thorne, Keon Coleman, and Charles Brantley had all entered the transfer portal sent shockwaves throughout the fanbase.

Many Spartans were declaring the program officially off the rails.

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The media, of course, didn't miss an opportunity to sensationalize and misrepresent reality, shoehorning the facts to fit a manufactured narrative.

And U-M fans did what fans do — they danced on their rival's grave.

There's just one problem.

Starters and major contributors entering the transfer portal is an incredibly banal, ordinary occurrence in this day and age of college football.

To wit: Georgia just lost a stud interior defensive lineman, one who's expected to extend the Bulldogs' streak of producing first-round picks at defensive tackle to three NFL Drafts. Bear Alexander played a significant role for the two-time national champions as a true freshman this past season. He was a highly touted four-star recruit out of high school — top 50 nationally and among the 10 best at his position.

But he's bolting from Athens for the Men of Troy, where Lincoln Riley and USC have successfully recruited Alexander to play.

Is Georgia's football program dead?

RELATED: NFL Franchises That Have Drafted The Most MSU Players, Ranked From Least To Most

RJ Moten, who had started at safety for a great Michigan defense in 2022, left the Wolverines this offseason. He racked up 66 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions for U-M, helping to make Michigan's defense a Top 6 unit nationally. But the senior-to-be has transferred to Florida.

Sorry, U-M fans, but, by your own logic, your football program is dead.

The examples are endless. The difference with the recent transfers from Michigan State is that Thorne, Coleman, and Brantley represent the first instance the portal has struck starters for the Spartans. Making some sort of broad judgment against Tucker and his program for that is low-hanging-fruit Hot Take™ drivel. If anything, this news shows that Tucker has actually done a hell of a job at keeping his contributors from transferring.

Don't misunderstand — losing starters to the transfer portal isn't good. But it's also not the equivalent of a football-program death sentence. Nowadays, it's an unremarkable development.

By the way, Brantley has since removed his name from the portal and will return to MSU in 2023. There's also a report that Coleman is considering the same.

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.

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